Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dairy Kefir Instructions

There's been a resurgence in interest in kefir and raw milk, so Mark and I put together some videos, and I'm re-posting this entry from Green in a Pink World. If you recently received kefir grains from us, you may have to give it a couple of cycles before the kefir is at a regular consistency. You can use the first few batches in pancakes, baking, or smoothies mixed with yogurt to thicken.

DAIRY FREE? Check out the benefits of water kefir here.

What is Kefir?
On my quest to eating a traditional diet, I discovered kefir - a fermented drink that resembles milk and yogurt. It's made of milk and kefir grains, which are really a mother culture of lactic bacteria and yeast. It's amazing for digestion and filled with probiotics. The benefits of kefir are multifaceted. It has been said to help in numerous ways, from eliminating acne in adolescents, to lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, to enhancing immune function. It's also touted as a gastrointestinal "friend," and Mark's Crohn's symptoms disappeared after one week of his first taste of kefir - and haven't returned!

Our experiences with the grains
I tried buying Kefir grains a year ago, and ended up with a sour, nasty mess that smelled like a dead mouse, so I threw away the mother culture and dismissed the idea that I was capable of success. Fast forward 8 months, and I grew interested in kefir again, with a renewed sense of determination. I can brew this myself. I ordered some grains from someone in the Kefir-making yahoo group, and she sent them almost immediately, and for free! I began fermenting my kefir with 1 T of grains and 1-1.5 c of raw milk. The first few batches were almost intolerably tangy, and thin, but I made smoothies out of them and knocked it down. However, now my kefir is thicker and milder. I've begun drinking it plain, and using it to pour over my morning granola!

The parenting process

Our grains are like our children. They require daily care and feeding. However, the kefir making process is really easy. You take a glass pint or quart jar, or anything else that may work, and add about 1 T of grains to 1 c of milk.

Leave the jar covered at room temperature for about 24 hours, until you see a separation of the curds and whey, and the kefir has a yeasty, almost beery smell. This time frame will lengthen in the winter and shorten in the summer.

Then, with a small holed strainer, strain out the grains, and the result is a ready to drink kefir! You should leave the kefir loosely covered at room temp for 1 - 4 days to maximize the nutritional profile. The folic acid content goes through the roof! (When/if I get pregnant, I will be consuming this bioavailable source of FA instead of the less effective capsules.)

Save the grains, put them back into the jar, and pour in some more milk, and you'll have another jar of kefir ready the next day. Watch out though, as the grains multiply! You can play around with the ratio, ferment time, and temperature, as you like. If you can't keep up with the consumption, keep your grains and milk in refrigerator for up to a week. Change out the kefir as you normally would each week, if you'll be resting for a longer period of time.

This was a very basic tutorial, but Dom's Kefir site is the bible of kefir making. It must be checked out to fully appreciate the benefits of kefir. My grains are great and multiply weekly, so please let me know if you would like to share!

Note: Commercial kefir can be found for $4 per pint or so at the grocery store, but the price is exorbitant and commercially made kefir is really just a sugary drink with vitamins added back into it. It is made with only a few strands of yeast and bacteria, thus not giving the benefits of the active, reproducing grains.

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