Kefir is one of the best ways to benefit from and enjoy milk, in my opinion. Why we don’t drink more of it, I don’t know… yes, I do! It’s so expensive to buy! If we could get it at a reasonable cost, more of us would drink it, right? I’ve busied myself finding out how to do just that – make kefir at home. Now, we’re going to make our own kefir together – once we have the culture, the only expense is the milk. (And face it, we all buy milk anyway, so it’s a win-win situation.)
Here’s what we will need to make kefir:
Approximately 1 to 2 tablespoons of kefir culture
A jar that’s the right size to hold your batch of kefir with a clean cloth to cover it with.
(Buy a pint of kefir with active cultures for your initial culture set-up.)
How to Make Kefir
When culturing kefir, cleanliness is of maximum importance. Whatever bacteria is hanging around your container, mixing spoons, rim of the kefir bottle, on anything that touches the culturing material or area, is going to grow, too. You don’t want to grow anything except kefir culture, so keep everything as sterile as possible.
Use non-metal utensils when making kefir.
Step One: place a couple tablespoons of kefir (this is your culture) into a very clean jar. Step Two: Add milk until the jar is about 3/4 full.
Step Three: Gently stir the mixture to evenly distribute the culture, again with a clean spoon.
Step Four: Cover the jar with a clean cloth, and secure the cloth with a rubber band – cloth allows the build up of gas pressure to pass on through, but keeps out unwanted taste-testers, like bugs and your cat.
Timing the Kefir Culture by Temperature
There are a few different ways to let your kefir work off. One is to leave it out at room temperature, and the other is to refrigerate it. The method you choose will determine how sweet or sour your kefir ends up. The longer you allow the kefir to culture, the more sour it will be because of the activity of the culture. The shorter the period you allow it to ferment, the sweeter the kefir will be. A 12 hour period of fermentation will yield a less strong taste than a 48 hour time frame, for example. For low-carb followers, a longer fermentation period means lower carbs – those bacteria are eating up the sugar in the milk!
Option 1: Room Temperature Kefir Fermentation
Place the covered kefir jar in an out of the way area of your kitchen to culture for the amount of time your taste in kefir dictates: 12 hours produces the mildest tasting kefir, 24 is the average, 36 to 48 hours yields a kefir that is strong, more sour but is also much thicker.
Temperature determines much with how fast kefir ferments. In summer’s heat, be aware that countertop culturing may happen faster than wintertime culturing.
Option 2: Refrigerator Kefir Fermentation
Allowing the kefir to culture in the cold refrigerator is an often overlooked option. The process of fermentation slows down so much that when the kefir is made, it is a much thicker mixture than the usual 24 hour countertop method. It can take as much as 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator but the taste, I think, is milder than kefir cultured in warm environs.
Preserving and Protecting the Culture – the Kefir Grains
Your first batch of kefir has fermented and is ready. The next thing you need to do is to strain the floating grains out of the mixture. This is how you do it:
First, gently stir the mixture very well to mix the jelly-like polysaccharides coating these granules back into the kefir adding rich thickness to the final product. This coating is called the kefiran and is very desirable.
Next, pour the kefir through a strainer, allowing the kefir grains to gather. Do not rinse! Place these grains into a clean jar, gently, and cover them with milk. Refrigerate this culture until you are ready to make the next batch of kefir.
As you strain our the grains, you are pouring the cultured kefir into a clean jar where it will stay, refrigerated, until you are ready to drink it.
When you are ready for more kefir, or should I say, a few days from needing more kefir, start the process all over again, this time using the kefir grains you’ve sheltered in the jar in your refrigerator. Now you can have all the kefir you want and you won’t have to pay a high price for it! Drink up!!