Tuesday, May 4, 2010

How to make Kefir (fermented milk)

Suggested equipment:

1 pint jar with lid (wide mouth works better)

Small strainer with plastic mesh (optional)
Plastic spoon ( I use a spoon-shaped baby fork.)
(It’s important not to use metal since it reacts with the grains and kefir.)

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Strain the grains you received. Do not rinse them. Put them into a quart jar and add about 1 cup of milk. Cover loosely with lid. Raw whole milk is best, pasteurized milk will work. Ultra-pasteurized milk may not work. I would not recommend it. (Most organic milk in the store is ultra-pasteurized.)
  3. Let it sit out on the counter for 12-24 hours. Room temperature should be between 63-70 degrees F. The first batch or two after receiving the grains may not be good-tasting yet. The bacteria and yeasts need to get into balance again after sitting in milk and the fridge for a while. So you might need to toss the first one or two batches. It depends on how fresh the grains are.
  4. After one or two milk changes the kefir grains should be happy and balanced again. About 1-2 Tbsp of kefir grains are a good amount of grains for 2 cups of milk. If you added your milk in the evening check on the kefir the next evening. Does it smell slightly sour? Is it thickening? At this point you could strain the grains out or just give it a little shake to increase activity of the grains. If you let them go, check them again in the morning. My favorite length of time is about 18-24 hours.
  5. The kefir will thicken slightly and may be slightly chunky. If you are using raw milk the cream will rise and there may be pockets of whey. I used to strain the grains out, but they are usually in one clump so I just fish them out with my baby fork and then put the jar in the fridge. You could use ta strainer if you want. It has to have fairly big holes to let the kefir through.
  6. Put the grains into a fresh pint jar. Pour 2 cups fresh milk (it can be cold from the fridge) into  jar and loosely cover. Set out on counter. 
  7. After a few batches your grains have probaby grown and you may want to take out some grains and/or add more milk than before. Experiment until you find the taste and results you like. Kefir is also great for adding to soaking water for grains and legumes. So its great to have on hand. Can also be used in place of buttermilk in recipes. As your grains grow you can make more batches or larger batches. Keep it on hand for all your buttermilk needs. 
  8. Sometimes making one batch after another is too much. So after you have made 2 or 3 jars you might want to take a break for a few days. You just put your grains in a small jar and cover them with milk and keep them in the fridge for a few days. I would not let them sit longer than a week or they will get out of balance. I usually use them every 4 or 5 days.

This may seem complicated, but just like other things once you understand the process and do it often it becomes second nature. Don't fret just practice a little. It will come easy then.

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