Kefir is less well known than many fermented products. But the number and variety of helpful bacterial and yeast strains can far outnumber those found in the more popular yogurt.
In addition, it is much easier to make. Yogurt requires a few steps to kill the bacteria in milk before inoculating with yogurt culture. But kefir can be made with milk straight out of the refrigerator and while warm temperatures are needed, less attention is paid to optimums.
Powdered or wet grains can be bought through the mail in many countries. Using the wet grains provides more strains of various helpful probiotics according to a video provided by Culturesforhealth.com, an online store based in the United States.
- A pint glass container is a good incubator. Add the grains, fill with any kind of milk (UHT not recommended however) and cover with paper coffee filter or cloth secured by a rubber band. The porous material allows gas to escape but keeps fruit flies out.
- Place the jar in a warm temperature, about 70-80 degrees F.
- About 24 hours later, check the kefir.
The milk will be the consistency of buttermilk once fermented. If left longer, it will separate into curds and whey. It is still edible if that happens but may be too strong for some and the acidic environment is not the best for the grains.
- If the milk doesn’t thicken, discard and start over.
- If the second batch doesn’t thicken, the kefir grains may have died.
- Mold can appear. Pink, white, green, black or orange spots means the kefir has been contaminated.
- Such contamination may be from soap or food left in jar, proximity to garbage can—stray bacteria invade–, mold spores in air or proximity to other fermenting foods (sourdough, yogurt, sauerkraut). Throw it out, including the kefir grains and send for a new batch.
Remove the Kefir Grains
Pour the whole batch over a fine mesh strainer. Remove the liquid and use in breads, smoothies. Store immediately in refrigerator and use within two weeks.
Recipes are available at the Culturesforhealth website. Breads, soups, dips and desserts are some of the yummy looking ideas included.