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Monday, September 20, 2010

Kefir - don't fear Kefir

So would everyone who is afraid of kefir (ka-FEER) please raise your hands up high. Yup that is what I thought - quite a few of us. At least I was until two days ago. My dear friend IRL April grew me some grains.
She calls them her babies and she was generous enough to not only share but walk me through the process. I promise you it is easy peasy lemon squeezy!
This is what the kefir looked like after about 48 hours.

What is kefir? It is a fermented milk drink that originated in the Caucasus Mountains in Russia. It is tangier than yogurt but sweeter than buttermilk. A good kefir contains many different types of friendly bacteriea as well as some good yeasts, and it packs one of the strongest health punches of all the cultured dairy foods.

The natural carbonation makes kefir fizzy and perfect for smoothies. The simplest of of recipes - pour some of the kefir into your blender with some fresh or frozen fruit. It is pretty tart and so we add a little honey.

From what I have read it is much better to purchase the grains - they will last indefinitely if you take care of them. Actually, they keep growing and you can share the grains or even put the excess in your smoothy and eat them. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Items needed to make kefir:
kefir grains (2-3 TBS)
2 wide mouthed glass jars
plastic lids (metal is bad)????
plastic strainer (mine is metal but plastic is better for your grains)
2 cups whole milk - raw if you can get it, pasteurized works just don't use ultra-pasteurized, it won't work. You can also use coconut milk or goats milk if you prefer.

So, once you get your kefir grains put them in a clean glass jar - I used quart sized canning jars.

Add the milk,  put the lid on (or cover with clean cloth) but don't tighten the lid - kefir needs air to breathe.

Tighten the lid for a moment and shake gently, then loosen again.

Put in a cupboard or somewhere out of direct sunlight. Leave for 12-48 hours.

Shake gently every so often.

The longer you leave it the more sour it will taste but the better for you it is. When it has fermented to the taste you like dump it all in a bowl through a strainer. You can gently stir it with a wooden spoon to get all the milk and whey through the holes saving the kefir. Put the strained liquid in a clean glass jar cover and either drink right now or refrigerate until you are ready to use it.

This is the grains after I strained them.
You will have a little pile of cauliflower looking gelatinous stuff - the kefir grains. Pour those into a new clean jar and start over again.  and again.  and again. and again. and so on and so forth. If you take care of them they will last forever. 

You will notice that each time you make some it seems like you have more grains - and you do, they grow and multiply. You can share your excess with a friend OR you can just eat it. It is full of the amazing probiotics and good yeast that is in the kefir milk. My friend just puts it in her smoothies.

Kefir is very versatile and you can use it just about anywhere you would use buttermilk. You can also make kefir cream cheese just like you make yogurt cheese - pour it through a couple coffee filters/strainer and it just takes 12 -24 hours to get cream cheese. You can then flavor it any way you want. YUM!!

Today I made a smoothie with a frozen banana, frozen spinach cube, 2 different frozen winter squash cubes, blueberries, and frozen peaches along with about 1.5 cups of kefir and a big squirt of honey. This makes a lot - 4 of us shared it. (I always put frozen veggies in my smoothies). Sometimes I add a couple TBS of coconut oil and/or the yolk of an egg (only from my chickens).

Another super easy way to enjoy it is half fruit juice and half kefir blended. Easy peasy.

I also made the most amazing apple muffins (I will be posting that recipe later this week) and used kefir for half the milk in it - next time I will use all kefir, but I wanted to be sure it couldn't be tasted.

You can also use kefir in place of conventional yeast to make pizza dough and even bread. I will be trying that out soon - maybe just maybe this will be the pizza dough we are all hoping for.

I am linking this to the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop I co-host with 3 other amazing bloggers!Check out the Hop and please join in the fun!!

I am also linking to Kelly the Kitchen Kop's Real Food Wednesday -  and Simple Lives Thursday hosted by 4 great bloggers!


  1. I know that a lot of people do fear kefir, but I don't see why because it tastes so nice and yogurty. Is it just the idea that it grows, that it's alive?

    On a side note... how do you wash your sieve? It's something that I always have trouble with :)

  2. I love the kefir that I have purchased. I have never tasted homemade, but it's probably even better? I haven't been able to find raw milk in NYC. Could I make it with my farmers' market pasteurized milk? Thanks for sharing the step by step directions.

  3. I don't know that i'm scared of it...but I've never tried it. It sounds like something I would really like though!

  4. Christy...I love kefir!! It's delightful fizzy, tanginess...ahhh, kefir ;) I love this post...and I need to pull my kefir grains from the freezer and get a new batch growing, thanks for reminding me. YUM! =)

  5. Butter - I just rinse it immediately and then either wash it in the sink with hot soapy water or stick in the dishwasher. My friend warned me you have to do it right away or you will never get it clean.
    City - Yes, you can use pasteurized milk - just NOT the ultra stuff. I am going to change the post to reflect that - thanks.
    Joanne - you should try it! It is so refreshing.
    Girlichef - ;o) get those grains a going!!

  6. I love kefir! I tried working with my own grains for awhile as well. My only problem was controlling the population; they grow so fast and need a lot of milk! How do you deal with your growing kefir grain reserves?

  7. Julie - I am fairly new to the whole kefir fun, but I know my friend just puts the extra grains in her smoothies and that is what I plan on doing.

  8. I love kefir smoothies, in fact I am drinking one right now, just kefir, blueberries, raspberries and a little honey. The kefir is store bought though, I have not tried to make my own yet. I guess the first step is to find some place that sells the kefir grains, sounds like the rest is easy.

    I am wondering though how you store the grains after you make the first batch. Do you have to use them again right away? I might end up with too much kefir that way. Can I just put them in the refrigerator until I want to make another batch?

    Great post!


  9. You have shed a lot of light on this subject, and it will be interesting to read more. Because the whole thing is very different for many folks. Thanks.

  10. Christy! I'm so excited that April was able to pass some grains on to you!! I am a kefir addict. I admit it. I drink it for breakfast every morning. I mix 8 oz raw milk kefir with 2 free range egg yolks from the farm, 2 oz coconut milk (full fat) and 2 Tbsp coconut oil, 4 frozen strawberries and 10 drops of raspberry stevia drops (I don't have strawberry, otherwise I'd use that!) and mix it all up with my handy dandy hand blender. Delightful! Not very sweet and super cold and tangy. It lasts with me for hours :)
    As for extra grains...pass them on to friends or mix them into your smoothies.

  11. I'm the only one who really likes kefir around here, though I do make smoothies for my boys occasionally using it.

    I'll leave my grains in the milk for 24 hours on the counter, then I just stick it in the fridge till I need it. I don't take the grains out, just leave them. Then when I run out of a jar of kefir (without grains), I'll take out a new jar, take out the grains, put it in a clean jar and add milk, using the jar of kefir I just removed the grains from. Putting it in the fridge slows down the fermenting, but you'll still get thick, tangy kefir.

    I had heart burn the other morning, so I drank about 8oz straight up. When I first began drinking kefir, it was way too tart and tangy, but now I've grown accustomed to its taste and I really like it!

  12. What an interesting read - I have never heard of kefir and have never come across kefir grains anywhere. Will definitely try this if I ever find it here.

  13. Hey Christy!!

    I have a post in the works about kefir myself - would you mind if I link up to your post when I publish mine!!

  14. Thanks for posting the photo! My kefir sometimes separates like that after just 24 hours and I thought something was wrong. The last time I saved it because I was brave enough to taste it and it didn't taste bad...:)

    1. I am new to making Kefir (48hrs new), and my kefir is separating too. Do you know what's going on when it does that? When I strained the stuff last night, I got a lot of clear-ish liquid, and I had loads of the thick stuff(looked like cottage cheese) that wouldn't go through the strainer.

      That was the first batch, and I've read that the first couple batches can be a little weird...

  15. Brenda - I believe you can store them in the fridge, in milk - it slows the process way down, from what I have read they will keep that way for a couple weeks. Just drain the liquid and start over.

    Thanks Melynda - kefir is my new passion ;o)

    Motherhen - I love that you have a system to keep it all going! I have really enjoyed it - and have to fight my 5 year old for a glass.

    Sue - it is fairly new to me, and until my friend gave me the grains I had never had any homemade kefir.

    You can buy kefir grains online at Cultures for Health - I know Kelly the Kitchen Kop has a link on her site (or just google it).

  16. Jenny-fer! Wow it took kefir to get you out of lurkdom!!
    I am thrilled with it - I will try your concoction - it just sounds like a lot and I don't use stevia, I bet honey would do it. Oh, and I use lots more fruit in my smoothies so maybe that'd work!
    love ya chica!!

  17. Hooray for kefir! I blogged about it about six months ago, too. Nice to find a fellow kefir grower. :)

  18. Lydia - absolutely link to my post! thanks!

    Deborah - I love a picture too, I am very visual!

  19. Seasons dont fear the kefir, nor do the wind and the sun and the (dont fear the reaper is an old favorite of mine!)

    I must admit, I fear the kefir. Mostly because i have tried to make yogurt TWICE and both times ended up with, I have some kefir powder from the health food store--will that work?

    Maybe I will just try it and see! Thanks for hosting and posting on the hearth n' soul hop! HUGS. Alex@amoderatelife

  20. Christy,
    I had no idea you could use kefir to make pizza dough or bread - makes sense. Thanks for the tip!

  21. Alex,
    I don't know anything about the powdered form of kefir - everything I read said the grains are so much better. But certainly give it a try - see if you like it. It is very sour and yeasty smelling but mixed with something sweet and it is amazing!

    Ellen I didn't either until I started searching around for ways to use it on the internet!

  22. I recently got some kefir grains and have been trying it out. I am just really having trouble with the texture, though. When I read people that say they drink it straight, I can't imagine that! Mine is so curdle-y and not smooth and creamy at all - is that how it's supposed to be? I don't really care for the taste or smell either, which makes me think I'm doing something wrong. I really want to get this figured out though, since it's so good for you!

  23. I posted this in a reply to "Anonymous," but I'm going to post here too:

    I am new to making Kefir (48hrs new), and my kefir is separating too. Do you know what's going on when it does that? When I strained the stuff last night, I got a lot of clear-ish liquid, and I had loads of the thick stuff(looked like cottage cheese) that wouldn't go through the strainer.

    That was the first batch, and I've read that the first couple batches can be a little weird...

    Jordan, I am in the same boat. Did you ever figure it out?

  24. The cottage cheese type stuff is the kefir grains - that is what you use for the next batch - they do grow and multiply and you can either eat them or share them - hope this helps.

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