Accompanying article: Kefir
Considered by many to be the most healthful of fermented foods, effervescent kefir tastes tangy and fresh. How lovely that you’ll make your own as commercially available kefir only approximates the real thing (see my Kefir Article for details).
As you work with kefir, you quickly develop a feel for the process and of how it varies according to the room temperature and the type of milk you use. Also, you can increase its thickness by using more grains; and you can increase its tartness by increasing the fermenting time.
As you continue to re-use these grains, they will multiply and you can share grain starters with friends. If you’ve a supply of milk “straight from the animal”, allow it to age in the refrigerator for a day or two prior to making kefir.
1 tablespoon kefir grains
1 scant quart milk (goat, cow, pasteurized, raw, reconstituted, skim or full fat)
Place kefir grains and milk in a quart glass jar. Tightly cover and set out at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours (in hot weather, it ferments faster) but not in direct sun light. Shake the bottle a couple times during fermentation.* After shaking, release any CO2 gas buildup by opening the lid, then tighten the lid once again. (A tight lid produces a lightly effervescent beverage. To eliminate effervescence, just rest the lid on the jar rather than tightly closing the lid.)
The kefir is ready when the grains coagulate at the top of the jar. To separate the newly made kefir and to retrieve the kefir grains, pour through a strainer or colander (stirring as necessary to prevent the grains from clogging the strainer).
You may drink the kefir as is, or you may refrigerate it for up to three weeks. Or, as per below, you may further ripen the kefir. But, and this is important, don’t discard the grains.
To make a new batch of kefir, add these retrieved grains to fresh milk and repeat the process. Or, to refrigerate the grains until next use, place grains with kefir to cover in a tightly closed jar. They’ll hold for several weeks. To hold longer, place grains in quart of fresh milk, refrigerate for up to a month (shake the container several times a week).
Ripened Kefir (optional)
I recommend ripening kefir for a day or two prior to consuming it. Fully ripened (48 hour) kefir eliminates lactose from the beverage and increases some of the B group vitamins. Folic acid, for example, increases by at least 116 % in comparison to fresh milk or freshly stained kefir.
As the kefir ripens at room temperature, the thick creamy kefir floats above the watery whey. Shake or stir to blend the ingredients. Or, separate and use the thickened kefir as sour cream and the whey in baking, for drinking or in other fermented foods.
*Shaking the fermenting kefir prevents the formation of yeasts and acetobacter colonies from forming on the surface. If colonies form they will appear as a light-brown wavy film. Skim this off, discard the film and use the kefir. Should you ever loose a batch of kefir (or your grains) to rampant overgrowth, your nose and taste buds will unerringly inform you to toss it.
May you be well nourished,