Thursday, February 21, 2013

Kefir!

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I am always thinking about how I should really post about the kefir I grow. So here is that post..finally.

First, let me tell you that I am not an expert on this subject.

Kefir is a culture. Like yogurt or kombucha. You grow it. That is the best way I can describe what this stuff is.
Like yogurt or kombucha, kefir helps aid and regulate your digestive system. You can Google it and see people claiming it cures diabetes, cancer and whatever else it supposedly does... sure. All I know is it makes me regular and that rules.

Second, let me tell you that I don't really know exactly what I am doing.

But to be fair, this is not an exact science. I figured out how I like my kefir through trial and error.

Let's go!

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This is the best picture I could come up with to show the kefir process. To the right, are the grains themselves. To the left in the plastic container, is the finished "kefirized" (may or may not be an actual term) milk.

Step 1

Get yourself some kefir grains.
Look on Craigslist or place an add on Freecycle. Seriously.
Most hippies people who grow it don't like to sell the grains, but instead, give them away. The grains practically double in size every month, so there is plenty to go around. I have seen some websites that will give you starter grains for a donation as well.

Step 2

You have your grains, so put them in some milk. That is it. Kind of.
Put your grains in a mason jar and cover them with whole milk. If your grains are small, use less milk. Tons of grains? Go for it! You just need to use enough to submerge the grains completely. Also, the more milk you use, the more work your little grains have to do and the longer it will take for you to have a finished product.
Now, close the lid. Instead of using the metal mason jar cap, just put a piece of cotton fabric (like a quilting square) under the mason jar ring and close the jar that way. You have to let the kefir breathe.

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Look, I don't even use a mason jar half the time. Ghetto Smucker's jar works for me.

Step 3

Wait.
Store the grains and milk in a temperature controlled spot, i.e. your pantry or a cupboard, and let them do their thing. The trick is to keep them at the right temperature. Too hot and your finished kefir will be sour. Too cold and your grains will not do their job. After about 18-24 hours, your kefir should be ready. You'll know because you will see some separation happening. See the picture above? My kefir is done the way I like it.
If you leave them out for too long, your kefir will be really sour and more like curds and whey. Less time gives you a buttermilk texture and less tang. I like mine just as it begins to curd. It is a matter of taste.

Step 4

Separate, start again.
Either strain your mixture through a plastic seive, or using a plastic slotted spoon, scoop out the grains. Whatever is easier for you. Then, put the grains in a clean jar and start over.
You have to use plastic or glass whenever you handle the grains. Supposedly, metal will damage the grains. Don't use your hands either! The grains are living cultures and you'll contaminate them. What is left, is your kefirized milk, or at this point it could be just called kefir. Your kefir should smell a little yeasty (that is really appetizing, huh) and will taste a little tangy. It will be lightly carbonated.

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Step 5

Use it.
I put mine in a green smoothie everyday. My brother cooks with it, my mother uses it as a substitute for sour cream. Some people make cheese out of it (labne). You can store your kefir grains in the fridge if you don't want to make kefir daily. They kind of hibernate indefinitely. Just cover with milk and leave them alone until you're ready. Then, take 'em out, give them some fresh milk and put them back in your pantry or kefir spot.

If you are interested in kefir, check these links out. You can also buy ready to drink kefir at most grocery stores (the blueberry flavor by Lifeway is yummy).
If you decide you want to try growing this on your own, ask me anything..I might be able to answer your questions. Might is the key word.

nationalkefirassociation.com
www.kefir.net

This video is good, but note that this lady has a TON of grains so she uses a whole jar of milk.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8inJzX-6yE

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