Kefir

One researcher has found that right-turning, active, growing, bacteria in kefir are far superior and more beneficial to the digestive tract than left-turning, transient yogurt cultures.  The lactose in kefir is all digested by the time it is ingested, and some of the proteins have been broken down, so it can be used by many people who have milk sensitivities.

A 500ml glass jar (i.e. kilner jar)

About 1 tablespoon of kefir culture

Fresh milk (goat, cow, coconut)

Put the kefir culture in the glass jar, then fill it with fresh milk about 2/3 or so full. Cover the jar with a cloth, a coffee filter, or put a lid on the jar allowing air flow.

Let the contents stand at room temperature for approximately 12 to 24 hours depending on your taste. 48 hours will make a thicker, sourer kefir, 12 hours a thinner, sweeter kefir. The temperature will effect how quickly the culture works; during the warm summer months the kefir will ferment faster.

While it’s fermenting the kefir grains will float to the top of the milk along with any cream. Depending on the length of fermentation, curds may separate from the whey.

When it’s ready, stir kefir gently with a wooden spoon to mix up the solids and liquids to make it easier to strain. The kefir culture produces a jelly like polysaccharide substance that develops around the grains as they grow, making it look ‘gloopy’. It has unique properties and it’s own name ‘kefiran’. Giving the kefir a good stir will distribute the kefiran in the kefir and it contributes to the thickness of the finished kefir. Use a wooden spoon or clean hands to scoop out the culture from the kefir (the culture is easy to feel and separate from the liquids). Strain the kefir into a clean jar and place the grains into a clean jar. Store kefir milk in the fridge; it will keep for weeks. Store the grains in a bit of milk in the fridge or use them to make another batch of kefir.

Drink kefir plain with a meal for excellent digestion, or make it into smoothies with bananas and/or strawberries.

A Note on Cleanliness

Make sure everything is very clean when handling kefir. It’s a living culture, a complex system of bacteria and yeasts.  Cleanliness reduces the risk of contaminating it. Use freshly cleaned hands, clean jars, and clean non-metallic implements.

Notes and Variations

Timing and Temperature

The length of fermentation time directly corresponds to sourness. Ferment 12 hours for a lightly fermented kefir. Leave for 2 or 3 days for a much stronger and more active kefir, past the point which curds separate from the whey. Cooler temperatures slow the fermentation and make a thicker kefir. When fermenting in the fridge, leave it for 5 days or more.

Double Fermentation

First ferment normally by adding culture to milk and leaving it for12 to 24 hours. Then strain out the culture and leave the kefir out to ferment again more slowly for another 12-24 hours before putting in the fridge.

Storing the Culture

Real kefir from live culture is an endlessly self propagating process. After each batch you’ll have a few more grains as the culture grows. Eventually you’ll have quite a large batch of grains and they’ll speed up your fermentation time. Spare culture can be stored for a few weeks in a jar in the fridge with some milk. It’s a good idea to rotate them with the grains you’re using for your regular kefir making so that they get a chance to warm up and restore vitality to their microflora. You could also pass spare culture on to a friend.

Storing the Kefir Milk

Store the kefir milk in a glass jar in the fridge. The kefir milk will keep a long time in the fridge. Add new batches of kefir to the storage jar as they are made and give it a shake to mix them. Do not store it in an air-tight container. The beneficial bacteria and yeasts help to prevent the kefir from spoiling but it gets very sour and fizzy.  Not for the fainthearted!

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