Milk Kefir! For my next installment of jarred weirdness I present to you a dairy delight. Fermented milk kefir. I was introduced to this elixir again by Susun Weed in 1994. She had these things called Tara or Tibetan Mushrooms sitting in this thick, viscous jar of goats milk. After straining out the grains as they are called she poured me a small glass of the tart, sour stuff. It glided down my throat with a slight effervescence. It tickled my nose and I burped and fell head over heels in love. I'm a dairy hound anyway and this new way to get my lactose fix had me over the moon. I believe that diary can be a good human food for many people. Some react poorly to it but many can process it just fine and get great benefit from it's nutritional profile. I can't drink fluid cows milk straight but I can drink goats milk and cultured cow milk products just fine. Milk kefir really tastes great to me and has so much to offer health wise. After leaving Susun with a gift of grains I fermented them at home for quite some time until either they got thrown out by accident or pitched when we moved. I was still curious about kefir so I did some research. This was the dawn of the internet, the days of alt.net groups and spider searches so it took me some time to find what I was looking for but find it I did. I found the MOTHERLODE of information about Kefir in the webpages of one Dom or Dominic N Anfiteatro, a Kefir Guru from Down Under. This was about 1999 and I had found a man obsessed. His love of kefir had produced the most comprehensive site of information on the stuff ever collected. Dom's site was the go to place for information about kefir. History, Cultural relevance, recipes, techniques were all collected on Dom's site. He also had links to find folks to share grains around the world. I could repeat what I found but that would deny you the delight of perusing his pages. It has grown into an amazing, labrynthine treasure trove of information and I am in awe of the love and dedication to Kefir and things fermented Dom has shared with the world. Now days you can find milk kefir on sale at regular grocery stores touting it's probiotic goodness. That's wonderful, more people can get to know about this wonderful food this way but often the stuff you can buy is full of things I don't want to eat; sugar, artificial colors, gums and stabilizers. And of course, it's expensive. I can make my own kefir at a fraction of the cost of store bought.
Here are the kefir grains. They are not grain based but a combo of yeasts and bacteria that eat lactose and poop out lactic acid and various other probiotic goodies that are great for the human gut. If you are curious about the composition of Kefir click here . You let the milk and grains mingle at room temp for about 24 hours then strain the kefir off, eat the liquid and use the grains for your next batch of Kefir. They will keep making you kefiry goodness for years with loving attention.
Above you can see the kefir sitting out fermenting. The grains are in the top photo processing the milk. in the bottom photo you can see the separation of the milk proteins from the whey after sitting for 24 hours. After straining I am left with this creamy, tart, thick liquid. I refridgerate mine and drink in smoothies or plain. Sometimes I strain the kefir through a fine weave cloth and make labneh cheese but most often I drink it.
To get your own kefir grains you could check out Dom's sharing page, go to Facebook and look for Kefir sharing groups or do a web search for companies that sell kefir grains. I am familiar with Cultures for Health, GEM cultures and Happy Herbalist. There are others. eBay might be a fruitful place to check.
To recap, making kilk kefir is stone easy. Obtain kefir grains. put them in a jar and fill the jar with about .5-1 C milk for each T grains or according to the package instructions. Cover jar with a cloth and rubber band to keep the creepie crawlies and flying bugs out. Let sit at room temp (60-80) for about 24 hours. The warmer the room , the faster the ferment happens. Strain the milk off with a plastic strainer ( ideal) or a Stainless Steel one if that's all you have. Place the strained grains back in the jar and cover with fresh milk and repeat. Some folks will close the jar and let it sit out for another 24 hours at room temp for a second fermentation which decreases the amount of lactose left in the kefir and increases the vitamin profile. I think it is too sour that way so I just put my jar in the fridge straight away.
Enjoy your kefir however you would eat yogurt. Enjoy!