Versatile and full of rich probiotics, dairy kefir is simple to make and fun to drink!
The word kefir (pronounced kəˈfir/ kə-FEER), comes from the Turkish word “Keif” which means “good feeling”. With more than a dozen strains of bacteria and yeast, dairy kefir offers a diverse blend of probiotics. (See the study Microbiological Study of Lactic Acid Bacteria in Kefir Grains by Culture-Dependent and Culture-Independent Methods.)
Kefir grains (described in this earlier post) may be obtained through friends or fellow co-op members, or through the Internet. Here are several options:
How to Make Dairy Kefir
1. Place 1-2 tablespoons of kefir grains in clean glass jar. I use a 1/2-gallon mason jar.
2. Add 2 cups fresh milk. Any type of milk will work, including cow, goat, and coconut. Raw milk is ideal, particularly goat milk. Pasteurized milk will work. Try to avoid ultra-pasteurized, as the UHT (ultra-high temperature) is so high that the grains may not thrive. For sources of raw milk, click here.
The milk may be room-temperature or chilled. I always allow an extra hour for fermentation if I use cold milk.
(Kefir is generally safe for those who are lactose-intolerant, because the yeasts and bacteria eat up most if not all of the lactose in the milk. My daughter can’t tolerate store-bought yogurt due to the shortened fermenting time, but does great with homemade kefir.)
3. Gently stir contents and move the jar (covered with a cloth or a lid which is left ajar) to a location away from direct sunlight. This might be a cupboard, pantry, or darker side of the kitchen.
4. Allow the mixture to ferment for a minimum of 24 hours. It is not advisable to go beyond 48 hours.
5. Pour contents of the jar into a strainer. Some websites suggest avoiding metal strainers and utensils. Others say it doesn’t matter. I use wooden utensils and a plastic strainer.
6. Take the strained grains, place them in a clean glass jar, and begin the process again. (You can “rest” the grains in the refrigerator covered in milk or yogurt, which must be changed every 7 days.)
7. You can take your liquid kefir and refrigerate it for a day or more to “ripen” it and increase the nutritional value. You can also leave it at room temperature for 24 hours to ripen the kefir. Either way, the kefir is fine to drink after 24 hours.
In the picture above I am fermenting raw goat milk, pasteurized whipping cream, and also “ripening” freshly-made coconut kefir.
Drinking plain kefir is often an acquired taste. I have grown to love the flavor of plain goat kefir. I love the texture of the cream kefir and flavor it with a little bit of vanilla.
My kids enjoy making strawberry smoothies with the cream kefir. We even made “cookie dough” ice cream last week with cream kefir, cacao nibs, and cookie dough made of coconut flour, cacao nibs, stevia, and eggs.
Kefir is a probiotic food and therefore has strong healing properties which can cause severe die-off reactions. It’s best to start small (a teaspoon) and build from there.
Kefir can also be used topically for rashes and for general skin care. Mix cream kefir with essential oil and use it as a moisturizer. (I can’t believe the difference in my skin!) Run a cupful of kefir through your dishwasher cycle as an antimicrobial.
I love making kefir. Perhaps it’s that I can watch the good guys overtake the bad guys and know that this is what happens when I drink it. Or perhaps it’s the resilience of the grains themselves. I have seen sluggish grains come back to life when I thought they were doomed.
Have you tried kefir? What flavor combinations do you enjoy?