Kefir Basics

Kefir Basics

Basic instructions:  Use a ratio of 1-2 tablespoons of milk kefir grains to 1 cup of milk (cow, goat etc…not nut or seed milk.)  Place it all in a glass container with cheesecloth or a paper towel over the top to keep stuff from falling in (and to keep out gnats in the warm weather, they LOVE this stuff!) and to allow the gasses formed by the kefir to escape without busting your jar.  Also leave a few inches of head space in the jar because it will expand.  (You may have noticed the lid…outside of gnat season I just set the lid on top without screwing it down.)

Leave the jar on the counter for anywhere from 12 to 48 hours…basically till the curd separates from the whey like in the jar above.  Times will vary and you can make it weaker or stronger using the 12 to 48 hour guideline.

After the whey has separated, stir it with a plastic or wooden spoon.  Metal is supposedly death to kefir, but I’ve found that it tolerates some metal contact just fine as you’ll see.

straining kefir grains with metal strainer

Next, strain out all of the kefir grains leaving you with fermented milk.  I use a fine metal strainer for this part and less than three months ago I only had about a cup of grains.  Now I have 5 or 6 cups so it’s still alive and growing.  I have to assume it’s only harmful to the grains if it’s in prolonged contact with metal.  I haven’t tested that though.

strained kefir grains

Lastly, store the strained kefir in the fridge and put the grains in a jar of fresh milk to start the process over.

kefir

 

So there’s the finished product.  Now you can sweeten it however you like or drink it plain or blend frozen fruit into it for smoothies etc.

Almost eight years ago, I bought two tablespoons of kefir grains from a guy off of ebay.  I started out making one cup of kefir at a time, but through faithfulness and a warmish kitchen, those two tablespoons quickly grew into four cups and I started giving it away left and right to friends and family who asked for some…only for every one of them to throw it away later.  Some even became repeat offenders.

One of Hubs friends asked for some grains and Hubs told him, “Sure, I’ll just have my wife go ahead and throw yours in the trash to save you the trouble.” He was confussed by that and asked why.  Hubs told him that’s what everyone else has done so that’s what he’ll probably do too.  The guy thought it was funny and swore he wouldn’t do that.  I gave him about half a cup of grains which he placed in the fridge at work and left it there for a few weeks before he threw it in the trash.  He figured it had surely gone bad by then.

Ha, ha!  It didn’t even make it home with him!  I thought it was funny among other things.

I’m not an overthetop, passionate, zealot about kefir so I’m no expert, but I have learned a few things over the years that I think are worth sharing.

It’s really, really hard to kill.  I’ve never managed to and I’ve abused it in so many ways.  I’ve done everything from leave it on the counter till it smells like 3 day old road kill in the summertime to leave it starving in the back of the fridge for months at a time.  I even manhandled it with kefir murdering metal!  Gasp!

The first picture is one of my current gallon batches.  I have between 5 and 6 cups of grains right now and make about a gallon of strained kefir every day or so.  That’s enough grains to make more than twice that amount if you figure you need about 2 tablespoons per cup of milk.  But, I don’t need that much and I like the taste and texture of this ratio better.  It comes out thick and frothy after about 24 hours on the counter with the perfect amount of tartness.  Another day on the counter and it’s even thicker, but looses it’s frothiness and is at least as sour as sucking on a fresh lemon wedge…which is not my favorite.  It’s like the difference between lemonade an lemon juice.

Sometimes I don’t have time to strain it when I need to so I stick the jar, grains and all, in the fridge till I’m ready which has been three to six months on many, many occasions.  Once I’m ready to get back into making kefir, I pull my last batch out of the fridge, smell it then strain it.  If it smells fine I go ahead and drink it and so far I’ve never had a batch smell off even after several months.  My mom says she has had some turn bad that way but her sense of bad and mine might not match up.  I haven’t died from doing that yet so my method works for me.

However, if you’re not as gutsy or you’ve left it on the counter till it smells rotten, strain out the grains and rinse them in chlorine/flouride free water and start over.  The time I left it on the counter and it stunk to high heaven and grew a light brown fuzz across the top, I scrapped off that fuzzy layer, strained and rinsed the grains really well, poured the fermented milk down the drain, put the grains in a small amount of milk and changed the milk every couple of days (tossing the fermented milk each time) till it smelled normal again.  That was within the first year of my kefir making and it’s still alive to tell about it (and so am I!)

Once you’ve left the grains in the fridge for months at a time, it can take a while for the grains to get back up to speed so I help them along by placing the jar in a big stew pot of warm (not hot) water, which I change a couple of times to get them restarted quicker.  This also seems to help the grains multiply quicker too but it may only be necessary in winter when the kitchen is cooler.