Kefir is one of the easiest fermented foods to prepare. It resembles a tart, drinkable yogurt and has a diverse set of beneficial microbes within it. Kefir is traditionally prepared with cow, goat, or sheep's milk, but can even be made with coconut milk if grains are put into animal's milk every few batches. It is important to note that sourcing the best quality milk you can will yield the most healthy and nutritious end product. When using animal milk, do your best to find raw, grassfed milk from responsibly raised animals. With the innoculation of healthy kefir grains, the process is truly almost foolproof.
4 cups raw milk
2 tablespoons kefir grains
Place kefir grains in the bottom of a quart jar. Fill the jar the rest of the way with raw milk, leaving an inch or two of headspace. As the culturing process progresses, the contents of the jar can expand slightly. Cover with a piece of cheesecloth, fabric, or paper towel secured with a rubber band. Place at room temperature, ideally between 65-76 degrees, for 24-48 hours. Stir occasionally to redistribute grains and taste to see if your desired flavor has been reached. When kefir is done culturing, it will be slightly thickened with a tart flavor. If left out, it will continue to culture and become thicker and stronger in flavor. Kefir can become very thick and effervescent depending on how many grains you use, how long they culture, and the temperature of the environment. In the warm months of summer, the incubation process will likely go quicker depending on the temperature of your home.
Pour finished kefir through a strainer into another vessel to extract the grains. I use a stainless steel funnel that fits perfectly into wide and regular mouth mason jars and has a silicone strainer insert. When I first learned to make kefir, I was advised to not allow the grains to touch metal, however after ten years of making my own kefir, I have never had a problem. Rinse your kefir grains with filtered water and start another batch of kefir. Store finished kefir in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
With each batch, your kefir grains will grow and multiply. The extra grains can be stored in the refigerator or frozen by rinsing them well and placing in a small jar then covered with filtered water. Stored in this way, they will last about a month in the refrigerator and 4 months in the freezer. If stored too long, they can loose their ability to culture.
Our family's favorite way to consume kefir is in smoothies, however many drink it plain. The substitution of kefir instead of milk in baked goods creates a tangy, almost sourdough flavor in recipes where this is desired such as grain free waffles, pancakes, or bread. It is also a wonderful acid medium when soaking or sprouting grains or legumes to increase their nutrition and digestibility.
To read more about the origins and health benefits of kefir, please click here