Kefir

Revisiting Kefir

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Last summer a friend of mine gave me some of her kefir grains and explained how to kefir milk. 

Great idea, but for me, the timing was off.  We were in the middle of the great Painting The House project, which consumed the majority of last summer and left little time for anything else.  I didn’t make as much cheese as I’d wanted to, or as many jams and the like.  Just no time.  The house took over.

And the kefir…well…much as I hate to admit it, I totally ignored it after the first one or two batches and eventually (lightning’s gonna strike as I type this) threw it out.  (Sorry Rosa’s Foster Mom!)

But the awareness of it lingered.

And a few weeks ago, I decided to try it again.

The spark was reignited by The Leftover Queen.

So I read up on making kefir both on her site and others, and ended up buying not only grains for milk kefir, but also for water kefir.  In for a penny, in for a pound.  Or a pint.  (Which, weight-wise, is the same when you’re talking most beverages.  In case you didn’t know that.)

Anyway, I ordered the two packages of grains from Cultures for Health (which, as I type this, I can’t link to for some reason – maybe millions of people are suddenly trying to order kefir grains ALL AT THE SAME TIME!) and then waited excitedly for the mail to arrive.

It’s so much fun to order stuff, isn’t it?  I don’t do it all that often, and that’s part of the fun.

Anyway, why.  Why did I decide to make kefir now?

Well, it’s partly a health thing.  From what I’ve read, kefir is full of good-for-you probiotics.  Daily consumption is reported to aid your digestive system and get all sorts of other health issues sorted out.  I’m all for that.

And it’s partly the whole culturing/fermenting part of it.  I bake bread, I make cheese, Bill makes beer, we make sauerkraut and kimchee…it’s just a cool process.  So what’s one – or two – more?

I decided to try the water kefir because you can make healthy versions of soda with it.  How cool is that?  I figure I’ll eventually add different juices to different batches and maybe, if I’m nice, Bill will let me use some of his empty Grolsch-style beer bottles to bottle the soda.  Or I can just make small batches and store them in the fridge.  Anyway, I’m hoping this goes over well with the kids because I’d like to…you know…force them to like what I want them to like.  Hahahahahaha.

So we’ll see. 

First up, the milk kefir.

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To rehydrate the grains, I needed to put them in a cup of milk in a “partially sealed container” for a full day. 

So here’s my cup of milk:

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Here’s what the grains looked like.

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They’re stored in the envelope with some dry milk powder.  That’s what the whiter stuff is.  The grains are those weird lumpy looking things.

And they’re not really grains, either.  They’re colonies of microorganisms, like bacteria and yeast.  When rehydrated, they wake up – kind of like when Glinda sings to the munchkins after Dorothy has landed and squashed the Witch of the East, and they wake up and emerge from their flowers and other hiding places.  They wake up and, just like the munchkins in Oz, they’re HUNGRY! Now, what you didn’t see in the movie was after all the singing and sending Dorothy off along the yellow brick road, they opened up a bunch of smokers and pulled out racks and racks of ribs, pulled hunks of homemade cheese from their cellars, and uncovered bowls and bowls of munchkinmade slaw.  After downing all that, they went for a selection of cakes and cookies and brownies and freshly churned ice cream.

Now, the slaw, which, as you know, is mostly usually made from cabbage, created a lot of…um…gas in the little munchkins, and…well, as Shrek says, “better in than out.”  This caused damage to the munchkin feast scene set and that’s why they ended up scrapping that whole portion of the movie.

Anyway…with the exception of the ribs and all the other munchkin foods, the rehydrated, reawakened and hungry grains need something to eat.  And after they eat, they…well…they produce gas, too.   

And this, my friends, is fermentation.  Like when you make bread or beer.  Yay!

Anyway, I put the milk in a clean jar and added the grains.

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I stirred gently, with the handle of a wooden spoon (you’re not supposed to use metal when making kefir) to dissolve the dry milk powder.

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And then I covered the jar with a coffee filter secured with a rubber band.

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And I wrote the date and time on top.

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And then I put it up on top of the pie safe and left it alone for the rest of the day.

Now, the instructions say that while you’re rehydrating the grains, you need to change the milk each day.  So the next day I strained the milk through some cheesecloth into another jar and put the grains in another cup of milk. 

I tasted the strained milk.  It tasted like the water left in the bowl after you’ve had cheerios for breakfast.  That slightly malty, grainy sweet flavor.  Yummy, but not kefir yet.

The next day – same deal.  And I used that milk in a batch of muffins.  More on that in another post.

But then…on the morning of the 10th…

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Yep, those lumpy bits are the grains.

But the important thing is…

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The kefir is working!  The milk has gelled, much like when you make cheese or yogurt.  YAY!

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I love this kind of thing!  It’s like magic!

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Cool, huh? 

So I poured it, bit by bit, through some cheesecloth to strain the grains back out…

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And then I got everything set up again for another batch.

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Now, time to take a better look at the first batch.

Here it is.  Because it was strained through the cheesecloth, it’s not as thick as it was originally, but it’s still thicker than regular milk. 

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And the taste?

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It’s a lot like plain yogurt.  Tart and clean.

Not at all scary.

But it certainly wouldn’t go over well with anyone else in the house.

So my next plan is to find a way to get everyone else to like it.

And then I figured I’d experiment a bit.  Right then and there.  With my very first lovely little batch.

I added the rest of my coffee to it.

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I don’t advise that.

At least, not in that proportion.  Too much kefir, not enough coffee.  And just…not fabulous.  But it reminded me of a blander version of Dannon’s coffee flavored yogurt, which I like a lot.  So…something I could pursue eventually.

Yesterday I drank some and poured the rest over my cereal.  That worked well.

And this morning, in an attempt to capitalize on my earlier healthy snack success, I whipped up a little breakfast beverage for the kids. 

Julia helped, of course.

First, some of the kefir (I’d increased the amount, too, by the way – to about 3 cups- I used about 2 in this drink)…

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Then Julia added in a banana…

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and  blueberries…

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And then…puree!

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Pretty, isn’t it?

I poured it out into two glasses for the kids…

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Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd…after the first few sips, both kids handed back their glasses.

They didn’t like it all that much.

Julia drank more than Alex did, probably because she wanted to like it.  I understand that – she helped make it, so she wanted to enjoy it. 

But, no. 

I tried the drink (sorry, I hate the word “smoothie” for some reason) and I thought it was fine.  Probably not sweet enough for the kids. 

But I can work on that.  Maybe increase the proportion of fruit to kefir, at least initially.

I’ll keep you posted on how that all goes.

I like a challenge.   

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