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More Fermented Foods: Make Your Own Homemade Kefir

Kefir is a tart, tangy fermented food that starts from milk and is used much the same way as yogurt. Learn how to make your own kefir at home.

a glass jar of kefir

Photo: David Niergarth (flickr)

Kefir can be made from cow, goat or even sheep’s milk equally well. It is a tart, tangy fermented food, used much the same way as yogurt.

Kefir is a fermented food that starts from milk. It can be made from cow, goat or even sheep’s milk equally well and the result is a tart and tangy drink that can be used much the same way as yogurt. In smoothies and other fruit filled dessert drinks, kefir provides the creaminess of a tart yogurt, and just like yogurt, kefir is easy to make at home.

Kefir can be tolerated by many people who are lactose intolerant, because in the process of making kefir, helpful bacteria work to digest the lactose, or milk sugar present. Kefir can also have a probiotic effect, like yogurt, and has been noted by mainstream medicine as such.

Thought to originate in the Caucasus region, Kefir is unique in that it contains carbonation. This sparkling, delicious drink is a result of fermenting fresh milk at room temperature.

The catalyst for creating kefir, is a specialized bacteria and beneficial yeast that you can actually see, called kefir grains. These grains resemble cauliflower, and grow with each batch of kefir made, so once you’ve been at it a while, you can divide the grains and share them with friends or experiment with different types of kefir.

Different Types

You can make kefir with many milks (cow, goat or even sheep’s milk work equally well) and even from non-milks that are high in sugars, like juice and water with sugar added.

The types of kefir made from these non-milks have a large following, but be aware that they do not contain everything that the kefir grains need to thrive and proliferate, so you will have to start fresh if you want to go back to making milk kefir once again.

It is important to try and keep the same variety of milk that the grains were grown in before you got them. After you have successfully grown more grains, you can then take some and start you kefir in another variety of milk or water, etc.

The health of your kefir grains is directly linked to the success of your kefir batches. Many kefir lovers find that after making a few batches, they can soon divide their grains and experiment with other liquids, while ensuring that they have enough to continue making milk kefir.

Make Your Own

To make kefir, start with some kefir grains. Forget the powdered packets. They will taste great, but you want to actually make the real kefir, not a kefir flavored drink.

  1. Place the grains in a glass jar, that has been washed in hot soapy water, rinsed very well, and left upside down to dry in a dish rack.
  2. After placing the grains in the jar, fill it 3/4 full with your choice of milk, cover with a coffee filter and rubber band it in place. Do not screw on a lid tightly, because your kefir will become carbonated and the pressure will build up.
  3. Place your glass jar containing the grains and milk into the pantry. Check your kefir after 12 hours. It will thicken into a thin yogurt, and have a slightly yeasty odor – this is kefir!
  4. If at 12 hours, your kefir is still not formed, keep checking it every 4 hours or so to watch it transform into kefir. Kept too long and you will see whey forming on the bottom of the jar and kefir floating above.
  5. Taste to see if the tanginess is to your liking, and it will now be fine to drink, but remember the carbonation! If you pour off a glass of kefir, it will rise up the sides of the glass, so don’t overfill.
  6. Strain out the grains using a colander or your washed bare hands, filtering through your fingers. The grains will be larger each time you strain them and can be placed in a new jar for the next batch of kefir. Once you have enough, you can divide the grains and share with a friend.
Amy Jeanroy

Amy Jeanroy lives on a small family farm in Nebraska. She and her family raise organic produce, milk, eggs and meat for sale. When she is not tending to the goats and gardens, Amy works as a freelance writer on gardening and green living topics, with a frugal touch. She is the Herb Gardens Guide for About.com, as well as the author of Canning and Preserving For Dummies, 2nd edition, 2009.

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