Milk Kefir

Milk Kefir is an incredibly nutritious, digestible and easy to make drink that can have various tastes and devoted fans based o the fruits, juices, vegetables, sweet or savory spices and herbs used during a 2F (second ferment). You can even chose not to use anything to do a 2F instead just enhancing the nutritional profile even further.

The first ferment is when you take your milk kefir (MK) grains  – they are actually called technically SCOBYs and often look like cottage cheese curds – put them in whole, unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk or the best fresh, pasteurized but not ultra-pasteurized, organic or totally grass fed milk you can get your hands on. Even sheep and goat’s milk make tasty and highly nutritious kefir.

If you have to use frozen or even powdered or canned milk it’s still worth it as long as they are of high quality and you get them to a good temperature. We prefer 65F to 72F but as long as the milk isn’t freezing during the entire process the grains will eventually turn the milk into kefir. After 12 to 48 hours of occasional or frequent shaking or stirring you will have some kefir that you like. You can always slow it down if it gets sourer than you like really quickly or separates very fast by:

  • fermenting at a colder temperature
  • using colder milk to start out
  • use less grains i.e. (use 1 tsp per quart if using raw warm milk)
  • strain the grains out after a much shorter period of time

The more you move it around the thicker and more homogenous the final product will become. If the whey – typically a clear or yellowish liquid – separates out from the kefir either mix it back in and continue or shake it up, strain out the grains in your clean strainer or cheese cloth or paint straining bag or old nylons or well rinsed out dish towel.

Strain the liquid into a clean vessel – we recommend using glass jars like Mason or Ball or Fido or Weck or any clean jar you bought a quart of mayonnaise in. What matters is that there is a top that can be tightly closed yet opened every now and then to burp  your kefir. One of the amazing things that will happen when you put your strained kefir in a cold place – if you don’t drink it all right away which is okay! – is that during a 2F or second ferment the tightly lidded will do two things: Continue to develop even more vitamins and accessible proteins while either souring a bit more or taking on any flavor you add and developing carbon dioxide.

IMG_2273To start a new quart of milk kefir we took about a tablespoon of frozen kefir grains out of the freezer and let them thaw out on the counter. When we froze them them were very plump and juicy so we first dried them out a little and coated them with organic dried powdered whole milk and then froze them to prevent excessive cell damage. The freezing did not affect them in any way we could tell.

 

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We put the grains in a little milk bath for a while then pulled a few of them gently apart to increase the total number of grains that we would end up with and to encourage our SCOBYs (symbiotic colonies of bacteria and yeasts) to mingle and make new relationships. Other types of SCOBYs include water kefir grains (tibicos, Japanese water crystals) and the very large and mushroom like ones to make kombucha.IMG_2277 Four hours later, a lot of picking apart of the grains and a gently warm milk bath tripled out number of grains. We also added a tablespoon of heavy cream we had skimmed off the top of an unhomogenized half gallon of milk.So we threw them into a half gallon of milk and the did their in their dark cupboard about 12 hours before we decided to stop and second ferment with two different flavors. One we added some well salted down and rinsed cucumbers, fresh dill, chopped scallions and some lactofermented garlic to and capped it tightly. We fermented it for 4 hours until we just had to eat it. It was great. Had we let it go for a few more hours then refrigerated it until chilled it would have been one of those things you keep shaking your head and saying, “Wow this is so good”. The other quart we made for our friend Sandor Katz who was giving a presentation for a New York City group called Just Food. We added goji berries and Himalayan raisins to it with a touch of lemon juice. Everyone loved it. We’ll have to make that one again. Fizzy and refreshing.

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The other quart we made for our friend Sandor Katz who was giving a presentation for a New York City group called Just Food. We added goji berries and Himalayan raisins to it with a touch of lemon juice. Everyone loved it. We’ll have to make that one again. Fizzy and refreshing.

The carbon dioxide is what gives your milk kefir a wildy refreshing, fizzy and deeply satisfying taste. After tasting a well made milk kefir for the first time people often dream about it. Careful when opening it. Also, if you keep it going it is likely to keep fermenting, thickening, souring and creating gas. So drink it up! Or make cheese. Or a salad dressing or dip. Or bake with it.

Milk kefir is a very sophisticated food with many different bacteria and yeasts providing a wide spectrum of nutritional goodness. Diversity is always a good thing! Like it thicker? Mix it with your current yogurt type or steamed grains or chopped fresh fruits or fresh dill, cucumbers, garlic and lemon! Need to know where to get grains? No, you can’t just grow them from a previous batch of strained milk kefir or backslop like you can with yogurt. But there are a great number of ways you can get them: From a friend, a community person or noble, online swap, purchase from a reputable source such as Gem Cultures, Cultures for Health, Yemoos or even from a list of vendors through Amazon. Let us know if you have questions or need help at culturesgroup@earthlink.net

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