Kefir really is incredibly simple!
It’s so easy that even my kids and my husband know how to start a batch for me! Here’s how to make the simplest cultured dairy:
How to Make Kefir
1. Pour milk into a jar containing kefir grains.
2. Screw on lid.
3. Set on counter for 2-3 days till it firms up.
4. Strain kefir through colander to harvest the grains for next batch.
5. Put finished kefir back into the jar and put in fridge.
It’s that easy.
Kefir is similar to yogurt in that…
- It has lots of beneficial bacteria and probiotics–although the cultures are different and thus you’re getting more variety of probiotics if you have both kefir and yogurt in your diet.
- It can be made with whatever milk you have access to–raw, pasteurized, or homogenized–as long as it’s from animal milk. (Dairy alternatives like coconut or almond milk need a different starter.) It’s a great way redeem pasteurized milk.
- It can be used in baking, soaking your grains, smoothies, and even eaten plain.
Kefir is different than yogurt in that…
- You don’t have to heat the milk before you add the culture.
- The starter is not readily available at your local grocery store, like it is for yogurt.
- Once you get the grains, you’re set. They don’t wear out or need replacing like yogurt starter sometimes does. (I buy new yogurt for fresh starter every few months, but I’ve been using my kefir grains for years.)
Where to Get Kefir Grains
- Option #1 I got my grains from a friend, and since then have divided and shared my grains with a handful of other friends. (Yes, they multiply each time you make a batch!)
- Option #2 If you don’t have a friend or a friend of a friend to get some grains from, I suggest looking on Craig’s List, or asking around at your local farmers market, co-op, or health food store, or any place crunchy people congregate.
- Option #3 If that fails, you can order grains online from a great source like Cultures For Health. (That’s my affiliate link–thanks for your support!)
A final strategy, if you’re impatient to try this fantastic cultured dairy, is to purchase powdered kefir starter–this is more readily available and can probably be found at your grocery or health food store. The powdered starter can’t be used forever like the grains–you have to keep buying the packets. But otherwise it tastes the same thing and is equally nutritious. (See my post on how to make Kefir with powdered starter here)
Caring for your Kefir Grains
Kefir grains look like cauliflower and are similar in texture to tapioca pearls–slightly firm and gummy. Each time you make kefir, you strain the finished kefir through a colander to separate the grains so you can make another batch. Each time you use the grains, they will reproduce, allowing you to eventually split your grains and share them with others.
You need about 2 tablespoons of kefir grains to culture a quart of milk, so my little family of grains can do a half gallon now, and I could spare a few now…
For the first year I had my grains, they were reproducing soooo slowly, I rarely had enough to divide and share them. Then a friend pointed out that the holes in my colander might be too big…little baby grains were probably all going through the holes! I switched colanders and, sure enough, my grains started multiplying!
Because the finished kefir is sometimes nearly as thick as yogurt, I usually have to help the straining process along by stirring the grains around in the colander (which is held over a bowl to catch the finished kefir) or the slightly more dramatic method of banging the colander against the sides of my bowl. (Bang! Bang! Bang! What’s the sound? Oh, just mommy making kefir)
I rinse my grains under cold water between each use to keep them fresh and clean. Then they go into a clean jar which I then fill up with fresh milk to start another batch. If at any time I don’t want to make another batch of kefir immediately, I put them in a little jam jar with just enough milk to cover them. They keep in the fridge for months this way. This is also what I do when traveling with my kefir.
How We Enjoy Kefir
Since we probably use a gallon of cultured dairy each week, I choose kefir over yogurt because it’s faster and easier to make. The primary use is in our breakfast smoothies–I like the flavor and consistency of kefir smoothies even better than yogurt. The other main thing I use it in is soaking my baked goods. My tortilla dough*, pizza dough*, bread dough*, pancake batter*, and favorite muffin recipes* all call for yogurt or kefir, and I primarily use kefir because it’s a little runnier and so it pours into a recipe easier.
Some people drink kefir–I’m not a fan, it’s just a little to tart for me to drink plain. But we still manage to consume several cups a day. This morning’s blender pancakes* included kefir and kefir will be key component to the peanut butter chocolate smoothie I’m craving for this afternoon’s snack.
I think it’s safe to say my kitchen literally runs on kefir.
*all these recipes can be found in my first cookbook!