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The Great Kefir Post

Straight-up kefir

As you know, I’m on a huge probiotic kick at the moment. And, thanks to my friend Natasha, I’ve finally found a non-yogurt priobiotic food that I actually like — a lot. Kefir is totally delicious. It’s a wee bit sour with an effervescent tang, the same tang you get by mixing fruit juice (I like V8 Fusion, myself) with sparkling water. (Sparking juice is a great natural, caffeine- and sugar-free alternative to soda.)

Kefir grains

My kefir arrived in a ziplock baggie in an envelope in the mail, nothing more than little grains the size of peas mixed with powdered milk. The instructions said to rinse off the powdered milk and stick it in a jar with a little bit of fresh milk.

Kefir grains mixed with normal 2% milk

Kefir purists use raw milk, but I grabbed the grocery store’s usual pasteurized 2% variety. I hear you can make it with skim milk, but I think that the less fat is in your milk, the less fat-soluble vitamins the kefir will be able to produce for you.

Kefir stored in the pantry

Stick it in a dark, warm pantry and wait! For the first few days, I switched out a scant 1/4 cup milk twice a day to get the kefir acclimated. I’m not sure if this was necessary or not, because it really took off after I started giving it a whole cup of milk and letting it do its thing for 24 hours. The first few days it smelled really yeasty, exactly like my overnight pizza sponge. On the third or fourth day, it smelled sour and clean. I’ve gotten into the habit of swirling the milk around in the jar whenever I pass my pantry. It supposedly helps move fresh milk to the grains, which might help the batch ferment more quickly.

Kefir after about 12 hours

After 12 hours, the grains float to the top and look kind of like cottage cheese. They’re also starting to turn white and clump together more. Mature kefir grains look like little heads of cauliflower, rather than the cheesy little bits of the dried stuff.

Kefir after 24 hours, where it has separated the whey from the milk solids

After 24 hours, the kefir has separated the milk into whey (the clear stuff on the bottom) and a mix of milk solids and kefir grains (the stuff on the top). The jar is super messy because I swirled it a bit too enthusiastically, lol. At this stage it’s ripe for consumption.

How to strain kefir

Again, kefir purists advise against letting metal touch your grains. However, my strainer is stainless, so it shouldn’t be reactive to food. I remember hearing similar advice against mixing your henna paste for henna body art using metal tools, and I haven’t ever had a problem with my stainless mixing bowls, so I figured I was safe here, too. I also saw some YouTube videos and info on Dom’s Kefir Site that swayed my opinion. Besides, I have no idea how I’d separate the grains without using this strainer. This stuff is thick!

Straining the kefir

Speaking of it being thick, check out that YouTube video I just mentioned. The easiest way to strain the finished product is probably to a) mix the kefir and whey back together in the jar; b) pour it through the strainer into a bowl; c) shake-shake-shake and tap-tap-tap the colander against your hand until you end up with this cottage-cheesy thick mix of kefir grains and kefir… stuff… left in the colander.

Finished kefir and refreshed kefir

The kefir stuff goes back in the jar with fresh milk. Stir and store. The strained kefir can go into another container, which you can drink immediately, store in your fridge, or let mature at room temperature for another 12-24 hours.

The Kefir Smoothie Team

Now, kefir is tasty by itself, but it also makes a fantastic smoothie! It’s thicker than normal milk but not as thick as yogurt, which gives kefir smoothies a really awesome consistency. It also gets all frothy and delicious on top. 🙂 I’ve been going with Maya’s brilliant mix of kefir and frozen, ripe bananas. (I got an entire bunch of organic bananas for about $0.75 just because they had a couple brown spots. Score! Chop those suckers up and freeze em!) I really like it with a dash of cinnamon, too. Keep in mind that you don’t need a ton of frozen bananas because it’s going to be pretty thick by nature of the kefir itself.

Kefir smoothie ingredients in the blender.

Simply blend…

Kefir-banana smoothie

And pour!

Garnish your kefir smoothie with cinnamon

Garnish with an extra dash of cinamon if desired. I think it looks pretty,

Kefir smoothie - Enjoy!

Lastly, enjoy! I like drinking smoothies out of my reusable cold drink cup, the one my Starbucks barista likes to call “Wall-E’s mentally deficient cousin” (since he’s obviously doing a horrible job compacting all those widgets).

I can’t think of a tastier way to get your dairy in, even if dairy doesn’t particularly agree with you.

I’ll have to keep you updated on how the probiotic element of the kefir reacts with my system. It can take a while for your body to adjust to the kefir colonization. I didn’t take my Align tablets for the first few days of drinking kefir, and after about a day and a half, I started having stomach pains again. So for now I’m on both Align and kefir.

The odd thing is that the first day I had kefir, I was a teeny bit nauseous. This only lasted one day. Then for the following two days I had a mild runny nose, which is really odd for me. Ever since then, I’ve been able to really smell things, which is also really odd for me. The only other time this has happened was when I completely cut all dairy out of my diet for a few weeks. The recurring eczema patch I’ve gotten on the back of my neck ever since I was a kid finally flaked off and went away, too — but this could also be due to switching my shampoo/conditioner around the same time.

With that, I’m signing off! Happy Halloween, kids! Be safe, and don’t eat too many refined carbs. 😉

12 thoughts on “The Great Kefir Post

  1. My kefir colony looks remarkably similar! And I also use a stainless steel mesh strainer — just don’t have anything else — and I can’t imagine cleaning a bamboo tea strainer after using it for kefir! (And yes, I use a stainless steel mixer for my henna and also a stainless steel spoon)

    I, too, have noticed that my eczema has mostly gone away. As are the other problems I got from having too many anti-biotics (which probably saved my life by keeping something nasty from lodging in my new hip) and a month of coumadin (which also probably saved my life by preventing a deep vein clot).

    I like the idea of freezing bananas. I usually buy bags of frozen fruit and toss in a medley of berries or mangos or whatever else was on sale.

    YUM!

    1. Awesome! I’m glad you’re starting to feel better already. One of my favorite fruits to buy and keep frozen is pineapple. 🙂 It really adds a punch to smoothies. Frozen fruit is supposedly riper than what you get at the store, too, because it doesn’t have to be shipped green.

    1. I’d never even heard of kefir two weeks ago! So I have no idea if it’s better than the stuff at the store or not. It does re-separate in the fridge, though, so I would assume that the commercial kind must be homogenated. At least you don’t have to worry about accidentally killing your colony while on vacation or anything. 😉

      Happy Halloween to you too. Sounds like the Giants made it a GREAT Halloween!

  2. Congrats on starting up your colony! I bought a small plastic strainer and use a ceramic spoon so that I have something specifically for kefir and don’t have to worry about anything strange getting into my colony, but think that as long as it’s stainless your metal strainer should be fine. 😀

    About commercial kefir: The stuff at the store is not real fermented kefir, which is impossible to manufacture properly on such a large scale. They mimic the properties of kefir by adding selected cultures to a buttermilk-like substance rather than by fermenting it from actual grains. It is by no means a bad product, but in reality it’s not much different from commercial yogurt in probiotic content and health benefits, and absolutely inferior to real kefir cultured from live grains.

    1. I’ve been using a repurposed mason jar that originally held my boyfriend’s mom’s canned tomatoes and a bamboo spoon from a lunch set. I think I need a longer spoon, though. Which would also free the bamboo one back up for my lunch. 🙂

      I’d like to try making kefir yogurt. I’ve never been a fan of American yogurt, and the amount of “live cultures” in said yogurt apparently varies hugely and is a lot less than advertised.

    1. Yes! You totally can. You can even grow kefir in coconut water, which is supposed to be really good for you because of all the electrolytes and potassium in coconut water.

  3. I totally can’t do dairy at all (joint pain, skin problems, fatigue etc) but I didn’t know you could use soy milk or coconut water! I’m all excited now. I can’t wait to try! Where did you order from again? My husband also loves Kefir, so maybe I can get two colonies running – one dairy and one vegan.

    1. I don’t know! That’s a good question for Natasha. She ordered it from a guy named Mike in Encinitas, and had him send a little bit to me. I would be more than happy to share my guys with you though. I can try splitting the colony in half. Then you would just need to wait for it to grow, and split it in half again, and start acclimating one half to soy or coconut water while the other keeps propagating in milk.

      Let me know! If you decide to order instead, make sure you get kefir grains and not kefir “starter.” The grains will propagate forever, but kefir starters have a limited number of batches in them.

    1. Natasha, I read on Dom’s Kefir Site (here: http://is.gd/gAuHi) that it’s possible to convert milk kefir grains to a sugar-water (or other) solution. I don’t know if they *become* sugary kefir grains (the clear, translucent ones) over time, or if it’s just a substitute, but it might be worth a try when your colony gets bigger.

      I’ve wanted to try coconut water kefir. It sounds like a really great post-run recovery drink. 🙂

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