Milk kefir is one of the simplest of the cultured dairy products to make at home. A quart of storebought kefir costs about $4.40 but you can make your own for simply the cost of your own milk.
We have been drinking certified clean raw milk for about ten years. Raw milk makes really great kefir! When you don’t have access to local clean raw milk you can boost store bought milk by using it to make kefir. This culturing restores necessary enzymes helping to make your milk healthy and digestible again.
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What is so great about kefir?
Yogurt is the most well known cultured dairy product in the U.S., but there are dozens of different kinds of cultured dairy around the world. Kefir has at least 30 different probiotic strains; many times the number found in yogurt. Kefir is often well tolerated by people with lactose intolerance, especially when it is made with goat’s or sheep’s milk.
In addition to being a good source of vitamin K2, and helping restore beneficial gut flora, kefir has been shown to help with many other health issues. Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine has even published research showing how kefir reduces high blood pressure.
Kefir is surprisingly simple to make. You just need a few spoonfuls of the kefir starter culture – known as kefir grains – and some milk. There’s no heating involved! Just place the kefir grains into a clean jar, pour in the milk, and securely cover the jar with a cloth or paper towel. Let it sit at room temperature for anywhere from 12 hours to two days depending on how tart you like things. That’s it!
3 to 4 cups fresh, whole milk, preferably non-homogenized and raw
2 or more Tablespoons of milk kefir grains
1/2 cup organic or raw cream (optional, but delicious)
Place milk (and optional cream) in a clean quart-size mason jar. Add kefir grains, stir gently and cover loosely with a clean cloth, paper towel or cheesecloth secured with a rubber band. Place in a draft-free place for 12 hours or up to 2 days.
The length of time you leave your milk to culture depends on several things:
How tart do you like your kefir? The longer you culture the more tart it will taste.
How many kefir grains do you have? The more grains you have in relation to the amount of milk the faster it will culture.
Use a clean spoon to taste a bit of your kefir at the 12 hour mark and see if it is to your liking. If not, leave it to culture longer.
When your kefir is ready continue as follows.
Place a stainless steel strainer over a bowl. Pour the kefir and kefir grains mixture into the strainer. The kefir grains will stay in the strainer and your cultured milk kefir will go into the bowl.
Use the kefir grains to make a new batch of kefir by scooping them into a new, clean jar and adding fresh milk.
Pour the finished kefir that you just made from your bowl into a separate jar, put a lid on it, and store it in the refrigerator.
Taking a Culture Break
If you don’t need to keep making more kefir, you can just leave the grains in the cultured milk kefir, cover it tightly and place it in the refrigerator for a few days. When you are ready to make more then strain and proceed as directed above. If you want to store your grains for longer then a few days then place the grains into a jar of fresh milk, cover and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. When ready to use again pour off the storage milk and discard, then proceed as directed above.
What to do with kefir that is too tart? We have found that pets love kefir no matter how sour!
Share the goodness!
The more often you use the grains the more powerful they will be. Unused grains will eventually die off and no longer be effective. Each time you use them the grains will multiply somewhat. Eventually they will multiply to the point where you have enough to give away to someone else so they can enjoy the benefits of cultured milk kefir!
Let your nose be your guide. Smell your kefir and become familiar with what fresh kefir smells like so that you can know when something is wrong by a change in scent. When culturing the milk it is common and normal for separation to occur. If your milk and grains clump and a clearish liquid appears this is no cause for worry – just stir everything back together! The white liquid is simply the whey, which is a powerful, protein-rich liquid useful for all kinds of recipes.
Kefir grains can be obtained from a friend or online mail-order source. You can also purchase powdered kefir culture from health food stores, but they will not reproduce. You must buy new powder each time. Kefir is a powerful probiotic beverage. Drink it straight or use it in smoothies, salad dressings or other recipes.
- 3-4 cups fresh, whole milk, preferably non-homogenized or raw
- 2 or more Tablespoons milk kefir grains
- ½ cup organic or raw cream (optional)
- Place milk (and optional cream) in a clean glass jar.
- Add the kefir grains and stir gently to mix.
- Cover the jar with a clean cloth or paper towel secured with a rubber band.
- Let the mixture sit at room temperature in a draft-free place for 12 hours or up to 2 days.
- Taste your kefir with a clean spoon at the end of 12 hours to see if it is satisfactorily tart.
- When your kefir is ready strain it through a wire mesh strainer reserving the kefir grains for the next use.
- Pour the newly made kefir into a jar, cover with a lid and store in the refrigerator.
- Use the reserved kefir grains to begin a new batch following the instructions above.
Do you make kefir or other cultured foods at home? Tell us about it in the comments! What is your favorite way to use kefir?