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. Even a quart of our local raw grassfed milk kefir is half the cost of a quart of store bought made from pasteurized milk. When you don’t have access to local clean raw milk making kefir from your store bought milk restores necessary enzymes and cultures helping to make inferior milk healthy and digestible again.
3 to 4 cups fresh, whole milk, non-homogenized and preferably raw
2 or more Tblsp milk kefir grains
1/2 cup organic or raw cream (not ultra-pasteurized) optional but delicious
Place milk and optional cream in a clean quart-size mason jar. Add kefir grains, stir gently and cover loosely wiht a clean cloth 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. If it is ready then continue as follows.
Place a stainless steel strainer over a bowl. Pour the cultured milk, cream and kefir grains through 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. Pour the kefir from your bowl into a jar and store covered in the refrigerator.
If you want to take a break for a little bit 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.
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.