Any mother from any walk of life can tell you that being a Mom is a very complicated and draining job. As rewarding as it may be to have Super-Mom status, I am sometimes stretched to beyond my breaking point. Many days I feel as if this juggling act of life has me juggling elephants, one heavier than the other. There is no gracefulness to my retreat into insanity, some days I feel ready to meltdown. We live an incredibly unique lifestyle, Stephen works from home and I home school. In addition to us all being here all the time, processed foods and go-to convenience is a rarity. Whole foods first means that I am responsible for feeding everyone. Now hunger elimination can be straight forward in many cases but most of the time… it isn’t. No one wants to eat an apple, no one wants leftovers, (Again) no one wants what I just busted my hump making because “it just, really doesn’t sound that good.” Raw milk kefir being introduced into our home has helped out in tons of ways. It really helps to balance our digestion, (mine especially) and smoothies are a wicked quick and easy “meal.” It is a quick pop of sweet sustenance that is nutrient dense and delicious. Alas, I have kept the hungry wolves at bay. (for a moment at least)
I did not know what kefir was as of 6 months ago. Now, in some weird way I feel as if it defines me and that is why I am sharing it with you. In a nutshell raw milk kefir is everything I want for my family. Homemade, nutrient dense sustenance. For months I struggled with trying to make the best homemade yogurt, I would mix and incubate and pray that it came out a little less wet than the last time. Now and again I get a batch that’s actually semi-thick, but most times I have “pourable” yogurt. I make regular yogurt for soaking cereal, and because I like the sweeter taste. It sure isn’t because I love making it, it’s awesomely delicious but just not what you would expect yogurt to be. During a chat with our family farm(er) Kefir came up. Although at first I was a little hesitant I’m really glad I gave it a chance because it is SO MUCH EASIER than yogurt. (with a wider variety of organisms, but more on that in a minute.) It really is brainless and simple to make but also satisfying with health benefits galore.
Milk Kefir, The “Extra Strength Yogurt.”
For those of us who need the maximum boost of balance.
Kefir is a fermented milk beverage made with milk kefir grains. (Pronounced Kuh-Fear, really accentuate it and scream it when you say it, it will keep your kids on their toes!) The grains are similar in appearance to cauliflower, they are boogery and squishy in texture. These grains contain a variety of complex bacteria and yeasts, although similar to yogurt it has a much wider range of nutrients and minerals. Yogurt although wonderful contains two strains of bacteria where Kefir contains up to thirteen. The micro-organisms in both kefir as well as yogurt (probiotics) help to keep the digestive system clean as well as feed the friendly bacteria that help boost your immunity. Unlike yogurt, kefir can actually colonize and it doesn’t stop working for you. There is a slight effervescence in kefir, and it has a really unique taste. I will be honest here: It’s bizarre. It’s YEASTY, It’s sour. It’s gloppy and coagulated. (cheesy maybe?) You really can’t consume it as-is. I mean you can, but I wouldn’t don’t. It won’t kill you, it’s just really sour.
You can use kefir as you would use any yogurt or sour cream, I use it primarily in frozen treats such as ice creams like probiotic blueberry ice cream or peach and sour cream frozen yogurt. I also make popsicles and smoothies but have experimented with putting into just about everything from guacamole to tomato soup. -
Milk Kefir Tutorial I promise it is stupid simple. You can buy freeze dried kefir starters but from what I’ve read you can only use these batch by batch. If you can get a hold of the real deal grains, I recommend it 100,000%. When I first got my grains I had about 3 tablespoons, over the course of the past couple months they have grown to about 6 cups worth. I have had to dispose of them because I really have too many. (house pets may appreciate them but I typically just throw them into the blender with smoothies.) The cauliflower “bulbs” will last forever if treated well. I have heard of people making water kefir with milk kefir grains. Although this is not truly “water kefir” if they are rinsed really well you can prepare fizzy fruit kefir for kids that might typically desire soda. (If you are in Pennsylvania I highly recommend Your Family Cow, they come with great instructions and as I said, they are lively grains !!! )
- A Glass Jar or Canister
- Cloth, I use a cut up dish towel
- A Rubber band, (hair scunchies)
- Milk Kefir Grains
- Whole Milk, Raw or Dairy Free variety Of your Choice
- Non Metallic bowl
- Wooden Spoon or plastic Spatula
- A non Metallic colander, See Note
1. Place 3-4 tablespoons of Kefir grains into a 4-6 cup glass jar, leave at least 1/2″ at top for room for expansion.
2. Cover grains with 4 cups of whole milk.
3. Use Cloth to cover the jar, cover it with cheese cloth or a fabric of some sort. You are keeping out bugs and excessive amounts of dust and grime. Use a rubber band to keep the cloth in place. (You can secure the cloth with a mason jar ring if you are using a mason jar) Set kefir aside in a dark, cool place. Any cabinet will do, you just want to insure that is not exposed to light and heat.
I use my dining room buffet when I am using clear glass. Pictured Below)
4. Allow the kefir to ferment one to two days. If your home is warm you will have kefir in as short as 10-12 hours, this really varies depending on how active your grains are. For extra tart kefir ferment for two days. I always do two days when I make large batches, I make about 2 liters at a time every other day. At the end of an extended ferment it will look pretty grody, if you prefer it milder in flavor do not exceed 24 hours. Fermenting longer than 3 days is not recommended.
5. Strain the kefir into your colander, I use a wooden chop stick or spoon to stir it before straining. This is useful especially when making raw milk kefir because the cream will separate. Stirring the kefir together before straining just makes it easier to work with. Put strained kefir into a jar leaving some head space and refrigerate, it is best if used within two weeks. Once strained set grains back into a crock for your next batch of kefir.
6. Make Smoothies!!!! We ALWAYS use banana’s to flavor and sweeten, pomegranate molasses or elderberry syrup are also consistent addition. Blueberries or strawberries, pineapple, mango , or any fruit you like will work. My kids were iffy about kefir for a while but bananas and squeeze bags really converted them.
Note: Much like sourdough it’s said that using metallic implements could cause an unpleasant tinny taste or discoloration, so avoid metal bowls, metal spoons, metal colanders. I’ve used a metal slotted spoon and metal strainers here and there, quick contact probably is not an issue but you do not want to ferment or store in a metallic jar.
Russian Style Kefir- (With a Secondary Fermentation) Instead of refrigerating the strained kefir allow it to rest at room temperature for an additional 8-12 hours. I find that this is the only way my kefir gets “fizzy.” If I know I’m making smoothies I just take out my kefir an hour or so in advance and let it get its fizz on.
To Store Your Grains- Place grains in a jar and cover with milk. Refrigerate for up to two weeks. I have found that just being in the fridge for a few days affects the potency of my grains. The first ferment after storing is always off and wetter than usual.
-For extended Storage Rinse grains and pat them dry. Place into an airtight baggie or jar and freeze for up to a few months. If forgotten for too long you will have to obtain new living grains.
Why Whole Milk? Whole milk raw or not is in my opinion the way to go. Although I have been a 1 or 2% girl for most of my life I’ve changed my ways, whole milk contains the healthy fats and cholesterol you need for healthy hair, nails and what I call “Brain fatty-ing.” These fats are essential especially for pregnant women and growing children, animal fats are great sources of long lasting energy. You can make milk kefir with alternative dairy-free milks such as almond, coconut, hemp etc. I have not tried this and I believe it will be trickier to sustain the grains long term because the natural sugars in the lactose (found in cow and animals milk) feed the grains.
On that note: Because the lactose is partially consumed by the grains, and because Kefir, is a live-bacteria-packed-probiotic-low-lactose food it is often suggested to consume kefir to help boost your immunity and diminish the allergy. But, I’m not allergic so… don’t take my word for it.
Working up Your Tolerance, Even If you Are Not Allergic To Milk: If you have not consumed raw milk kefir or other living, probiotic foods I would not suggest consuming large quantities all at once. Unpleasant side effects may take place such as gas, bloating, … you get the picture. (We call it “butt duck.”) It works magic on your digestion and immunity, but you don’t want the volcano to erupt all at one time.
As far as Raw vs. Not Raw milk goes, well this is entirely up to you. I am pro Raw because there are enzymes and bacteria in raw milk that can not be found in pasteurized milk. Of course there are weighed “risks” to consuming raw dairy and of course fermented raw dairy. You CAN make milk kefir with pasteurized milk and I would highly recommend it because you would be establishing nutrients into milk that is lacking diversity. When given the choice, I don’t make kefir if I don’t have raw milk. If I couldn’t get raw milk I would definitely make kefir to establish cultures and bacteria.