This is my third attempt at making kefir. Worth the effort because although the shop-bought organic one is delectable (especially Riazhenka baked milk) I am less enamoured of its plastic container and price. (And availability since it was featured on BBC’s Trust Me, I’m A Doctor and everyone went mad for kefir).
Enter a blog post on kefir by Penny’s Plate, a Bristol-based nutrionist. My third kefir adventure had begun.
Penny kindly offered me some kefir grains, and dropped them off at our local healthy food shop.
It gets better. When I picked up the grains at Harvest Bristol Cooperative, I was delighted to find them in a jar with a darling fabric cover (see pic above) secured with an elastic band (the metal lid was while it was being transported).
This has made everything possible. I have hitherto never achieved such a natty arrangement.
The other good thing was the size of the jar. Up-to-now, I had made a pint and got overwhelmed by the amount.
If you don’t like the tangy taste of kefir, add it to a banana smoothie.
Why kefir? This fermented food certainly feels soothing. Apparently it helps line the gut – and a healthy gut lining enables the absorption of nutrients. According to kefir enthusiasts, it is better than yogurt because its healthy probiotic bacteria actually colonise the gut.
Newbie kefir tips
Find someone making kefir and beg them for grains. When they arrive, put in a clean jar and top with fresh milk. Don’t fill to the top. Cover with a breathable lid and leave to ferment for 24 hours away from direct sunlight.
Strain through a plastic (not metal) sieve and drink (or store in the fridge). Start again with the strained kefir, a clean jar and fresh milk. Store unused kefir grains in the fridge covered in a little milk. The cold slows down activity.
It is good to have a kefir buddy. Tasting Penny’s kefir gave me an idea what I was aiming for. I asked questions, was reassured by her replies. I felt like a new breastfeeding mother unsure of this natural yet unknown activity.
Start small with less than half a pint of milk in a jar. Don’t fill it to the top but leave room in the jar for kefir to breathe.
Get a fabric lid cover cut in a circle to fit generously over a jar with an elastic band to secure it. The cover needs to be breathable and clean. You could use a paper towel. Don’t forget the runner band.
Successful kefir is down to the freshness and quality of the original ingredients – so choose organic milk if you can, and as fresh as possible.
As for all great achievements, you have to get a bit obsessed. You have to fuss over your kefir, check it, swirl it, send anxious texts to your kefir buddy, look up kefir sites (one of my favourites), and hurry back home to check it is not feeling abandoned.
Kefir grains are not really grains. These grain lookalikes are actually clumps of good bacteria and yeast formed from feeding on the milk. And when recipes say “refresh” the grains, it means give them fresh milk (not water as I have mistakenly done!).
You can make vegan kefir. Like kefir ginger beer. This is how ginger beer used to be made. The real thing.
Use room temperature milk. I had what the French call a mauvais quart d’heure when I thought I had murdered my grains with icy milk. I think they just slowed down. They seem to be recovering nicely now. Thank you for asking.
The lucky people of Stroud can now get kefir made from raw milk. Check out the Stroud Micro Dairy which is situated on Oakbrook Farm, farmland secured by the Biodynamic Land Trust so it will be sustainable farmland for generations to come.
PS I am now communications manager for the Biodynamic Land Trust.
Do you make kefir? Any newbie tips?