Lately I've been been absent from my blog - but I've been having a lot of fun doing different things, things like making milk kefir! I first noticed the kefir trend while browsing on the Faithful to Nature website one day and I was intrigued, so I did some research on the internet, decided this was something I'd like to try and went ahead and bought myself a little starter kit, consisting of about a tablespoon of dehydrated kefir grains, a jar and a plastic sieve.
Then began the process of activating the dehydrated grains. My grains took about a week to 10 days to become active. During this period, you basically toss the dehydrated grains into the jar and add a cup of room temperature milk and then wait for 24 hours before straining and repeating the process. (I gave my dog the resulting milk during that time - he LOVED this process!) Once the milk developed a "yeasty" smell after fermenting for 24 hours I knew we were on the right track - I continued the process and a couple of days later we had our first "proper" kefir - a sad day for the dog, but a great one for me!
The experience has been something of a learning curve and definitely a process of trial and error! Some of the things I have learnt along the way:
I cover my jar with a kitchen wipe, secured with a rubber band - this allows the kefir to breathe, without allowing dust, ants etc in. My jar of fermenting kefir gets stored in one of my kitchen cupboards - out of direct sunlight.
It is important to only use plastic implements when dealing with your kefir - kefir grains do not like metal.
In my experience the quality of the milk DEFINITELY has an effect on the end product - I've had the best results with high quality, full cream milk (I use Woolies milk).
My kefir takes between 36 to 48 hours to reach the consistency that I like (my preference is quite a thick kefir) - I have found it's definitely not ready after 24 hours unless the weather is very warm.
Once you have strained your kefir, you should wash and dry the jar before replacing the grains and adding the milk for the next batch. I add a cup of milk that is roughly room temperature (it shouldn't be above "blood temperature") - I heat it in the microwave.
DON'T rinse the grains, it's not good for them - it's fine to toss the grains, covered in their milky coat directly into the clean and dried jar and it's fine if a little of yesterdays kefir lands up in the jar.
The weather has an effect on the speed at which the milk ferments, on cold days my kefir takes longer.
The ratio of kefir grains to milk also affects the speed at which it ferments. If your kefir is fermenting too quickly it could mean that you have too little milk and conversely if your kefir is taking too long to ferment it could mean you have too much milk.
If left to ferment for too long kefir can separate into curds and whey. Have a look at this page for recommendations when this happens.
I give my jar of fermenting kefir a swirl a couple of times a day, to aid the fermentation process and to stop the grains from sitting on top of the milk in a thick mass.
If for some reason your kefir isn't thickening as much as you like, try adding a couple of spoons of yesterday's kefir into the new batch and add a little less milk.
We mainly use our kefir in our breakfast smoothies, but it can also be drunk as is (I'm not a fan of the flavour myself) and it can be used very successfully as a substitute for yoghurt or buttermilk in baking.
Kefir is enormously beneficial for gut health. It is full of nutrients and probiotics (it has more probiotics than yoghurt) and has potent anti-bacterial properties. Click here to read more about the benefits of kefir.