Homemade Kefir Recipe
What is Kefir?
Kefir is a cultured milk with amazing health attributes. Kefir’s tart and refreshing flavor is similar to a drinking-style yogurt (my oldest used to call it yogurt juice when he was little). It contains beneficial yeast as well as loads friendly ‘probiotic’ bacteria. While yogurt contains a few strands of bacteria, milk kefir grains have dozens of beneficial bacteria and yeast strains.
Why we love milk kefir…
I have the pleasure (?) of having three lactose intolerant children. I think my kids all turned out pretty cute so I know my husband and my genes aren’t totally incompatible. Unfortunately, however, all of my children have some fairly serious food intolerances and allergies.
I stayed off dairy for 18 months while I breastfed my youngest. I tried introducing milk into my diet a few times, but it never went well for my little nursling. He’d get burning diarrhea and have terrible diaper rashes for days after drinking my milk contaminated breastmilk. Poor guy.
I regularly purchased Lifeway flavored kefirs as a treat for my older boys. Kefir is made from milk and is virtually lactose free–the kefir you buy at the store is 99% lactose free. So at 18 months, when my little guy was ready for more than breastmilk, I decided to give him kefir instead of regular milk. At that point I really didn’t know much about kefir except that is gentler on the digestion (because of all the beneficial probiotics) and it’s lactose free.
I had my local health food store order an organic, whole milk, unsweetened kefir. Little Z loved it! At the height of his kefir consumption, he was drinking a 32 oz bottle every day and a half to two days. At $5.00 a bottle this got very expensive very quickly. We were spending about $65 a month on my son’s “milk”.
While I knew it was possible to make homemade kefir the task seemed daunting. It wasn’t until a friend gave me some kefir grains that I discovered just how unbelievably easy homemade milk kefir is.
How to make Homemade Kefir
- The first thing you’re going to need to do (and the only step that really takes any effort) is to procure some kefir grains. I recommend asking around if any of your friends or acquaintances has any kefir grains they are ready to split. If no one you know makes homemade kefir, Cultures for Health is a reputable place to buy kefir grains.
- Once you have your grains you can begin making your milk kefir. If you got grains from a friend your homemade kefir will be ready to consume the next day. If you purchased your kefir grains the seller will usually recommend you discard the first couple batches before your kefir is ready to drink.
- Place the kefir grains in a wide neck glass jar and fill the jar with milk leaving about an inch and a half empty at the top. Mason jars are perfect for this. A general guideline is 1 TSP kefir grains per 4 cups of milk. (Whole milk is best to use. The fat content will give it a milder flavor and smoother texture)
- Cover with a paper towel or paper coffee filter and fasten with a rubber band. Let sit out at room temperature (between 68º-85ºF) for 24 hours.
- Your kefir should now have a runny yogurt like consistency.
- Scoop out or strain your kefir grains with a plastic spoon or plastic/nylon strainer. I have one large grain (I recently heard you should split up the grains for optimal culturing, but my clump of grains are working quite nicely how they are now) so I’m able to just scoop it out with a spoon. Generally, for several smaller grains you will want to use a plastic and nylon strainer. (Check out the YouTube tutorial below.) Place the grains you’ve removed into a clean jar and begin back at step 3. 🙂
- Once you’ve removed the kefir grains cover your homemade kefir and refrigerate. Kefir will last 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator.
Homemade Kefir Quick Tips:
- If you have moderate to severe lactose intolerance you may find that leaving the kefir out on the counter in a tightly sealed jar for 24 more hours after the initial 24 hour culture will break down any remaining lactose. This is what we have to do for our youngest. He cannot drink kefir after the initial 24 hour fermentation, but he is fine with it if I let it sit out and ferment for that extra day.
- Make sure you put your grains and milk into a clean jar each day. There is, however, no need to rinse or clean the grains themselves.
- Do not let metal (spoons, strainers, lids, etc.) touch the kefir grains. They will react with the metal and be damaged.
- If you need to put your kefir making on hold for a little bit, put your grains in a small glass or jar, cover with 2-4 cups of milk, cover with a tight lid, and refrigerate for up to three weeks.
- Types of milk that can be cultured for kefir: cows milk (raw or pasteurized, but not Ultra-pasteurized), goat milk, sheep milk, and coconut milk (though coconut milk requires a little more care to maintain the health of your cultures).
If you want to learn more about making your own kefir, Cultures for Health’s how to make milk kefir page. It is a fantastic resource. For more information about all the beneficial bacteria contained in kefir grains see this article.
I’ve been doing homemade kefir for about 3 months now, and I’m so glad I made the switch! It is an overall easy process, but there is a lot to learn…all good things. 🙂
I know I didn’t cover everything there is to know about homemade kefir, so if you have any questions feel free to post them in a comment below.
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