Kefir is an ancient dairy beverage, made via the fermentation process of kefir grains and milk. The word kefir means "Pleasure Drink". It is believed to be originated in the Caucasus Mountains, however, for millennia it has been the most-popular-everyday-drink in Russia.
Kefir is well known for its healing properties. It contains probiotics, a beneficial bacteria that promote digestive and gut health. Kefir is rich in vitamin K, folic acid, and easily digested proteins. Even people with lactose intolerance can consume kefir as the grains are using up all the lactose during the fermentation process. The fermented foods are having a big moment recently, mainly due to the researches that have proven their health benefits.
For me, kefir is a taste of childhood and such a commodity that has been around for as long as I can remember. To my big surprise when I came to New Zealand, locals haven't heard about kefir and it was only available in Russian stores. That's how I started to make my own kefir, and later got my husband hooked on kefir as well.
These days, I am so happy that my one-year-old son enjoys kefir and has it every day since he was a 7-month-old baby. Culture, cuisine and culinary traditions are all part of who we are and where we came from, and I am very proud to be able to pass it to my son.
YOU WILL NEED:
1L blue top milk, at room temperature (organic milk results in thicker kefir). The grains will only start working when milk is around 20-25C.
approx. 1g of kefir grains
I like to keep my kefir grains in a mesh pouch as it makes it so much easier to separate grains from the final product.
The kefir grains are actually in the pouch if you have a closer look. You really need a tiny amount. The grains will grow a little every time you are making kefir. When they have grown too much you need to take the excess out, otherwise, you will end up with over fermented, fizzy, and liquid, kefir.
TO MAKE KEFIR YOU NEED:
Pour the warm milk into the jar and put the kefir grains in it. Try not to put grains in milk above 35C it might prevent fermentation and damage the grains.
Cover it loosely with the lid and leave to ferment away from the direct sunlight for around 24 hours depending on the temperature.
During the winter months, place the jar in a warm place (like hot water cylinder) or wrap a towel around it. During the warmer season, you can just leave the jar on the kitchen bench.
REMEMBER: The warmer the ambient temperature the faster the grains will curd the milk and vice versa. In summer it can take as little as 12 hrs., while in winter it can be the whole 24 hrs.
You will know that kefir is ready when the pouch will raise to the top.
The milk will thicken to a junket-like consistency and will start to separate from the wall of the jar as per photo below.
Remove the pouch from the jar and gently rinse it under lukewarm tap water and put it in a little bit of milk in a small glass jar. I normally keep this jar in the fridge and use grains at least once a week. If grains are used less often it's important to change the milk and leave it at room temperature at least once a month.
The texture will be a little lumpy at first so you need to mix it thoroughly with a spoon or use a hand stick blender to make it nice and smooth. I normally use a spoon and give it a good mix.
Put your freshly made kefir in the fridge to stop further fermentation for around 3 hrs. before serving.