Have you heard of milk kefir? Maybe all you know is that is has some connection to probiotics and everyone seems to pronounce it differently. Well, here are the basics on one of my favorite ferments.
What is milk kefir?
I had someone just recently say to me, “I keep hearing that word everywhere – kefir. What is it, exactly?” I’m glad that the word “kefir” is indeed everywhere – that means more people are using it! Kefir is actually a Russian word, pronounced in English with a short e sound and the emphasis on the last syllable. You can hear it pronounced here.
Simply put, kefir is fermented milk. Expanding our explanation a bit, milk kefir is a scoby of beneficial bacterias and yeasts, typically referred to as grains, that look like cottage cheese lumps. Water kefir looks a bit like opaque bean-bag stuffing.
The kefir grains turn wholesome dairy into a powerhouse of probiotics, vitamins and beneficial bacteria. You can use it to re-culture your gut while on prescription antibiotics. To learn more about probiotics while on antibiotics, click here.
The taste, like any cultured dairy, can be an acquired one. When we first tried it, we just didn’t like it. A few years later, as our tastes have matured around a whole foods diet, we now consume milk kefir several times a week. One of the best things about milk kefir is that is protects the beneficial bacteria in the very harsh environment of your stomach. That allows all that good bacteria to do its job of regulating your gut in healthy ways.
Cultures for Health also has simple tutorials on how to get stared with both water and milk kefir, as well as how to use your cultured water and milk. Don’t waste the Crumbs has a great article explaining milk kefir, why you want some and how to ferment it – seriously, the easiest thing you’ll ever ferment.
How to make milk kefir
Simple Steps to Making Kefir:
- Cover your kefir grains in wholesome milk in a quart size jar with a lid. If the jar is really full, I place it inside a bowl because as the milk ferments, the gases can cause the kefir to overflow its jar.
- I usually ferment my milk kefir 24 hours on my kitchen counter. Which just means that I let it sit there with the lid on loosely. You can ferment for less times if you like a less tangy flavor.
- When you get the flavor you want, strain out the kefired milk and put the grains back into a jar.
- Cover the kefir grains with new milk again and restart the process.
What to Do with Milk Kefir
We typically use ours for morning smoothies, to culture bread dough, flavor cream soups and savory dishes.
To learn to use it to culture bread dough, click here.
For my family of seven, I usually do a quart a day so I always have a new quart of milk kefir to work with every morning. If I’m going to make a batch of kefir bread, I culture more milk kefir. The same amount of grains can culture quite a bit of milk.
We also strain out a bit of the whey and use the thick, remaining substance, often called kefir cheese, in place of sour cream or yogurt. Colleen explains how to make a batch in her article on Kefir Cheese.
Here are five ways to use kefir that you may never have heard of from Homemade Mommy.
Incidentally, Northern Homestead also tells us how to make water kefir from milk kefir grains. They’re the same thing but fed different “foods”. Water grains will multiply very quickly, so its a good idea to have a plan for what to do with them. We eat them, feed them to our livestock, put them in the compost and, of course, give them away to friends and family and make new milk kefir converts.
Kefir is Simple
If you’ve never tried it before, I encourage you to give milk kefir a try. Many times your whole foods neighbor will have extra grains to share with you. The more you feed them, the more the milk kefir grains proliferate and I’ve always got a ton on hand. You can also purchase them online or check your local health food store.
What’s your favorite ferment? What about your favorite way to use milk kefir?