In my experience Milk Kefir is the easiest culture to work with!
…and it can be used for so many things. Use kefir as a milk, yoghurt or buttermilk alternative when baking, you can use it in smoothies and it’s delicious to drink as is.
Kefir isn’t really a new thing to many “Tannies” in South-Africa
Here in South Africa this culture use to go by the name of “karringmelk plantjie” / buttermilk plant, called a plant because this culture when well looked after grows and form new grains, sometimes they can become quite large!
So one baker passed it on to the next, mother passed it on to daughter and so one generation inherited these gummy gems from another. Little did they know of the health benefits these “buttermilk plants” had to offer and that these plants are actually microorganisms working to ferment milk creating such a healthy beverage that it’s also recognized as a Powerhouse Super Food in many circles.
As we “evolved” most of us lost interest in the kitchen and the beauty of traditional home made and fermented foods. In this process many of the traditional ways of food preparation and our inherited gems like the “buttermilk plant” became a vague memory and even forgotten by many.
The “buttermilk plant” is formally known as the kefir culture. Kefir is a unique name that comes form the Turkish word “keif”, which means “good feeling”.
As resilient as the kefir grain is, it made a return in a big way with scientific research and all pointing out that these little guys are a must have for helping with a number of health ailments from balancing the microflora in the gut to boosting the immune system and supporting detoxification this all leading to general health and wellbeing..
But let’s start making kefir.
You will need:
- Kefir Grains available here
- Wooden spoon
- Plastic strainer / sift (NO metal)
- Clean glass jar
- Paper towel/ material & elastic band to cover jar & to keep insects out.
- Milk (Cow’s / Goat’s milk preferably raw but if not available you can use bottled milk but stay away from box milk.)
This is how we do it:
STEP 1: Separate kefir grains from kefir – remove grains with a wooden spoon or use sift / strainer.
STEP 2: Place kefir grains in a clean jar
STEP 3: fill the jar with 250ml – 500ml milk – make sure you have at least 3 cm head space, sometimes kefir bubble up especially in summer.
STEP 4: Give your grains and milk a nice stir
STEP 5: Close your jar up with a paper towel and elastic band and leave for 12 – 48 hours. Clear fluid pockets will start to form and this is when you’ll know it’s time to feed your kefir grains with a new batch of fresh milk.
To make your new batch of Milk Kefir Start with separating kefir from grains as in STEP 1. above.
The kefir that has run through the strainer into the bowel below can be refrigerated or fermented for a second time to minimize the lactose content to the fullest extent. Be advised the longer fermentation time the more sour the kefir.
Second ferment – place kefir in Mason / consol jar with or without lid on counter for an additional 12 hours and refrigerate / consume / use as buttermilk substitute in recipes.
Flavour your second ferment under a watchful eye as it may bubble over – add some vanilla pods or other spices like cardamom pods, star anise, turmeric and ginger ~ experiment a bit.
Not all Milk kefir culture is exactly the same some form big kefir grains and others itty bitty ones, some produce Extremely sour kefir where other kefir grains makes a milder more tolerable kefir. Seeing that Milk kefir Grains are natural living organisms their size and appearance may change with the season, temperature & food source that is available to them. Provided that you’ve got your ratios right the flavor profile of the milk kefir these grains make will be a delicious balance between tart and creamy.