October 31, 2012

Sustainable Cultured Milk

Even though we produce our own milk, we rarely actually drink it. I've shown you the dairy products I make ("Ziggy Milk, Ziggy Butter, Ziggy Mozz"), but mostly we consume milk as yogurt. Nearly every day in fact. I know I've mentioned it frequently and have shown you my non-electric method of yogurt making, "Easy Peasy Homemade Yogurt", as well as how I make yogurt cheese. The only thing that bothers me about yogurt, is that I have to keep buying new starter. The good guy bacteria in the culture have a life span, and eventually the product changes as the culture ages. Every so often I have to buy some fresh yogurt to start again.

Another cultured milk product is kefir. I'd seen it as a fruit flavored drink in the dairy section at the grocery store. I never considered buying it, because most commercial products like this are too sweet and with too many nonessential synthetic ingredients. On top of that, commercial kefir is pasteurized, to kill anything alive in it, including the beneficial bacteria I'd be buying it for in the first place. Then I read that not only does kefir culture (called grains) not wear out, it actually perpetuates itself. If one takes proper care of it, that means never-ending cultured milk!

Because kefir grains multiply, it is easy to find them for sale, or for free from folks who just need to find a home for their ever increasing supply. Such was the case for me, and for the price of postage, I obtained my very own milk kefir from a gal on one of the goat lists I subscribe to.

Kefir grains

Making kefir is even easier than making yogurt. Just add one or two tablespoons of kefir grains to about 2 cups of milk. Cover to keep fruit flies out, and let sit on the counter for 24 - 48 hours. Sourness and thickness are controlled by the length of time it's allowed to sit. Then strain, put the newly made kefir into the fridge, get a clean jar, and start a new batch.

I was very curious as to it's taste. We eat our yogurt mostly on cereal in the morning, so this seemed a good substitute. But. It doesn't taste quite the same. Tangy from the beneficial bacteria, yes. But because it contains nutritional yeasts, it's a bit bubbly and has a different flavor.

Kefir after I've poured it into the strainer.

The only word I can think to describe it is effervescent.

I'm just starting my experiments but eventually should have lots to share about what I'm learning. Two books with directions for making it are Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, and Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz. And of course there are tons of informational and how-to articles around the internet. The best I found are Dom's kefir webpages:

Its uses intrigue me, in particular cheese, not only soft yogurt type cheese, but harder cheeses as well. Also bread making and lacto-fermenting; all things I already do. According to Wikipedia, it can be used in making sourdough bread and is an ingredient in some recipes for borscht.

Right now I'm working with milk kefir grains, but there are other types. Water kefir is commonly used with juices and I can already see that I need some of these grains too.

I am looking forward to experimenting with this. There seem to be a lot of possibilities for it's use, not to mention the nutritional benefits. Plus, I'm happy to be able to culture my goat milk without needing to continually replace the culture. After I've experimented a bit, I'll let you all know what I figure out.

Sustainable Cultured Milk © October 2012 by 


Michelle said...

Can't wait to learn more!

CaliforniaGrammy said...

As usual, I'm never to old to learn something new. You are one of my favorite teachers, Leigh!

Sandy Livesay said...

I'm looking forward to learning more about the grain and the process. Thanks Leigh :-)

DFW said...

I'm definitely going to continue following these posts. Thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge Leigh.

Leigh said...

Michelle, I hope the wait is worth it. :)

Janice, there's no excuse for boredom is there? Not with the wealth of information to be found on the internet!

Sandy, thanks!

DFW, it kefir does seem to hold a lot of promise, doesn't it? It would be nice to work from one process rather than many.

Michelle said...

I'm so excited you are using kefir grains! I LOVED them! Unfortunately, mine went bad and I haven't had a chance to replace them. You've inspired me to make that a priority!

Nina said...

I've heard of kefir, but not ever had a chance to try it. What a useful way to use milk and not have to keep up with the purchased cultures. One does wonder however, what yogourt making societies did before the advent of stores in which to purchase replacement cultures. Surely there must be some trick to keeping the cultures live on?

Megan @ Purple Dancing Dahlias said...

We love kefir! Not sure about the instructions you received, but kefir is anaerobic and needs to be in an airtight jar to grow. I was only covering mine with a cloth and the grains wouldn't grow. As soon as I started using a airtight lid on my mason jar they started growing like gang busters. My tbsp from a friend has turned into two cups over the last 3 months.

Bernadine said...

I've never heard of or tasted kefir before. I have no idea what it's like but I always enjoy reading what you're creating and making. If I ever get the chance to taste homemade kefir, I will. Thanks to you. Take care.

Renee Nefe said...

There's a bunch of gals in our homeschool group who are using/trading Kefir. I haven't ventured into it though as it seems that raw milk would be better than this super pasteurized stuff.
I've also heard that you can do other stuff with it. I don't remember what all kinds of recipes they made.

Leigh said...

Michelle, oh no. Any tips on how to not let that happen to mine? I'd love for you to get started again so we can compare notes.

Nina, excellent question. One that I need to look into. Dan isn't as enthusiastic about the kefir as I am. He still prefers yogurt, which I wouldn't mind making still. I need to research that.

Megan, very interesting. From what I read, tightly covered (anearobic) kefir yields higher CO2 and alcohol contents. Aerobic kefir has less of those supposedly. I can't speak from experience, but I've just been covering with a paper towel and have had excellent results and growing grains! I have seen how room temp makes a difference. I can't help but wonder if there are different strains, and how they differ. You've given me another thing to experiment with. :)

Bernadine, if you like sour or tart flavors, you'd probably really like it. I'm guessing there's a taste for it to be developed, but I'm really liking it.

Renee, get their recipes! LOL. I know yogurt doesn't do as well with ultrapasteurized milk. I also know organic milk seems to do better. I feel blessed to have our own raw goat milk to use.

lou said...

I made and drank Kefir, for over a year, and one day my wife cleaned out the refrigerator and throws it out, not knowing that I was keeping up with it. I was making it in 1/2gallon glass canning jars with plastic lids pouring off a quart and resupplying the milk. I would then drink the quart and split the 1/2 gal again. I would just leave the 1/2 gal out overnight and then put it in the refrigerator till I finished the quart. The kefir grains just kept getting larger looking like little coliflowers. I need to start it up again. You can YouTube it for more how to demos. I mailed off for the starter, and must do it again. By the way, I love your blog, and read it all the time. Thanks Leigh!

icebear said...

i love kefir, been using it for quite a while. even did a blog entry on it a while back.
i wish i had raw milk to use it with, but mine seems to do fine and multiply in our locally available commercial milk.

happy fermenting!

Thistle Cove Farm said...

I know I'd drink milk and leave very little for making "stuff"...I just LOVE milk!
Maybe I'd make cottage cheese and butter...love that as well -grin-.

Leigh said...

Lou, thank you for your kind encouragement, but especially for telling how you worked with your kefir. That sounds like a very doable plan for me too, especially when the goats freshen and I get a lot more than a couple cups a day! Great idea about YouTube, too, thanks for mentioning that.

Icebear, of course I had to go check out your kefir posts! Thanks for the tidbit about the type of milk. That answers a question!

Sandra, my Ziggy makes the sweetest, creamiest milk! I admit I love to drink it by the glass, but mostly I save it for yogurt, cheese, and now kefir. :)

* Crystal * said...

Kefir is creepy.... Seriously, lil live colonies multiplying faster than bunnies right in your kitchen!! Sounds like something from a Sci-Fi movie, lol

But it's AWESOME too!! My mom LOVED kefir... Drank a glass every day with a bit of salt and was never sick a day in her life until her leukemia diagnosis. I personally can NOT stand the stuff! I will not deny the benefits, but Gah! It's gross (I also don't like buttermilk & both are similar to me)!!

Since I raise my baby goats on pasteurized milk for CAE prevention, I like to add kefir to their bottles for all the good buggies.... My mom was forever trying to get me to drink it, and she finally made me a kefir fruit smoothie with raw honey that was REALLY yummy..... The day after she passed away I had a lil' irrational fit & threw all the jars of kefir in the kitchen away & now I really regret doing that as I'll have to find more grains :(

My hubby caught Colstridium Difficile a few years ago... Was sick for 4 months, lost 90lbs & literally almost died.... Had one bad doc that prescribed the wrong doseage & it became resistant to the antibiotic.... Last doctor we saw raved about kefir use & said if we could get raw milk kefir, even better. With that docs help, hubby recovered. IMHO I don't think there is a better probiotic out there.

Kefir may be weird, and to me, a bit gross, but it's truly a natural miracle :)

Megan @ Purple Dancing Dahlias said...

Leah - If you use a dedicated fermenting vessel you’ll prevent the formation of alcohol, since alcohol production prefers an environment with oxygen.

Leigh said...

Crystal, that's an amazing testimony for the healing power of kefir. It is kinda strange to think of what it is, but I think like yogurt and buttermilk, once you develop the taste, it's great!

Megan, at this point all I want is an easy method with results we're happy with, LOL. I'm happy with with Sally Fallon's recipe. There certainly a lot of avenues to pursue with kefir. One of these days I plan to do some experimenting.

Unknown said...

Hi Leigh!
I wanted to thank you for this article, I was not aware of kefir grains. I have experimented with my first drink and shared it on my blog. I have shared link to your page. Thanks so much!