January 25, 2022

Experiments in Preserving Milk Kefir Grains

Every year I seem to hit a bit of a dry spell in terms of milk. This year I hoped to change that by breeding Sky for a fall kidding. While that was a success, she was never trained to the milk stand and is absolutely terrified of it. So it's been slow to get her used to being milked. I think in part, this is because she's an older doe. My experience with the younger ones is that they may not like it at first, but they adapt pretty quickly because, well, food. Sky is much more leery. 

One of the reasons I want year around milk is for our kefir. It's an important part of our diet, and also, kefir grains are alive and need to be nurtured. That means a regular supply of milk. When we have no homegrown supply of milk, I have to buy it, just to keep my kefir grains alive. This year, I decided to experiment in preserving milk kefir grains. If I can do that, I won't have to worry about buying milk. 

My first experiment was to dehydrate some grains. Kefir multiplies, so extra grains are pretty easy to come by.

The first step was to wash freshly harvested grians.

Here's what they look like after a thorough rinsing.

Then I spread them out to dry. The humidity is fairly low in our
house because of wood heat, so the conditions were good for this.

Most directions say to coat the dried grains with powdered milk.
This, I didn't have, so I wrapped them in a baggy & then in a paper bag.

Once we have milk again in the spring, I'll see how well they kept! Folks who've done this tell me they'll keep frozen for 4 to 6 months.

For my next experiment, I decided to try freezing some in milk.

I froze the jar, then lidded it, and am storing it in the freezer in a paper bag.

I'm still keeping some going with boughten milk, so I'll still have have some in case my experiments fail. Hopefully, I'll have success!

I'm curious if any of you have preserved kefir grains and how well it worked. Any tips would be welcome.


daisy g said...

We use water kefir, but I've never tried freezing it. I'm making it every other day, so I wouldn't have a chance to preserve it! My boy drinks about a half a quart a day. It has been absolutely life changing for him!

I can't wait to see how the grains do in your experiment. ;0D

Leigh said...

Daisy, I'll definitely update when I'm back in milk.

Kefir has been life changing for us as well. I tried water kefir several years ago, but it seemed like I was always having to buy juice for it. Is there a workaround for that? I'd love any tips you have to offer.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Thank you for sharing the experiment Leigh. I will be interested to see what the results are.

(He said, having to quickly run off and reacquaint himself with what kefir is...)

Ed said...

I'm pretty sure I've never had Kefir. Because I really don't care for yogurt either, I'll probably just watch this one out from the sidelines.

Kate said...

Life changing in what ways? I'm interested to learn

Leigh said...

TB, lol. Kefir is what you should be making instead of yogurt. :)

Ed, it's definitely an acquired taste, unless one loves tart. I started Dan off by mixing it with fruit juice. Now we either eat in on granola instead of milk, or as a topper for our morning fruit.

Kate, good question! Number 1, is digestion. It increases digestive health, regularity, and efficiency. For me, the second reason is energy level. There are studies that correlate gut health with both physical and mental energy levels, and I have definitely found this to be true for myself.

Mary Anne Komar said...

Several years ago making Kefir was a process that was really enchanting! It was magical seeing how each batch was a little bit different. One time I left it out for an extra day and in the morning it had expanded over the top of the jar pushing the cloth cover completely off! The results were like ricotta cheese and had the grainy sweetness that is ricotta! But I let them die sadly from letting life get in the way. I would love to find some fresh grains and wondering where they are available. Thank you for the gentle reminder ❣️❣️

Connie said...

This is all new to me, but I enjoy learning new things . . . it keeps the mind sharp and make life more interesting. Wishing you all the best with this project :)

Nina said...

I know nothing about kefir, but I dry and store my sourdough starter, so I would imagine it's just finding out how to do it, not whether it can be done or not.

Leigh said...

Mary Anne, kefir is wondrous stuff. I think kefir grains are easy to come by! I've always bought mine off of eBay or Amazon.

Connie, I agree about learning new things! Keeps life interesting. :)

Nina, you dehydrate your sourdough starter??? Please tell me more! I have trouble with sourdough when our summers get too hot. So knowing how to do that would be great.

Mary Anne Komar said...

Thanks for your quick reply ❣️

daisy g said...

Leigh, not sure what you mean by having to buy juice for it. We use the water kefir as is, with distilled water and the grains. That's it. No additions necessary!

Leigh said...

Mary Anne, you're welcome!

Daisy, it was probably just the directions I got with the grains. So you're saying just water, not sugar or flavoring? And it keferizes the water? Hmm, I think I need to look into this again.

Mrs. JD said...

I have successfully kept kefir grains in milk in the fridge for months. The grains go dormant and will need a few batches of fresh milk before they fully come back. So no need to do anything special. I do keep dehydrated and frozen grains for back up in case something happens (we have had various disasters like jars dropped and broken and glass mixed in with grains).

My water kefir routine is very simple as well. I don’t use anything except for water, sugar, raisins and a chunk of lemon. I mix it up in the evening and let it ferment overnight or if it is cold for 24 hrs. I then stick it in the fridge and we drink straight from that jar until it runs out and I start the process all over again. The trick is to figure out how much you will consume in 24 hrs and only brew that much and watch for too many grains.

DVArtist said...

Thanks for stopping by and Wow! what a great experiment. It looks like you have it pretty under control. As for "window onions" it's just my crazy wording for growing onions in my kitchen window. I show how to split the onion in tomorrows blog. I am not following you and have you in side bar. Have a nice evening.

Leigh said...

Mrs. JD, thank you! Your recipe is just the kind I need. I'm definitely going to try water kefir again. And thank you for the description of how you keep milk kefir grains too.

Nicole, welcome! So nice to have you visit my other blog. I'm looking forward to that blog post. I love the idea of "window onions!"

Rain said...

Neat Leigh! I've never preserved Kefir grains. I hope you have success!

Flynn said...

Looks delicious! I just wanted to share that we had a doe that was older when we started milking her (a move and then stillborn kids the following year meant she didn't get on the milkstand until she was nearly 4). That first year of milking her was *horrible*! And we use a machine! My husband would hold her legs while I attached the cups and then hold her still the whole time. That lasted her entire season. I was really dreading the next year, but to my complete suprise she jumped right up on the milking stand and stood perfectly still while we milked! She's been wonderful ever since, I can even do other chores around the barn while she milks without fear that she is going to knock the cups off. I guess she finally figured out that we weren't going to give up or something. Anyway, I just wanted to share because there is hope that Sky may get much better! Good luck!

Leigh said...

Rain thanks! I confess to worrying and fussing over my kefir grains just like my other critters. :)

Flynn, thank you so much for that story about your doe! It gives me hope. I manage to get about three squirts from each teat now, which isn't much, but I figure if I don't stick with it I'll never get any! She still hates it, but at least she lets me catch her now, instead of having to chase her all over the barn.