Kefir. What is it?
Milk kefir, whether it is being consumed as a drink or made into yogurt or cheeses, is a sour tasting fermented milk. It is an acquired taste if you’ve not been raised on it, but its benefits are either worth the adjustment in palate or effort put into making a product that is truly satisfying (if said adjustment cannot be made).
Personally, I can drink it straight. My family has a more difficult time with this so I began experimenting and came up with something that has a Greek yogurt consistency and it. is. DELICIOUS. I’m not going to lie. It’s better than when I was making just regular homemade yogurt.
The benefits are amazing. Store bought yogurt is not as nutritional as claimed. If you’re buying flavored yogurt, expect a high sugar content. The easy solution, it would seem, is to purchase plain. That brings me to the probiotic argument.
Don’t get me wrong. Probiotics are great. Magnificent–when they’re actually present. See, it’s quite difficult to buy yogurt with a true guarantee that probiotics and live cultures are actually in the yogurt. At some point in the yogurt making process, this claim is true. However, to legally be sold, dairy products must go through pasteurization. This process uses heat to eliminate “bad” bacteria; problem is, this also eliminates the “good” bacteria and may actually kill off the live cultures and probiotics. But don’t worry. It’s yummy.
Making your own types of yogurt can make you feel pretty accomplished, but being able to flavor and use it the way YOU want to, is the best part. Once you see how easy this is, you won’t want to go back.
This entire post is about making yogurt with milk kefir (which has more probiotics than yogurt, probiotics that actually STAY in the gut, and nutritional yeasts). So, the process is different and–I apologize ahead of time because I took pictures–looks quite gross. But also cool!
It all starts with milk (the less pasteurization, the better) and kefir grains.
Kefir grains are gelatinous in nature. AND THEY’RE ALIVE! These grains ferment the milk by feeding off the lactose. Kefir grains love different kinds of sugar, so the dairy strains eat lactose (sugar). This fermentation process CAN (everyone is different, so not always) make digestion of this yogurt easier for those who suffer from lactose intolerance. My husband is lactose intolerant and he can eat this stuff. Want to know another disgustingly cool fact? They multiply. It’s like they’re having babies.
The process of making the milk kefir and the yogurt is time-consuming, but really easy. The ratio I use is 1 tablespoon of grains to 1 cup of milk (I use raw milk from our goats).
The first thing you do is add the grains and cover it with the milk (you may adjust this to your personal tastes; more grains can make the taste stronger). In this photo I used around 8 cups of milk and around 8 tablespoons of grains. I put cheesecloth over the top (it needs to breathe) and used the lid ring of a mason jar lid to secure the cheesecloth. Let it sit anywhere from 12 hours to 48 hours. 12 hours can make a nice milk you can use for some recipes that call for buttermilk (I use it for buttermilk breads). 24 hours makes it a little thicker and stronger. I do 48 hour batches to make the yogurt. Do note that kefir ferments at a much faster rate in a warm environment.
The weather here has been really crazy right now so once I see the curds and grain separate from the whey, like the picture above, I begin working with it even if we have not hit that 48 hour mark.
After it sits for 48 hours, or if you see the separation of curds and whey occur it’s time to remove the grain. The spoon and strainer I use are made of plastic. Metal can be harmful to the grains. I measure the amount of grains and I need and add it to a new jar and cover with milk again to start the process over. Any leftover grain can be covered with milk to sit in the fridge, or frozen with milk in large amounts to go dormant for later use. Or you can share with a friend!
The milk kefir should now have no grains left in it. You can either leave as is, do a second fermentation with flavoring, or make a yogurt. Since the topic is yogurt, I’ll show you how I get that consistency. I pour the milk kefir into a greek yogurt strainer I purchased. There is a process where you can use paper coffee filters or muslin in jars or bowls, but I was having difficulty with space so I caved and made this purchase. It’s AMAZING. It sits in the fridge while the whey separates again, but the curds left behind are creamy and the consistency of Greek yogurt.
I let the yogurt sit in the fridge during the entire duration it takes for the new batch of milk to ferment with the kefir grains.
The result is that thick creamy consistency and amazing flavor. I use it as a substitute for sour cream quite a bit. I also use it as a plain yogurt substitute in smoothies. If I really just want to eat it as a yogurt I flavor it with honey (you can use sugar), and fruit. Using jams and jellies can work, too. It also makes a great dill and horseradish sauce. Yum! 🙂