Monday, March 11, 2013

Your New Friend: Kefir

By Guest Blogger: Jessiena Luhman
(find Jessiena at her blog. This post linked to Our Heritage of Health, Old Fashioned Friday)

Wikipedia describes Kefir as: a fermented milk drink made from kefir grains, which are a symbiotic culture of yeasts and bacteria.  Kefir grains are packed with: vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin D, folic acid, calcium, iron, iodine and probiotics. Why are probiotics so important? They help support our immune system by populating it with good bacteria, these little fighters help ward off infections and boost your immune system.
I bet you’ve seen kefir at the market, but here’s why you shouldn’t buy it there: the present factory-produced kefir, the so-called kefir mild, kefir grains are no longer used, but a precise composed mixture of different bacteria and yeast, allowing the flavor to be kept constant. Long story short; don’t believe every label you read. 
If you want to gain all the benefits of kefir, it’s easy to grow at home. So easy, a friend gave me starter grains, explained the general process and within 24 hours I was enjoying my very own kefir. 
What you need:
-A large canning jar, without the seal, sterilized with boiling water. Be sure to heat the jar with hot water first, so the boiling water does not crack your jar.
- A coffee filter, paper towel or piece of fabric to use as a cover, so your kefir can breathe.
- High quality organic milk. You want to feed your new friend the best, so you will get the highest quality benefits.
- A plastic strainer. Metal will kill your kefir starter. If you only remember one thing, remember that metal kills your kefir grains.
- A vessel to store all of your delicious kefir.

So, what do you do with your strange new buddy? Name him, just kidding! But seriously, I named my Ralph. Trudy, Stella or Gladys are also lovely names for your new pal.
When you get your kefir starter, put him in your freshly sterilized, room temperature jar and add milk. Make sure he is covered completely, that is the least amount of milk you should ever use. You can make as much or as little as you want. I drink daily blueberry kefir smoothies, so I fill it almost full.
Once your kefir friend is in its jar and has milk to nosh on, cover it with fabric, secure it and wait for 12-24 hours. I like to set an alarm on my phone, for a time the next day when I know I will be home. It says, "Strain it or Refrigerate it." 
Place your buddy in a cabinet or on the counter and wait.
Making too much kefir, life too busy, or going out of town? Refrigeration presses the pause button on your kefir pal. 
You may also notice your new friend getting too big for his glass britches. Simply remove a section, using a plastic spoon and give it to a friend or save it in the back of your fridge, in a smaller jar with a small amount of milk for him to cozy up in and take a nap. In the event that your original starter goes bad for some reason, you have a backup!
Is that the alarm? Kefir is ready. Check your kefir. Does it look strange? It is probably ready. For a better description, Google ‘homemade kefir,’ there are a lot of excellent resources. Strain your kefir into a vessel, using a plastic spatula; roll your starter friend around to get all of the thick, tasty kefir.
You may notice that your little buddy has a tendency to get a little slimy and thick with kefir, simply rinse him off on occasion with non-chlorinated water or water that has sat on your counter, in open air, overnight. 
Straining complete? 
Rinse your jar out with hot water to create a nice, clean environment for him to grow good bacteria, plop your friend back in, feed him more milk, set your alarm and put him back in his spot on the counter.
Now enjoy your tangy kefir and wait for your new friend to make you some more.
Easy peasy!
Time to get started on your adventure with fermentation!
Your local health food store doesn’t carry kefir starter? Try this great website:
Lots of great FAQs about kefir:


  1. I've never tried making my own kefir before, but I'll have to add it to my list of fermented foods to try! :)

    Thanks for sharing with Old-Fashioned Friday! :)

  2. Thank you, Lori. I've enjoyed it.
    I hope you enjoy the Kefir.

    1. If you're interested in learning more about fermentation check out this blog from 2009:

  3. I know a lot of people who use a stainless steel strainer. How would you know if this type of strainer is "killing" the kefir grains? What brand/type of strainer do you use?

  4. I use an all plastic strainer from The Dollar Tree..set of 4 sizes.

  5. I guess you'd know if it didn't grow the kefir anymore. I wondered about that too.