Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Making Kefir from Starter - Five Easy Steps, No Gadgets Required!

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Dear cultured,

Making kefir with a packet of starter is so easy-peasy, it's almost not even worth the time to post the instructions online!  The directions are on the back of the box so you'll figure it out within seconds of opening the package, but I may never have made kefir myself if I hadn't heard how stupid easy it was.

Note: Different brands may have slightly varying directions, although the basic principles will remain the same.  Be sure to read the directions on your box, first!  

Of course, fresh kefir is ever so good for you with lots of nutritive probiotics ready to help work on your digestion, and the tart, tangy flavor is one of my favorite features!  It makes a fast breakfast or a quick and filling snack, and it is even good (oh so good!) for little food-eating babies with developing immune and digestive systems.  I prefer homemade kefir to store-bought for three reasons, one or all of which may resonate with you: 1. To avoid ultra-high heat pasteurized milk product.  2. To eliminate the added sugars and other curious ingredients.  3. To reduce the amount of plastic bottles and trash I throw out.

I like to enjoy a little culture every day - homemade yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut or some seasonal Vivaldi.

You can buy packets or boxes of powdered cultures online - here at Cultures for Health (they have many other fabulous resources, as well) or at Amazon (affiliate link - this is the starter culture I used.  The same brand offers yogurt culture as well, also available from Amazon).  You can usually buy it at your local health food store or Whole Foods (I've never seen any in Trader Joe's, though).

By the by, what are kefir grains?  The other way to make kefir is using kefir grains, which you can also buy online or get from a friend who has too many.  I forgot to tend to mine (ahem) so I had to throw them out just this morning, and now must rely on the goodness of friends to give me some new ones!

Kefir starter is just another way to do the same thing and is a nice fall-back if you have no grains or are new to culturing foods.

This little guy watched the whole thing and he thought it was hilarious
You don't need any fancy gadgets, just a kitchen thermometer for accuracy, a pot for heating and a whisk, spoon or blender for bringing it all together.  And a hearty appetite for deliciousness!

Heat the milk.  You can't use ultra-pasteurized milk for culturing, so check your store for low-heat pasteurized milk (usually it comes in glass bottles and will have a cream top) or raw milk.

Check how many packets of starter you will need (there were six packets in my box, and it takes one packet per quart of milk).

 Let the milk cool down.

Dissolve the starter into a little bit of the milk.

Pour it all back into the pot, mix well and let it sit for 24 hours.  That's it!

Kefir Made With Starter - Five Easy (Super, super easy) Steps
Easy-peasy-pudding-n-pie - this is so simple I thought I would die!  For the pan, I use a simple, non-reactive metal pan - a heavy crock would hold too much heat and it would take eons for the milk to cool down, and a Teflon-lined pan would be bad for our health.  

Raw or low-heat pasteurized (usually in a glass bottle) milk
Kefir starter

Check your box of starter to see how much milk they use per packet of powdered starter.  The yogourmet starter I used takes one quart of milk per packet of starter.

1. Heat the milk to 180F or simply bring to an almost-boil.

2. Turn off the heat and let it cool, at room temperature, down to 73 - 77F.

3. Remove a little bit of the milk into a bowl and whisk the culture into it, dissolving it thoroughly.  Pour it back into the pot of cooled milk and stir it in well.

4. Cover the pot or transfer into a clean jar, cover, and set out of the way so the inoculated milk can stand at room temperature for 24 hours or until curd forms - until it thickens.  Read more tips on kefir containers.

5. Refrigerate for 8 hours to halt the process.  Stir well and enjoy!

Kefir is tart, tangy and tastes like sour yogurt.  If it's too tart for you or just for a change of pace, blend in some honey, maple syrup or fruit!

I added a half-pint of blueberries to a little over a quart of kefir, as well as a few drops of raw honey.

Quaint and cultured,

Mrs H
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