I was introduced to kefir by Karen of Holes in My Jeans, a great blog that I follow. I thought it would be fun to grow healthy stuff in my kitchen and drink it. You can check out Karen's blog on Kefir for the many health benefits.
Karen said that she had gotten a teaspoon of kefir grains for 15 dollars. I got two tablespoons for 20 (including shipping.) The woman I got the kefir from lives in Ohio and also raises goats. (Karen raises goats.) She is a little odd in that she only accepts cash (doesn't believe in banks) and sends the stuff before she receives payment. She says that people who want kefir are generally honest people.
Kefir is basically fermented milk similar to yogurt but with more probiotic bacteria. Per Wikipedia kefir "originated with shepherds of the Caucasus region, who discovered that fresh milk carried in leather pouches would occasionally ferment into an effervescent beverage. It is prepared by inoculating cow, goat, or sheep's milk with kefir grains. Traditional kefir was made in skin bags that were hung near a doorway; the bag would be knocked by anyone passing through the doorway to help keep the milk and kefir grains well mixed"
The kefir grains look a bit like cauliflower. As the milk ferments it feeds the grains and they multiply. You reuse the grains over and over and give the extra to friends. If you use the real grains and not the commercial starter kits you never have to buy them again. Ever.
My instructions sounded a little different from Karen's perhaps due to a smaller amount of grains that she had received. She had to wait a few days for her Kefir. I put all of my grains in a glass jar and added 2 cups of milk. I covered the jar with a paper towel and left it at room temperature. By the end of 24 hours I was drinking kefir. The instructions say you go by taste and not by consistency. I strained the kefir milk after 24 hours and then put my kefir grains and more milk to a clean jar and started again. The problem is that the kefir grains multiply and I have yet to find anyone who wants to share in my good health or they would rather just buy the flavored drinks at the health food stores. (Here in Chicago ethnic stores also carry Kefir.) My Kefir is getting thicker and thicker. When I asked my supplier how I make just enough for me and not keep multiplying she said to simply eat the extra grains. I haven't done that yet.
The taste of the Kefir is somewhere between buttermilk and unflavored yogurt. The amount of grains and how long the milk ferments will determine whether the drink is mild or strong in flavor. Since I am not crazy about the taste I put mine in a blender with frozen fruit. I was using maple syrup, honey, or agave to sweeten in but have recently found that by just adding additional fresh or dried fruits such as apples, grapes or figs the drink is really sweet enough. I am getting use to the taste and actually drank 1/2 glass plain today. Not bad.
I like to make the kefir and then put it in the refrigerator for a day. It becomes cold and a little thicker. Great for the smoothies. What have I noticed so far health wise? Maybe its all in my head but I think I'm sleeping better. Or maybe it's the fermentation. I seem to be craving less sweets. I'm hoping it helps me live to be 100. Karen wants 125 but I will settle for 100. Oh and below you can see my before and after pictures. This is after just one week of Kefir.
The one on the left is the before, the one on the right is after. Pretty amazing huh?