Basically, kefir is a probiotic and a complete food. Where most of the yogurt that you purchase in the store has 4 of the "good" bacteria, kefir (home made) has around 30. Kefir is not a new "flash in the pan" product, it's been around for thousands of years. It's a fermented milk product that in my opinion, is far superior to yogurt and is way easier to make at home. It's reported healing properties are nothing short of miraculous as well. It's especially good for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other stomach ailments, but beyond that it can help with allergies, skin and hair problems and has even been shown to help with problems related to cancer. It can also help avoid the major stomach ailments that travelers get when they go to foreign countries. Oh, and don't forget the weight loss! It speeds up your metabolism and you can use it as a meal replacement since it's a complete food. Don't take my word about all this, read up on it and you'll see.
So, since my little family deals with IBS on a daily basis, I thought (in true diy fashion) that I would try making my own. As I said, this is so much easier to make than yogurt and so much better for you.
To start off you need to get some kefir grains. You can get starter cultures from health food stores, but these won't last. You'll just have to replace them over time. I purchased my kefir grains from www.culturesforhealth.com. I am not affiliated with this company, it's just where I decided to make my purchase. You can find many more places online that sell the grains. This is a one time purchase as kefir can last forever. Literally. As you use the grains to make kefir, over time they will grow larger and produce more.
Kefir grains do not, in fact, look like grains at all. They more closely resemble cauliflower. Here's an example:
Looks gross doesn't it?
Here's how simple it is to make. Take a clean glass jar and put your kefir grains into it.
At this point you must ignore the fact that it looks like baby spit-up and bravely forge on. :)
Next add your milk. You can use any type of milk, even soy milk products to make your kefir. I have used both skim and 2% and this summer plan on using heavy cream and using it to make ice cream with. When I add my milk, I don't measure, I just fill up the whole jar. I also add about 1 tsp of sugar to it, but it's probably not needed. Then cover it with a coffee filter or a towel and let it sit overnight.
After the 24 hours (or less in my case) is up, your milk will have thickened considerably. The picture below shows it in it's finished state, but the pic doesn't really capture the thickness.
Once the milk has "kefir-ed" you need to strain out the grains and separate them from the kefir product. Most people say not to use a metal strainer, but since that's all I have, that's what I use. You know what? It hasn't affected the grains or the final product one little bit. So use what you have folks.
Now the next big question is what the heck do you do with it once it's made?
In it's plain state, it looks like a cross between yogurt and buttermilk and tastes like it too. BThe longer it sits on the counter, the more strong the sour taste. Mine is a little sweeter because of the 1 tsp of sugar that I add at the beginning of the fermentation process. It really tastes pretty good and can be consumed as is. I prefer to turn it into smoothies myself though.
You can use it in place of buttermilk or yogurt in recipes. Smoothies, pancakes, ice cream, cheese, the possibilities are endless. Heat will kill off the good bacteria that you need, so be aware of that.
So is it working? So far so good. It's only been about two weeks and I think it will take more time to get into our systems to truly see a difference. I'll have to let you know. I figure that any step that I can take to make my family more healthy will be absolutely worth it!