How to Make Nutritious Milk Kefir at Home
You will need a special milk culture to activate the fermentation process, and there are two options that are readily available. The first is a powdered milk culture and the other, and more preferred is called a milk grain culture. Milk grain cultures do not actually contain grain, but they do resemble cooked grain foods. These advantage of grains is that they can be used to make continual batches whereas the powdered variety are good for only one or two. They also contain a more condensed form of nutrients and are considered ideal in terms of their overall health benefits.
All you need to get started is to take a few tablespoons of milk kefir grain culture and place it into a quart sized glass jar. Fill the jar with fresh milk. You can use any milk that you like, but whole milk will produce the best tasting products. However, if you don’t want the fat, you can still enjoy the benefits by using skim or 1% milk as well. Turn a coffee filter upside down and place over the jar. Attach a rubber band to secure it into place. This is important because as the milk ferments, it will produce a gas that can attract fruit flies and other insects, and you want to keep them out of the liquid.
Store the covered jar for between 18-24 hours until it thickens to the consistency of buttermilk. It is important to keep it at warmer temperatures as the culture will ferment faster. The ideal temperature range varies from 75-85 degrees depending on the ambient air quality and humidity levels. It can ferment at lower temperatures, but it may take longer. It is important to process the liquid before it separates into curds, so keep an eye on it and proceed to the next step once it thickens.
Processing the Kefir
The next step is to slowly pour the kefir through a fine-mesh plastic strainer into another jar. This will separate the grains from the liquid and leave you with a culture that can be used for your next batch. It will also help to improve the consistency of the milk and eliminate any grainy and yeast-tasting flavor. Gently stir and push the kefir through the strainer until the liquid fills the container and the grains remain.
Cover the finished product and refrigerate. You can start on your next batch right away and maintain a consistent supply for you, your family and friends. This makes a fantastic base for a host of recipes from smoothies to yogurts. Add some chunks of fruit to boost its nutritional value and enhance its taste. This is time-honored recipe that is a homesteading favorite, and it also is very useful in a survival situation when you are getting milk products straight from livestock without refrigerating. This is a great way to condense the nutritional value of cow or goat milk while also extending its shelf life by a day or two.