Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Saving Money By Making Your Own Fermented Milk Kefir: part 1

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Have you ever tried kefir? It is like a thin yogurt. Sometimes twangy. Usually effervescent. Definitely good for you. I had heard and read about it before and then I bought a quart bottle from the store. Somewhere in the area of $3 for a quart. I liked it. My kids liked it. So the light bulb moment happened. How can I make this myself and save money on it because at $3 a quart, there is no way I can continue to buy this. I discovered that kefir is made from "grains". Not grains from a plant, but "grains" made up from a symbiotic relationship of over 20 bacteria, molds and yeasts. That may not sound appealing at first, but consider that many very enjoyable foods are made from naturally occurring bacteria and yeasts- like beer, wine, yogurt, bread and many others.

Depending on where you purchase these grains, they can have different variants of these little buggies. The store bought types of kefir usually only contain about 7-9 of these good bacteria, etc. They do this to be able to control production and ensure a uniform product from batch to batch. They use a powdered form of kefir grains, again for the uniformity. The grains you will use are called grains because of their appearance. They look like a curd or small grains. When you introduce the grains into milk, the grains impregnate their cultures throughout the milk, eat the lactose and thicken it.

I use a standard, clean glass pint jar into which I add 1T of kefir grains and a pint of milk. I cover the top of the jar with a coffee filter held down with an elastic band. The jar is meant to breath and the filter allows for that while keeping dirt and insects out. Set the jar on your counter and wait (do NOT refrigerate). After 12-24 hours of fermenting on your counter, you will need to strain the grains out of the milk (keeping both the milk and the grains). Put this kefir (the milk with the grains now removed) in the fridge and enjoy when it cools. Keep the grains and place them in a new clean jar. Then cover with milk and start a new batch. It's that easy and you are making it for about 25% the cost of store bought.

The grains can be reused indefinitely as long as you keep feeding them (although you can hibernate them, if needed by placing them in the refridgerator). Another added benefit is that these grains will multiply. A healthy batch of grains will double every 3-4 batches, from my experience. You can give some of these extras to a friend so they can start their own fresh kefir.

So what can you do with kefir besides drink it straight up? Check the next post to find out more...

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