Kefir: commercial, home-brew, and continuously cultured

lathechuck's picture

After I discovered that kefir was something good to eat/drink, I learned that it could be prepared at home for about half the cost of the commercial product. That included the price of the milk, and a packet of culture organisms. There are two culture-options in my store. One of them described heating the milk to near boiling, letting it cool to near room temperature, then adding a packet of culture (sort of like a yeast packet). That worked fine. But then, the other product just said "save a 1/4 cup of your last batch, and add a quart of milk to it to culture the next". I decided to combine the two: heating the milk, and adding a part of last week's kefir after it cools. If I recall correctly, I'm now culturing my 7th "generation" from one initial packet, with no change in the product. A double-boiler keeps the milk from scorching, and a floating dairy thermometer helps me track the temperature. I believe that heating the milk will prevent unwanted organisms from growing in it. They might grow slowly, but persist to contaminate future batches.

I use kefir in two ways, consuming a quart a week. Five days a week, I put some on my overnight oats (with fresh fruit, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds). On Sunday mornings, I use up to one cup (with a cup of flour, a tablespoon of sugar, a tablespoon of oil, an egg, and 1-1/2 teaspoons of baking powder) to make pancakes (for two). Kefir and flour alone can make a batter that's too thick, so I add milk to get the right viscosity. (Of course, I reserve 1/4 cup for the next batch.) For flour, I usually blend 50/50 whole-wheat and buckwheat. If there's any left when the pancakes are done and the next batch of kefir under way, I just scrape out the jar onto a stack of pancakes.

Give it a try. The flavor is more like that of cottage cheese than yogurt; very mild. Much of the lactose has been digested, though, so there's less of it to worry about. It is supposed to be pro-biotic, but I have no whey of verifying that. ;-)

lathechuck's picture

Two months later, I guess I've carried on with the original culture every week, and the latest batch seems just as good as the original. So, now the cost is just for the milk, which is a fraction of the price of commercial cultured kefir.