Have you ever tried kefir? All the information I read about it says it is a super food. For example, here is a paragraph from The National Kefir Association:
"Research shows that Kefir has a wide range of stellar health benefits. Its seven to ten probiotic cultures, combined with essential vitamins and nutrients, work to improve your body from the inside out, helping jump start your digestion, control your weight and fight the flu."
My response to this is "yeah, right!" It sounds like the claims made by 'snake oil salesmen' of yesteryear. So, while I don't really believe in these miracle claims, I do have it and drink it. I purchased mine from here but I bet if you search the Internet, you can find other suppliers.
Why do I drink it? Because in my opinion, it really is a nice yogurt substitute. It doesn't quite taste like yogurt, it has more of a sour taste. However, when mixed with other ingredients, I can't tell the difference between it and yogurt. AND even better, it doesn't require energy of any kind to produce. You don't have to heat it up to a certain temperature or incubate it to get it to culture like you do with yogurt.
It is super easy to make!
All the directions I have read said that It is best to start with fresh milk. You should not use ultra-pasteurized milk (like powdered milk and shelf stable milk or cream). They are supposed to starve the kefir grains. However, I have found that both shelf stable milk and shelf stable cream work just fine. While I have only used shelf stable dairy a few times, my kefir grains don't appear to be dysfunctional in any way because of it. Still, I don't think it is a good idea to slowly kill them either. So, overall it think it is best to keep the use of ultra-pasteurized dairy to a minimum. You can use ice cold milk right out of the refrigerator. From what I read, many people make it with raw milk.
Pour the milk into a non-metal container. I use a pint canning jar.
Add the kefir grains. Now, this can be a bit tricky because first you need to fish them out of the cultured milk from yesterday. It works best if you get a small strainer. Pour the kefir into the strainer over a clean bowl or container.
Stir the kefir in the strainer as you look for the kefir grains.
The first few weeks, it took a very long time to find them. But, after a while you will be able to spot the grains quickly. I promise! It doesn't take more than a few minutes for me to find them now. Here is a picture of a kefir grain.
Continue removing all the grains from yesterday's batch. You can just drop them into the fresh milk container. Cover the container with something breathable. You want air to get in but bugs to stay out. I use a paper towel with a rubber band. Let it sit on the counter 12 - 24 hours. I usually let mine sit for 24 hours.
Next morning you will have kefir. It looks like this when you take the cover off. You can notice some of the kefir grains at the top of the jar.
We drink it in fruit smoothies for breakfast. Blend it with some fruit (freezed-dried fruit works really well) and a teaspoon or two of stevia and you have a great smoothie! Since the kefir is created with room temperature milk, you may want to refrigerate your smoothie or add ice to make it cold. We drink ours at room temperature.
Let me also add here it takes four to seven days before new grains will start to culture milk. Be sure to follow the directions on the package to properly re-hydrate the kefir grains. Once up and going, the grains can be used indefinitely.
If you don't want to make kefir every day, you can place your container in the refrigerator. That will slow down and may even stop the culture. You can also dry the grains for more long term storage, up to six months.
I believe kefir offers an exceptional substitute to yogurt or sour cream when you are baking. It is so easy and convenient to make and your homemade kefir doesn't have any emulsifiers or other unwanted ingredients like you can find in the store bought versions.
It seems to me a perfect option if you are trying to reduce your dependence on electricity. All you need is a source of fresh milk!
I may try my hand at baking with kefir. I have been collecting recipes for baked goods that look appealing. When I do, I will be sure to post the results here!