Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My Kefir overrunneth

My mother first introduced me to Kefir and it's probiotic qualities when Benjamin was a year old. At that time, he already had 5 ear infections and was trying to beat a really stubborn one. She brought over some store bought Kefir, and Benjamin went crazy for it! Because you have to shake the bottle before serving, he started calling them his "shake, shake, shake." Within a few days, his ear infection was gone, and he's never had another one come back. Was it because of the Kefir? Who knows?! But I can tell you that Benjamin drinks one every day for breakfast, and if he stops drinking it, he gets sick. I believe it strengthens his immunity. Also, I'm really prone to colds and respiratory infections, so when the Chris came home with a cold, I started drinking Kefir too. I had a slight sore throat, but it never progressed into anything more. Now, this could all be coincidence, but why tempt fate?!

The downside? Store bought kefir is expensive. We typically get it from Costco, where it comes in a box of 12 single serving bottles and is priced at about $0.84 a serving. However, Costco routinely stops carrying it for a month or two and then we need to purchase it from the grocery store where they have 32oz bottles (4 servings) and it comes out to $0.92 a serving, and even then we might not find it every week.

My mother decided to try making her own kefir, after I innocently asked if one could even make it. She purchased her grains, and started the brewing process. Before long, she had more than enough grains that she sent them to me. Here's how you brew your own kefir.

Here are my grains. They are translucent and cauliflower-like in appearance. These are milky because they were just pulled out of a milk brew.
Kefir Grains

Put your grains (about 1TB in size) in a clean glass jar. I'm using a tall quart canning jar.
Kefir grains in mason jar

Add one cup of milk over your grains. You can use any cow's milk, goat or sheep milk, or soy or almond milk you want. I have 1% cow's milk in the fridge, so that's what I used.
Add 1 cup milk to kefir grains

Cover your grains in order to keep dust out, but you do need to allow air circulation. I covered mine with a coffee filter. Leave it sit on the counter, out of sunlight, for up to 24 hours.
cover kefir with coffee filter

When the kefir is done brewing, it'll be a bit thick (like a runny version of yogurt) and have a tangy taste reminiscent of plain yogurt. The milk may have separated and formed curds. Strain your grains out. Do not use any metal strainers or utensils because the metal will kill the grains, and do not store it in plastic as the grains will eat that. I use a plastic strainer and a plastic baby spoon to do the straining, but I store it in a tall pint mason jar with a plastic freezer canning lid. Now you keep it in the refrigerator until you're ready to use it. (This is two brewings. You're still left with 1 cup of liquid each time.)
2 batches of kefir

This Kefir is the exact same stuff in the store bought bottle. The only difference is that I haven't turned it into a smoothie. I could blend some strawberries or blueberries or other fruit with it and you wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
my kefir vs. storebought kefir

But, today, I thought I'd make a Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana smoothie. You can use Kefir for anything that you would use milk, yogurt, or sour cream for. This recipe originally called for skim milk. With the Kefir instead, it really brings the taste of the banana to the forefront! I gave Chris a drink and didn't tell him there was Kefir in it (he has up until this point refused to drink Kefir on principle), and he thought it was good! Be forewarned, this is a very rich drink though.
Chocolate banana peanut butter kefir smoothie

1 cup kefir
1 cup ice
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3 TB chocolate syrup
1 banana

Blend all the ingredients together. Makes 2 servings.

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