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Milk kefir — The Grow Network Community
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Milk kefir

pseaboltpseabolt North Carolina Posts: 47 ✭✭✭

Ok everyone, I need help!!! A friend of mine gave me a kombucha scoby and that was a good and expected thing. I’m sure I will be posting more about that later. What I was not expecting tho was that she also brought along some milk kefir grains. Ummm, thanks? I’ve heard of kefir and that right there is the sum of my knowledge on the subject. Unfortunately the gift was given at an event with about a hundred other people in attendance and I didn’t have a nice peaceful moment to pick her brain so here I am, turning to you guys and begging to pick your brains. What is this gift that I’ve been given, what do I do with it and why do I want to?

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  • judsoncarroll4judsoncarroll4 Posts: 1,275 admin

    I make water kefir - haven't gotten into milk kefir yet... but certainly intend to! Below is a quote from Sandor Katz's Art of Fermentation:

    "Kefir is another popular culture for fermenting milk. It produces a beverage, thicker than milk, that can be made from ever so mildly tart to super-sour, and best of all, if properly prepared, it is bubbly. The community of organisms that ferment milk into kefir includes yeasts, which produce alcohol at levels ranging from a few negligible tenths of a percentage to as high as 3 percent, depending upon length of fermentation and other factors. Because of its alcohol content and its effervescence, kefir is sometimes called “the champagne of milks.”

    Kefir is notable among milk cultures in that rather than using a bit of fermented milk to start the next batch, it relies upon a SCOBY, a rubbery mass of bacterial and fungal cells that has evolved an elaborate symbiotic arrangement, sharing nutrients, coordinating reproduction, and co-creating a shared form, which is not microscopic. I’ve seen extremely varied kefir forms. All of them are whitish and plump, with curvaceous undulating surfaces, something like a cross between cauliflower florets and little brains. Most of the kefir grains I have encountered grow into clumps measuring up to a few inches in any direction. Some have been smaller, so that as they grow there are more and more small clumps, but the clumps do not grow larger. On a few occasions I have seen extraordinarily large kefir clumps. In the color photo insert, the kefir depicted is a single connected mass of kefir so large that it fills both hands. The largest kefir I have ever seen was a clump that spread out like a sheet, more than a foot wide, with familiar kefir clumps connected by flatter sections. Again, we see that biological creations always exhibit diverging branches of the family tree. The biology of kefir is quite fascinating. It is a symbiotic entity that self-reproduces; combining each of the individual bacterial and fungal members will not result in a new kefir grain. All kefir grains evolved from a spontaneous symbiosis—or a number of them—that has perpetuated itself. “Despite intensive research and many attempts to produce kefir grains from the pure or mixed cultures that are normally present in the grains, no successful results have been reported to date,” reports the Journal of Dairy Science.23 Biologist Lynn Margulis asserts: “Kefir can no more be made by the ‘right mix’ of chemicals or microbes than can oak trees or elephants.”

    Margulis, whose work in the field of symbiogenesis I referred to in chapter 1, has written about kefir as a vivid illustration of fundamental biological concepts, such as life, death, sex, and evolution. She points out that kefir grains do not possess “programmed death,” as animals, plants, and certain other organisms do, and therefore may theoretically live forever, given adequate nutrition and tolerable environmental conditions. Margulis explains that kefir grains involve a community of 30 different types of microbes, including common food fermentation favorites, such as Lactobacilli, Leuconostoc, Acetobacter, and Saccharomyces, as well as others more obscure; in fact, according to Margulis, fewer than half the microbes involved are known or named. Nonetheless,

    “These specific yeasts and bacteria must reproduce together—by coordinated cell division that does not involve fertilization or any other aspect of sex—to maintain the integrity of the unusual microbial individual that is the kefir curd,” she writes. The component organisms are “inextricably connected by chemical compounds, glycoproteins and carbohydrates, of their own making. . . . Kefir microbes are entirely integrated into the new being just as the former symbiotic bacteria that become components of nucleated cells are integrated. . . . Kefir is a sparkling demonstration that the integration processes by which our cells evolved from bacteria still occur.”24 Despite their potential for immortality, forget to feed them too long, and kefir grains will die and decompose. I’ve had mine simply dissolve, from neglect for weeks at a time, into the acidic kefir they had created. Margulis observes: “Dead kefir curds teem with a kind of life that is something other than kefir: a smelly mush of irrelevant fungi and bacteria thriving and metabolizing, but no longer in integrated fashion, on corpses of what once were live individuals.”25 The moral of the story: Kefir grains require regular care and feeding. Except for the challenge of getting into a rhythm, making kefir is extremely easy. No heating or temperature regulation is required (though kefir will ferment faster if you gently heat milk from refrigerator temperature to ambient room temperature). Simply add kefir grains to milk in a jar. Use about a heaping tablespoon of grains for 1 quart/liter of milk. Most of the literature concurs that kefir is best cultured at a ratio around 5 percent grains.26 Do not fill the jar all the way, as carbon dioxide production can result in an increase in volume. You can either seal the jar, in which case pressure will build, or loosely cover it. Leave kefir to ferment at ambient temperatures, out of direct sunlight, and shake or stir

    periodically. Because microbial activity is concentrated on the surfaces of the grains, the agitation is important to move the grains around, circulate the milk, and thus spread microbial activity. Kefir is ready when you can see that it is has thickened, around 24 hours, or longer if you live in a cool environment (or prefer it sour). Shake the jar of kefir one last time before removing the grains. You can either fish the grains out with a spoon, especially if they’re big, or strain through a strainer. To carbonate, transfer the strained kefir to a sealable vessel, allowing room for expansion, and leave to ferment sealed another few hours, or a few days in the refrigerator. When you open the sealed jar of kefir, it will froth and rise. It’s that easy. I always use whole milk, raw when available, though my friend Nina reports that she prefers making kefir from nonfat milk. I have had fine results with raw milk, pasteurized, and even ultra-pasteurized; goat’s milk and cow’s milk, both homogenized and not. Some of the literature encourages not allowing kefir grains to come into contact with metal. I would certainly concur insofar as prolonged contact with metal can result in corrosion, as with any acidic ferment. But some kefir promoters are emphatic that even

    brief contact with metal (such as mesh strainers) can destroy kefir grains. I have never found this to be true; nor has the man I call the Internet King of Kefir, Dominic Anfiteatro of Australia, who in his typical comprehensive way conducted a small experiment: “We’ve used stainless steel strainers to strain kefir for months on end without any evidence to suggest that the grains or the microflora are impaired in any way,” he writes on his website.27 When you strain kefir from the kefir grains, transfer to a clean jar, pour fresh milk over the grains, and continue the rhythm. The rhythm is the hard part. Ideally, each time you strain a batch of mature kefir from the grains, you start another batch. Maintaining kefir grains, or any other SCOBY, ultimately is like having a pet; they require not constant but ongoing attention. If they are not adequately nourished, they will die. With all the traveling I do, I have lost my kefir grains on more than one occasion. At present I am making and drinking about 2 cups of kefir every other day. Every other morning I strain the kefir and pour fresh milk over the grains. The grains double every week or 10 days. You can store extras to share later, without having to keep feeding them, by drying them. Rinse them, drain on absorbent paper, and dry in the sun and/or a dehydrator at low temperature. You can slow kefir grains down in the refrigerator, but you still need to feed them after about a week. You can suspend them for a long while also by freezing them.28 But kefir grains work best, and stay healthiest, with frequent engagement and regular feeding."

  • pseaboltpseabolt North Carolina Posts: 47 ✭✭✭

    @judsoncarroll4 wow! That’s some great information! Thank you! I have to go to work right now but I will be turning it over in my brain. I honestly wasn’t even sure if it was supposed to be a drink or something thick like yogurt or what, so I’ve just been talking to it, telling it that it was my first Kefir Baby and to hang in there with me. Lol. Thankfully, it sounds very forgiving, so we shall see.....

  • blevinandwombablevinandwomba Central PaPosts: 462 ✭✭✭✭

    I made kefir for several years before I got too sensitive to cow milk. It really is very easy. Basically, if you feed it daily, and cut down the grains when they get too big, you will probably be fine.

  • Mary Linda BittleMary Linda Bittle Posts: 619 ✭✭✭✭

    This is something I have been curious about, too. I will be following this thread and decide if I am brave enough to try it!

    I tried kombucha, but found I don't really like it. I've had commercial milk kefir, and did enjoy that, so I'm game to try it.

  • ines871ines871 zn8APosts: 1,410 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Hi @judsoncarroll4 Your wonderfully 🙂 long explanation I will need to come back to later, when from today's Online stress, my eyes have Recovered. When I'm stressed too much, my sight kinda goes fuzzy... Also why sometimes I bold my words, more than other times. Thank you for your patience, Sir.

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