How to ferment kefir and make kefir cream cheese
I've been making kefir at home for over a month now and I'm hooked! If you've never heard about this ancient super food, it's a dairy product that is very similar to a drinkable yogurt that ferments rapidly and easily on your kitchen counter.
So why not just use yogurt instead of kefir?
I've learned that kefir is much easier to make than yogurt through personal practice and it can have 2 to 3 times the amount of cultures than yogurt making it a real powerhouse.
For my birthday my husband bought me some kefir milk and kefir water starters because he knows how much I enjoy fermenting and trying out knew science projects in the kitchen. He didn't really know anything about it but he did get something special that works.
Today I'm going to write about my experiences with the milk kefir.
Most of the time I read about milk kefir grains but I'm currently using a different product. It's a powdered culture that should last about a month making and remaking kefir in dairy milk or non-dairy substitutes like almond or coconut milk. At that point I will need to use another packet to start a new batch. The vendor feels that it's a good idea to replace the culture and start fresh monthly in order to maintain a pure working culture.
So far so good. I like the taste and it's super easy! I'm just getting started with this so they could be right about keeping the culture pure as I know from my long time experience with sourdough starter that the culture will change depending on the environment it's living in.
A long time ago my father gave me a sourdough starter he began in eastern Montana. After living at my house in Oregon, it has evolved over time to the point where it certainly includes few if any of the wild yeasts of Montana and is now truly an Oregon starter culture with the wild yeasts local to this area. It would seem likely that this could also happen with the cultures in the Milk kefir.
My question is this, is it bad for the cultures to evolve like this? Certainly not with a sourdough culture. It could be some people have worries that the kefir will become contaminated with bad bacteria but this should not happen when the propper care is taken and the environment is clean.
By the way, it has been a month and my kefir is still working great!
This is the funny part about my birthday gift....
The powdered culture did not come from the same company as the jar pictured above for culturing kefir. Initially, I was reading two different recipes for starting this process and it was really confusing. One that came with the powdered culture and one that came with the jar calling for kefir "grains". Kefir grains are not actual grains like wheat but rather "grains" is a description of the physical appearance of the colony of bacteria and yeasts one uses to culture more kefir.
If I had "grains" I would have put them into the little plastic strainer box attached to the bottom of the straw in the jar. I would then leave them for three days submerged in whole milk to re-hydrate. Assuming they were shipped to me in a dehydrated state.
Since I had a powdered culture it was even easier. I poured the envelope of powdered culture into the jar, poured in whole milk to the top and then gave it a good stir with the cool straw that comes with the jar.
I let it set on the counter overnight and viola! Kefir.
Now I can remove 3 tablespoons of the kefir and save it in the refrigerator for the next time I want to make kefir and I can drink whats left in the jar.
When ready to begin a new batch, I add the 3 tablespoons of kefir culture to the clean jar, fill with whole milk, leave it on the kitchen counter overnight and voila! Kefir.
If I had kefir grains doing the work for me, it would be similar. I would pull out the cool straw with the grain basket on the bottom and place the basket of grains in another container with enough whole milk to cover them. I would keep the grains in the refrigerator until it was time to make more kefir.
To make the next batch I would put the basket of grains back on the straw and into the clean jar. I would fill it to the top with whole milk, leave it on the counter overnight and voila! Kefir.
That's how easy this is. Just like magic.
So what about cream cheese? Surprising simple as well!
Place a large piece of butter muslin across a large bowl (I use my popcorn bowl), pour the kefir from the jar into the muslin, reserving either the kefir grains or 3 tablespoons of kefir, and then tie it up like this to your kitchen cupboard and let it drain. Save the whey in the refrigerator for another use. It's also full of protein, enzymes, vitamins and minerals. Some call it liquid gold.
In 6-8 hours, scrape the kefir cream cheese from the cloth and place in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It's ready to eat! It will be more tangy than regular cream cheese but it still tastes wonderful and is chock full of probiotic enzymes and vitamins.
Would you rather have something closer to sour cream or Greek yogurt? Do the same thing but remove it from the butter muslin after only 3-4 hours.