Ever since I got a copy of The Everyday Fermentation Handbook by Branden Byers I have been dying to get fermenting and increase my probiotic consumption. I flipped through the book to find something simple to start with and there it was — kefir! A short fermentation period and only 2 ingredients, perfect!
I ordered some 1 L Bernardin jars off amazon and started my hunt for kefir grains to ferment the milk. Those must be readily accessible in Toronto right?
I called every health food store, specialty store etc in my area and not one had them — a few even seemed very confused as to what I was looking for. No, they are not grains, they are just called that!
In fact, kefir (pronounced kay-fear) grains are a symbiotic culture of yeast and bacteria. You can get milk kefir grains or water kefir grains depending on the medium you want to ferment.
So, eventually I just Googled “where to buy kefir grain in Toronto” and, to my surprise, a bunch of Craigslist/Kijiji ads popped up with people selling kefir grains from their personal batches! Why? Because they multiple like crazy and although you can eat them… would you?
Not too appealing if you ask me, but I was brave enough to try them!
I emailed about 5 people selling the grains and one replied right away saying she could meet me in an hour at a subway station about a 50 min walk from my apartment. Theoretically, I could take the subway to the subway station (brilliant thought), but I haven’t taken one yet and walking just seemed easier, so off I went! I waited at the station for a bit before the seller showed up. When she arrived she pulled a small clear bag of weird looking white stuff out of her purse. Seems a bit shady I know — but I was determined. I gave her the money for the grains, stopped at the grocery store to buy some organic milk and hurried home to make some kefir!
I put the grains in the milk and went to bed. The next morning I was like a little kid on Christmas jumping out of bed to check on my kefir! During the fermentation process the curds and whey may begin to separate. This is after 12 hours, you can just see it starting to separate at the top.
This is after 17 hours! Whoa.
With all my food safe training letting my milk sit on the counter for a whole day took a bit to wrap my mind around!
I find it paradoxical that we pasteurize, wash and sterilize everything to kill all the bacteria and then we spend a fortune to take it all in a pill! Yes, I understand why — but interesting none-the-less.
Apparently, kefir was once fermented in animal skin bags in the Caucasus Mountains (a mountain system in Eurasia) and visitors to a home there were obliged to kick the kefir bag hanging next to the door on the way out! We should go back to old traditions like this, traditional food is so awesome!
The longer you ferment the kefir the sourer and more effervescent it will get. Kefir can be enjoyed plain or sweetened, used in baking, smoothies, on cereal or oatmeal, stirred into soups (make sure they aren’t too hot), or used anywhere you would use yogurt. I like it with a little vanilla and maple syrup. You can even make kefir ice cream with your ice cream maker. For more great information on Kefir check out this article in the Huffpost.
Recipe inspired by Branden Byres
- 3.5 cups whole milk (can substitute a different MF% or coconut milk if desired)
- 1-2 tbsp kefir grains
- Combine milk and grains in a 1 L jar, put the lid on loosely and leave to ferment away from direct sunlight for 12-24 hours.
- Lightly shake the jar (after tightening the lid) if the curds and whey separate.
- Once fermented to your liking (it will smell yeasty like bread!) strain or scoop the grains out (plastic is preferable to handle them with vs metal) and put them into a new batch or they can be placed in a container of 1-2 cups milk and put in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. Once ready to make kefir again your first batch or two might take a little longer to ferment until the grains become more active again. The grains can also be frozen or dried for longer storage.
- Fresh kefir can be consumer immediately or stored in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.