Kefir is a cultured milk product similar to yogurt only thinner and much easier to make and reculture. If you would like to know more specific information on kefir I have an article written by a friend of mine on my site to give you more info. You can read that HERE. It has all the wonderful qualities of yogurt with the good probiotics your body needs to stay healthy.
Kefir can be made in two ways. One is to purchase kefir grains (you can read more about this in the above mentioned article). You soak milk in the grains, strain the grains and put the grains back into a clean jar and fill with milk, let it sit on your counter overnight and the next morning it is ready. I have made kefir with grains in the past. There were a few things I did not care for. One was it was a lot of maintenance. Unless you stop making kefir you have to strain it out daily and that adds up to a lot of kefir to use every day. Also the longer I made it the stronger the taste became and my family was not too thrilled with it. So I purchased some powdered kefir cultures and made it and was so much happier with the results. This is the method I will show you how to make.
I like making kefir because it is so easy! It is much easier to make than yogurt. You don’t need a lot of equipment other than a large stainless steel pot, a thermometer and a few canning jars. I use 2 2-quart jars but you can use 4 1-quart jars if that is what you have.
Besides that you will need one gallon of milk (I use whole milk) and a package of powdered kefir culture. You can purchase your cultures online at Leeners http://www.leeners.com/cheesesupply.html#buttermilk . I have purchased cheese cultures and rennet, kefir cultures, yogurt starter, buttermilk starter and more from them many times. They are a GREAT company with excellent prices and I highly recommend them.
After your cultures arrive in the mail you can gather your needed items together and get ready to make kefir! This pictures shows the jars with their lids (I buy plastic lids from Walmart or Azure Standard, they are made by Ball), a thermometer, the packet of culture and one gallon of milk.
Pour your gallon of milk into the stainless steel pot and put it on the stove.
Set your oven at medium high IF you will be watching the pot. If not you can set it on low and stir occasionally as it heats up. In any case stir now and again and check the temperature of the milk
As soon as it reaches 86 degrees remove the pot from the stove. Open the packet of kefir cultures, sprinkle over the milk and stir until dissolved
Now it is time for pour the mixture into your canning jars. I like to use a canning funnel for this job. It is not absolutely necessary but helps keep the mess at a minimum.
Fill both jars to the top
Put the lid on them and let them sit out on the counter for 12 to 18 hours. I try and make this in the later afternoon and then just let it sit on the counter till morning.
When the time is up you can open the lid and there is your kefir! As you can see it is nice and thick.. but not as thick as yogurt. The consistency is more like thick buttermilk.
When you start to run out of kefir it is even easier to make more.
Fill a clean canning jar ¼ full of kefir. Pour milk to the top of the jar. Cover and leave out at room temperature for 12 to 18 hours. And that is it!!
Kefir can be used in place of milk or yogurt in smoothies. That is how I like to use it most often. I have used it also in place of buttermilk for baking. But my favorite use is in smoothies.
Here is a delicious and simple strawberry kefir smoothie recipe that is perfect for these warm summer days.
Strawberry Kefir Smoothie
1 heaping cup fresh strawberries (frozen will also work)
1 cup kefir
Honey to taste, optional
Gather your ingredients together
Put kefir and strawberries into your blender.
Turn your blender on high and mix until all is smooth (taste to see if you want to add a little honey for sweetener at this point).
Pour into a glass
Serve to your eager and appreciative family! :)