Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How to Make Kefir

We've already talked about how awesome kefir is, the benefits it has, what it tastes like, and how it's different from yogurt (see post: Everything You Always (?) Wanted To Know About Kefir). So let's gather our supplies:

What do I need to make kefir?
You will need:

1 TB of Kefir Grains
What are kefir grains?
Kefir grains are not really grains. There's no gluten, rice, or anything else "grainy" about them. I've heard them described like little bits of gooey cauliflower. You could also say they are little curds (like the curds in cottage cheese) that have magical powers to ferment milk. Mmmm, okay. Let's just say they are squishy. You can either purchase kefir grain packs (like from Cultures for Health) or you can find a friend who already has kefir going. Believe me: they have plenty to spare. Grains multiply like bunnies -- they are the ultimate "friendship bread!"

One more thing...
Kefir grains don't like metal. These are growing and active little guys. You don't want to kill or injure them. So make sure that you aren't using metal spoons, bowls, strainers, etc. Once you've strained the liquid, then you can use metal -- like in a blender. But when you're dealing with the grains, NO METAL. :)

So let's make kefir.
1. In a clean glass jar, measure out your kefir grains. For every 1 cup of milk, use 1 TB of grains.
2. Add the appropriate amount of milk.
3. Put the lid on and set on the counter to ferment at room temp for 24 hours.
4. Done. Seriously, it's that easy.

There's a few more helpful steps, though. 
Getting ready to strain the grains
4. Use a dry erase marker to write on the lid what time you're kefir is going to be done the next day. The last thing you want to do is second-guess yourself. :) If you forget the time, you'll know it's done when it smells like yogurt. Some people recommend burping the lid or shaking your jar during this 24 hours. You can. I never do.

5. After 24 hours, place your strainer over a bowl and dump out the grains and milk-turned-kefir. Strain. Use a plastic spoon to stir the grains around to help strain. It might be a little thick.

6. Using your funnel (if you lack perfect aim, like me), dump the milk-turned-kefir WITHOUT THE GRAINS into a new clean jar. Note the date on the lid and store in the fridge. Kefir will keep several weeks.

Now you have a choice ... immediately make more kefir (following steps 1-6) or put your kefir grains in "storage mode." 

Storing Kefir Grains
L-R: Extra kefir grains covered in milk and
ready for storage; fresh liquid kefir ready for eating;
kefir fermenting for tomorrow
Remember: kefir grains are living creatures. They will keep growing and need food to live. You can't just store them dry in the fridge. So, once you're done making your kefir, put the grains in a small glass jar. Add some milk to cover them. They will keep for awhile this way, but you'll notice the milk gets really thick and slowly turns to kefir. The grains don't really "stop" eating ... the fridge just sloooooows them down. So if you haven't made kefir in a week, go back and add some fresh milk, stirring the stored kefir grains with a plastic spoon. But, ideally, you're making kefir regularly -- right? *wink*

Kefir grains make the perfect gift. They're hard to kill -- and I'm the type of person who can't keep houseplants alive. Even the no-water-only-add-2-ice-cubes-every-few-weeks-hybrid-Irises. Yup. But my kefir grains keep growing! You'll even start to recognize some of your grains.

Look at the size of this one!

Monster Kefir Grain!
You could even name your kefir grains. Yes, these are the thoughts I have late at night when I'm sleep deprived and rocking a baby. :)

Happy kefir making!

Everything You Always (?) Wanted to Know About Kefir

Kefir. It's one of nature's miracle foods. Our family eats it at least 2-3 times a week.

What exactly IS kefir?
Kefir (key-fir) is best described as a liquid yogurt. It's a fermented probiotic super food (read = really healthy for you). Unlike yogurt, which has probiotic bacteria -- microscopic good guys -- in it, kefir has both probiotic bacteria AND beneficial yeasts. These are essential to helping heal our bodies from a deluge of antibiotics, toxins, and other health stressors we encounter.

Kefir is made at room temperature, so the beneficial enzymes in milk aren't damaged by the heating process if you're using raw milk. Since no stove is involved (like in making yogurt), it's an ideal fool-proof first step in making healthier food for your family. But you don't HAVE to use raw milk. Any type of milk will do.

Bonus: since kefir is made at room temperature, the bacteria/yeasts are mesophilic (meaning, room-temp-growing-guys). Yogurt is made by fermenting the milk at a higher temperature, so its bacteria are thermophillic (meaning, heat-loving). So you can keep eating kefir AND yogurt and get different beneficial properties.

You also don't need any sort of special equipment, like a dehydrator or yogurt maker.

Plus, if your family struggles with lactose intolerance, kefir is a wonderful way to get dairy into your system. The kefir grains eat away at the lactose in the milk and transform it into digestible liquid gold dairy. 

What do I do with kefir?
You can make smoothies, use it as a buttermilk replacement in pancakes, use it as a milk replacement in baked goods. You could drink it straight, too. But I like my fru-fru smoothies. Kefir tastes like liquid yogurt with a little bit of a carbonated zing. That's the yeast components at work.

What do I need to make kefir?
You will need:
So now that you're all set to make kefir, 
click here to learn how to make it!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Welcome to the BENT Kitchen!

Why "BENT" you might ask? 

Several years ago I started this blog as a way to write about our journey with food and more "crunchy" living. As I wrote back then: 

Compared to most typical Americans, our family might seem a little strange... We clean with microfiber and vinegar. We don't eat much sugar. I make yogurt and kefir on a regular basis. You won't find a microwave in our house. We're the only family in our neighborhood that regularly composts. I make my own deodorant. We've got a cow's tongue in our freezer. Yup, we might seem a little odd. As we bend away from the typical American norm of fast food, commercial cleaners, and processed meals, we find ourselves happier and healthier for it.

I picked the name "BENT Kitchen" to talk about, well, kitchen-ish things. And then -- unexpectedly -- God dropped an amazing opportunity for me to write for one of my all time favorite blogs, Kitchen Stewardship. If you take that link, you can see my most recent posts.

Now, as we are zooming down the road on our home school journey, I find myself needing an outlet to talk about home schooling and our adventures there. So this blog is shifting in a different purpose.

Oh, and the REAL reason for the name BENT?  Just rearrange the letters of our family:
  B (that's me!)
  E (darling 7yo daughter)
  N (darling husband)
  T (darling 4yo son)

Clever, huh? So read on. And be encouraged. Let's take a journey together.