What is Milk Kefir?
Milk kefir is fermented milk containing a high number of nutrients and probiotics. It can be slightly effervescent and tastes sour, similar to plain yoghurt and has a consistency of pouring or drinking yoghurt. Adding kefir grains to milk allows their micro-organisms to multiply, fermenting the sugars and turning the fresh milk into kefir. Fermented foods have raised interest in the scientific community recently as they are thought to have many positive effects on health.
What are the three main benefits of consuming fermented foods?
- Probiotics found in fermented foods can boost your immune system, improving gut health. By boosting your immune system they can help fight off infections and illnesses including mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression.
- Taking probiotics could help you see improvement in skin conditions such as acne and psoriasis.
- Consumed regularly, fermented foods aid digestion and help to improve anti-inflammatory activity, which can relieve stomach complaints and digestive issues.
Milk Kefir v Yoghurt
Milk kefir and yoghurt have very similar nutritional profiles and are quite similar in flavour and consistency but milk kefir contains many more strains of probiotics. Yoghurt is made by gently heating milk, which is thought to damage some of the beneficial live bacteria within it whereas heat is not applied when making kefir, keeping all of the good bacteria in tact.
So how do you make milk kefir?
Kefir is really easy, safe and cheap to make at home and doesn’t require any expensive apparatus. To start, you need to find some live, fresh kefir grains. You can buy them on amazon and ebay if you don’t already know someone who has some grains to spare. Be sure to buy milk kefir grains as water kefir grains are different and won’t work with milk.
It’s good to know some important do’s and don’t before you starting making keffir:
- DON’T use metal equipment when making kefir. The ions in metal can contaminate the milk and harm the grains.
- DON’T leave your fermenting milk and grains in direct sunlight. Kefir grains prefer a warmish environment (say 20-30C) but direct sunlight will heat up the milk too quickly and can damage the grains.
- DON’T use non-organic or UHT milk. Kefir grains require the bacteria present in organic milk to thrive and kefir grains will not thrive in UHT milk as the heat applied to it destroys the good bacteria, which the grains need.
- DO use muslin cloth or kitchen roll pierced with small holes to allow air to ventilate the fermenting milk.
- DO store your finished kefir in the fridge. Kefir stored in this way will keep for about 2 weeks.
- DO share your grains! Share your grains with friends and colleagues to help them reap the benefits of a pro-biotic rich diet.
Take your kefir grains and place them in a plastic or glass container then add whole fat organic milk. A good ratio to follow is around one heaped tablespoon of kefir grains to 250ml of milk.
Set the container on your kitchen counter top and cover with a piece of kitchen roll or muslin cloth and an elastic band to hold it in place. If using kitchen roll, take a toothpick and carefully pierce a few holes in the kitchen roll to allow ventilation.
Leave the milk to ferment for anywhere between 16-48 hours (it depends how thick you want the milk kefir to be). I find that in my galley where it is typically quite warm, the kefir grains do their work in 16-24 hours.
Once the kefir has a thick, yoghurt-like consistency, take a plastic sieve and drain the kefir into a plastic or glass container then store it in the fridge to chill. The kefir is now ready to enjoy as you please. With the remaining kefir grains, pour them into a clean non-metalic container then repeat the process.
Keffir grains should last indefinitely if they are cared for properly. I have read that keffir grans should not be frozen but I have successfully frozen mine and they work fine once defrosted.
If you want to take a short break from making keffir, leave your grains in a plastic or glass container in the fridge with some milk for a few days then discard the milk and begin the process when you are ready to start again.
5 Simple recipes using milk kefir
Spiced Pecan Granola w/ Kefir (click here for recipe)
Probiotic Breakfast Smoothie (click here for recipe)
Bircher Muesli (click here for recipe)
Beetroot Tzatziki (click here for recipe)
Gorgonzola & Kefir Salad Dressing (click here for recipe)