Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I made Kefir!

So, if you're not familiar with kefir (pronounced keh-FEER, KEH-fur, or KEE-fur, depending on your mood), you should check out this description. I love kefir and usually buy the Lifeway brand in the peach flavor. I like to mix it with some milk and drink it for breakfast or pour it over granola. It's kind of like yogurt (in that it is cultured) but it is thinner and has a higher quantity of friendly bacteria than yogurt. And, as I found out recently, it's also easier to make!

I started making yogurt after working for Rock-n-Water while I was in college. Among many other skills, Rock-n-Water is where I learned to cook. Every weekday, we would feed like seventy junior high and high school kids three meals a day. For breakfast, a lot of times we made enormous batches of plain yogurt and then left out granola and a few different flavors of jam for the kids to mix into their yogurt. It was a simple, tasty breakfast and and so easy to put together that when I left Rock-n-Water I started making my own yogurt. It's cheap and easy (all that's required is some milk and a bit of plain yogurt for the culture starter) but it's a little finicky about being kept at the proper temperature for culturing the bacteria over a long period of time.

Kefir, on the other hand, is left at room temperature to culture and is, therefore, nearly impossible to mess up. So why did I end up making kefir? Well, some of you know that Our Little Family drinks raw milk (milk that has not been pasteurized). And raw milk keeps for about 7 days under the best of conditions. And then you open it to pour on your cereal on day 8 and realize it STINKS. And you throw your very expensive, hard-won raw milk down the drain and then curse or cry (again, depending on your mood). A few days before we left for our recent vacation, I stopped into our local co-op to pick up my milk. As I was leaving, I mentioned to the lady who works there that I was worried we wouldn't be able to finish our milk before leaving for Mexico. She said nonchalantly, "Just make some kefir." What? Seriously? Do you think it will still be good when we get back? She assured me it would.

So I ran to Whole Foods to pick up some kefir starter (although it is apparently possible to create your own starter from scratch, but that's a little over my head). I took my milk and my starter home and...voila! A day and a half later, sitting on my counter was a half gallon jar of cultured kefir! So I crossed my fingers, stuck it in the fridge, and left for the beach. When we returned home last night, I opened up the jar and took a whiff. Hmmm...it smelled like...kefir! And this morning I blended it with some frozen strawberries and a dash of agave nectar and...it tasted like kefir! Scott drank it with gusto (the same man who previously claimed not to like kefir). And so, I think I'll be making more using a few tablespoons of our current batch of kefir as a starter for the next batch.

Even though kefir is admittedly easy to make, I think it's a bit of an accomplishment to have made some. I don't know...it's just so, out of the ordinary. And healthy. And easy. And apparently quite rewarding. Because I'm glowing!

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