If this isn't a red letter day, I don't know what is. My husband, John finally wrote a guest post for my blog! John is an excellent cook and has been a huge influence on my own passion for good, healthy food. Read on to learn about his latest culinary adventure....
I am already feeling guilty that I have never written a guest post on my wife’s blog and if that is not bad enough, I decided to write about how we got hooked on a fermented dairy product named kefir.
I had been making our own yogurt for a while which includes warming up milk to 185 degrees, adding a few tablespoons of yogurt and then swaddling the pot in a heating pad over night. Once I got the hang of it, all went well and most importantly the kids ate it. It helps that I have a brother who makes maple syrup, which we often add on top. Although I came up with a number of tricks, I have found the process of heating the milk a little bit of a pain.
When I read that the probiotic benefits of kefir were better than yogurt, I purchased a commercial kefir starter from Yogourmet at our local coop to make my first batch. The slope got steeper and slipperier when I read that I could make kefir by buying a living yeast/bacteria organism called kefir grains. Kefir grains look like cauliflower and they are somewhat analogous to a sour dough starter for bread. The greatest benefit is that they can be added right to the milk without any preheating and by the next morning the little buggers have turned your milk into a mild but tangy kefir (right on your kitchen shelf- no refrigeration needed.) It took a while for me to get accustomed to leaving the milk out of the refrigerator and trusting that it would not spoil until I learned that this living culture of 30 microflora actually keeps the bad bacteria in check. Each morning we simply strain out the grains, pop them into a clean jar, top it up with fresh milk and put the jar back on the shelf. For more detailed information on ordering your own kefir grains check out Kefirlady and for background check out Dom the Kefir Guru.
With this constant supply we have been making fruit smoothies, pouring it on granola and using it in recipes that call for buttermilk which included a delicious apple-oat muffin recipe and a super light waffle batter. I made a very nice strawberry kefir ice cream, have added it to bread dough and have recently started making kefir cheese using goat milk and cow's milk.
The challenge is that the kefir grains always want their fresh daily dose of milk and they keep growing. Although I had plenty of warning that things would quickly get out of hand, I am experiencing the kefir madness firsthand. The benefit is that this very simple process creates a fun and interesting dimension to preparing a broad range of foods. Of all the things that I have read and experienced, I am most impressed with the fact that while store-bought milk invariably loses nutritional benefits when processed, it is possible to improve that milk and your health by using the kefir grains to transform it into a lovely, tangy yogurt. So now the hook: I am willing to do a kefir grain giveaway for someone who wants to try it out. Just leave a comment on this post and we will randomly pick a winner or two. The giveaway will be open through the end of July, 2011. (you must have a U.S. mailing address to enter)
Have you made your own kefir? Let us know how it works for you!