It's a busy VBS week at our church so I'm reposting some info that was originally posted on my home blog.
The next project that I'm making with my raw milk is milk kefir. The reported health benefits of kefir are many. You can find a lot of info online and in various books about it. Sally Fallon talks about kefir and it's benefits in Nourishing Traditions. This book dares to go against many things we've been told about the food we eat. It's a valuable resource for those of us who are trying to break into the fermented foods arena. Kefir is a good place to start.
Kefir is a cultured milk product similar to yogurt but because it has very low curd tension, it is a liquid. It's made from a symbiotic culture of lactose fermenting bacteria and lactose fermenting yeast that co-exist forming a polysccharide grain. It's the only milk culture to form grains. These grains look like a little clumps of cauliflower or coral.
The smaller particles in kefir make it easier to digest than yogurt. Getting back to our discussion about homogenization, these particles are made smaller by the partial digestion that takes place by culturing the milk with a lactofermenting organism rather than by physically changing the structure by artificial means.
As with yogurt, kefir is great in smoothies with a little fruit and honey. The taste of kefir is more refreshing than yogurt. It is mucous-forming but that is one thing that makes it work well in our digestive tract. It actually coats the walls of our intestines making a welcoming home for beneficial bacteria to grow. Because it is made with completely different organisms, kefir does not feed yeast and many folks who can't tolerate lactose can drink kefir without problems.
Kefir is also reported to have antibiotic properties as well as detoxification benefits.
In a quart jar mix 2 cups of whole raw milk and 2 T of kefir grains. Cover and let rest in a warm place for 12-48 hours. Stir or shake the mix occasionally. Taste it...if the tartness is to your liking, strain the grains of kefir out of the milk for your next batch. The grains can be stored in a little milk in the frig until you're ready to make it again. Oxygen and a little heat are needed for the cultures to work so when you remove those elements, the process slows down or stops. There will also be some formation of curds in the mix. I used to mix those back into the kefir but my friend told me that it's beneficial to the grains to be stored in the curd mix until you next batch and I've found that the grain size has increased a lot faster by doing this.
The fun thing about kefir is that is actually develops a little effervescence as it cultures. A fizzy milk drink is a little different but it's easy to develop a taste for it.
Quick Tip - when I mention the addition of heat, I'm not talking about very much. I've found the ideal place to culture all the things that I've been making is in a warm corner of my kitchen counter next to the frigerator and behind the coffee pot. The only one that has to be wrapped and insulated is the yogurt.
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