I’ve stopped making yogurt in the crock pot and have moved on to making kefir in leftover canning jars. It’s a very different flavor and experience, but so much easier, cleaner, and similarly good for our health. I got my grains from a co-worker. Grains grow and grow all of the time, so it’s like having a sourdough starter, once you have kefir grains, you have to either give them away, make more kefir, or throw them away. They are not meant for just eating, but you can do that, with no ill effects.
Turns out Kefir is nothing like the stuff we buy at the big grocery stores. Real kefir is made from “grains” which are really just blobs of bacteria and yeast living a symbiotic relationship that requires feeding. They eat sugar, so work ideally in many forms of milk or sweetened water. I have only experimented with cow milk so far. They look like cauliflower or sea coral when washed clean. The grains are slimy and chewy. You don’t eat them though. You just put 1 TBLS or more of them into a quart jar of milk and let them sit at room temperature for 12-48 hours and they ferment the milk. The longer you let it ferment, the more fizzy it becomes. My husband says that it reminds him of fermented, slightly alcoholic, horse milk, which they drink in Kyrgyzstan.
Once it begins fermenting, you can remove the grains, if you want, and start a new batch. The first batch will continue to ferment slowly on its own. We enjoy drinking ours between hour 24-36….but once a week we let it go 2 days and it separates completely into whey on the bottom and a soft cheese like substance on top. So I have also stopped buying cottage cheese. Kefir has completely satisfied all of our breakfast spoonable dairy. :) I often mix mine with fruit, if it’s at the cottage cheese stage. If it’s chunky but liquid, we just drink it. I use the leftover whey for baking or drinking. It sort of satisfies cravings for soda or fizzy drinks. Some days we need to give them a rest, so we put them into the fridge in a sealed container for up to 3 days and let them live at a state of suspended animation. In other words, they put their growth on hold and wait to be at room temperature and fed again.
This is basically just my journal entry on the subject, not an in depth informational blog post. Another cool tidbit of info; my 3 year old LIKES this stuff and drinks it from the jar! For more information on KEFIR, visit this site, which I found helpful.
Want to give it a try?