Kefir Care and Handling:
Kefir grows best at room temperature over a range of 58° to 88°F.
The kefir’s flavor is greatly affected by the amount of butterfat in the milk you use. The fat mitigates the sharp acid flavor developed by the acidophilus and other lactic acid producing cultures. Minimum 2% milk is recommended, but whole milk is best. Skim is fine if you prefer, but will result in a very sharp acid flavor.
The milk should be of high quality and fresh to minimize the possibility of the grains being contaminated with undesirable micro-organisms. Using milk within three days of purchase is recommended.
Kefir grains must breathe to live. Do not keep them for more than a few hours in an air-tight container. The lactic acid that digests yeasts in the kefir grains produces carbon dioxide, which will build pressure and blow the top off a sealed container.
Culture the kefir grains for at least one day at room temperature. If the kefir is to be refrigerated and unchanged for a day or two, culture it a few hours to develop acidity, and then place it in the refrigerator.
Place the cultured kefir grains and milk in a strainer or colander, with a large bowl underneath. Squeeze the cultured kefir from the grains with a rubber spatula. Scrape the cultured milk from the outside of the strainer.
Wash the kefir pan, lid, strainer and bowl in warm soapy water and rinse well.
Place the washed and drained kefir grains in the pitcher and cover with a milk of your choice until the kefir grains are floating. Stir thoroughly with the spatula, replace the lid loosely and leave at room temperature for culturing. Culturing will require from 20 to 40 hours, depending on the temperature and proportion of kefir grains to milk.
To transport the grains, rinse them first with water and carry them wet in a temporary air-tight container.
Recommended utensils for keeping kefir are a pitcher with a loose-fitting lid to hold one or two pints of grains and milk, depending on the volume you are producing daily. A stainless steel colander or strainer which will hold the volume of grains and milk is also required, with a stainless steel bowl to strain the kefir into. A rubber spatula is invaluable to squeeze the kefir from the grains in the strainer and scrape every delicious drop from the underside of the strainer and from the bowl. Pressurized containers such as Grolsch beer bottles are recommended for storing finished and separated kefir (not the grains) for up to several days, where it will develop more complex flavors.
Plain kefir is very tart, and most people do not have a taste for it. Kefir is great with fruit as a smoothie. Use a couple of bananas with fresh or frozen blueberries and raspberries, strawberries or blackberries combined in a blender. The resultant elixir can be immediately consumed or kept several days in pressure-tight bottles. Try ginger and cinnamon, sweetened with honey… Go crazy, baby!
Kefir is a living animal which produces a varying product each day, season to season, milk to milk. Enjoy your kefir and appreciate the range of flavors it produces day to day.