Fermentation Experimentation

October 7, 2010

Kefir breakfast

Kefir breakfast

Yep, I make my very own milk Kefir (Кефир.) An Eastern European-style yogurt, Kefir is loaded with lots and lots of tummy-friendly bacteria.

Not to brag, but I also curdle farmers cheese (Творог): a creamier, smoother, and milder form of cottage cheese. Surprisingly, fermenting dairy products at home is super easy, fast and fun!

A co-worker introduced me to the mysterious world of food fermentation and I got hooked. As much as I enjoy changing the molecular structure of food by the process of heating, I equally enjoy creating natural partnerships between food and lactic acid bacteria, using the process of fermentation. It is almost like playing a mad scientist, who is growing a microbial Frankenstein in his lab… OK, maybe not that dramatic, but still fun.

I take a real pleasure in creating that perfect batch of Kefir.  No, I am not trying to compete with Lifeway Foods.  In fact I buy their delicious drinkable dairy beverages on weekly basis.  But I favor the homemade alternative for its tarter deeper flavor and fizzy texture. When fermented correctly, its consistency resembles that of Greek yogurt. My favorite way to eat it is with toasted granola and honey.

My next physics experiments – Sauerkraut and Pickled Fruit.

Kefir-making: let the experiment begin

Kefir-making: let the experiment begin

Kefir-making: 12 hours later. The whey is starting to separate.

Kefir-making: 12 hours later. The whey is starting to separate

Kefir-making: 24 hours later. Ready for the finishing touches.

Kefir-making: 24 hours later. Ready for the finishing touches

Kefir-making: you can stop here and eat your Kefir with a spoon

Kefir-making: using the strainer to drain the Kefir. You can stop here and eat it with a spoon

Kefir-making: or you can blend Kefir for a smoother consistency

Kefir-making: or you can blend Kefir for a smoother consistency

Home-made Kefir

Equipment and Ingredients

Directions

  1. Pour fresh milk into a large jar. Leave up to 2 inch of space
  2. Add live kefir grains
  3. Cover with lid, but not airtight to allow the gas buildup to escape
  4. Leave for 1-3 days at room temperature. I usually peak into the jar every 12 hours to make sure the fermentation is going according to plan. During hot summer days, it takes no more than 24 hrs to get to the right consistency. Generally, the longer you ferment kefir, the more sour it gets
  5. Cover the strainer with paper town. Pour Kefir into the strainer to separate the liquid (this is now your kefir), from the grains. Use the strainer as well the spoon to strain the kefir into a bowl
  6. Move the recovered kefir grains into a small jar and save until next time
  7. If you want a smoother lighter kefir, blend it for a few minutes in your blender. For a thicker chunkier alternative, transfer to plate and enjoy.
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