I recently was gifted some milk kefir grains and have gone through two cycles of fermenting kefir. The basic process seems very straightforward - my biggest concern is becoming swamped with product!
Does anyone have helpful hints for keeping these cultures going longer term (may storage as dried grains? frozen?) and/or other aspects of the process? Experience making kefir cheese by straining and pressing the solids? Other nifty ideas?
Hi Phil! I can offer a couple suggestions since I make milk kefir also. How much kefir are you making per batch? I make a pint a day, and drink a pint a day, and sometimes I forget to drink a jar and yes, it can start to pile up in the fridge. I am familiar with surplus kefir. For storing the kefir grains, I put them in a mason jar with enough distilled water to cover them, then put them in the fridge. They'll keep for months. As far as things to do with surplus kefir, I haven't tried making kefir cheese, but I've heard of it. I've made kefir bread, and my wife likes to make kefir fruit smoothies.
Here's a couple links to other threads here on Permies about kefir which you may find helpful.
Thanks, James, for those hints! This is a fun thing to do! Well, I started with a quart, but am scaling back quickly. A pint is probably about right. It is fermenting quickly in this warmer weather, and I can probably use fewer grains because of that too.
I'll try the distilled water "rest" for some - I wanted to keep a back-up culture of the grains and that sounds very simple. That's a great suggestion I hadn't come across yet.
The kefir bread thread was really interesting too. I am guessing that I can also substitute for buttermilk in almost any recipe (being another cultured product, it seems very similar to me in consistency and taste).
That substitution for buttermilk was exactly what I was going to suggest. We seldom have buttermilk in the fridge, but nearly always have some plain kefir. I do sometimes find it necessary to water it down just a tiny bit when baking with it if it thickened too much before I used it. Nothing to precise. I just add a splash of water to my batters if they seem too thick.
I also like to use it instead of milk and sourcream when I make beef stroganoff. There's probably a lot of recipes where it can replace sourcream just as easily as buttermilk.
I bet you could also use it as a great salad dressing base. Though thinking about it, I think buttermilk is also used there, so it's not really new information.
I have dehydrated kefir grains at low temps and stored them in powdered milk in the freezer for years and have had them revive.
Kefir cream is really tasty just use cream instead of milk. Then you can go on to cream products like butter and ghee. The butter is tasty the ghee is heavenly. Ghee stores unrefridgerated for a really long time.
Critters love kefir. Dogs, chickens and some cats in my household. They eat the grains too, except for the cats.
Draining kefir gives kefir cheese (so called) and whey. I use the whey in bread and some soups. The cheese goes on bread or veg.
Remember kefir is fermented and fermentation is a storage technique. So it keeps a long time.
I have kept it in the fridge for about 6 months until it had almost all evaporated (the container had a cloth lid). I strained the grains out, washed them in water, and put them in a clean jar with fresh milk and they started back up no problem.
Diego Footer on Permaculture Based Homesteads - from the Eat Your Dirt Summit