for a few months now, i've been making milk kefir at home.
up until that point, i had bought kefir drinks from the store knowing about it's benefits: kefir is higher in probiotics than regular yogurt.
i saw a jar of what i thought was milk sitting on my friends' window sill... that was when they introduced me to 'kefir grains'... a little while later, they gave me about a tea spoon of the grains to start producing my own kefir.
as soon as i got the grains home, i researched what i had to do to keep them alive (!)... i've had fresh kefir milk daily for a few months and now my grains have started to multiply like crazy...
these are the tools and dishes that i use:
-a glass jar with a large opening (easy for cleaning out)... as pictured
-four smaller glass jars with lids (for storing the actual kefir milk)... they each hold about 1c. of course if you're going to make more kefir at a time, you'll need larger jars.
*some people think that kefir should never come in contact with metal... so my kefir has stayed away from it
the only ingredient you need other than the kefir grains is milk. i recommend homo milk... though 1% and 2% will produce kefir milk, i found that it took longer and the grains never multiplied. organic helps them multiply faster... and even better would be non-pasteurized milk (if you have connections to it and are not pregnant)
this is how i started making kefir milk:
-washed my hands with soap and rinsed them really well... this was to ensure that i didn't introduce any other bacteria into the process.
-put the grains into the bottom of my glass jar with the large opening.
-added about 1c. of homo milk to the grains
-placed the coffee filter on top and an elastic around the opening (to keep bugs out)
-placed the jar in a kitchen cupboard... basically away from direct sunlight or a source of heat that could damage the grains.
this is now my daily 'kefir routine':
-in the evening, after lucy has gone to bed, i quickly take care of the kefir... it's easy for me to remember to do this at the same time of day, everyday... for 1c. of kefir in our house, it takes about 24 hours to make. it will of course depend on how much you want to make and the temperature of where it is being produced.
-wash my hands with soap and rinse them really well... this is to ensure that i don't introduce any other bacteria into the process.
-take the jar out of the cupboard... remove the elastic and coffee filter
-pour the kefir milk through the plastic sift into the ceramic bowl
-wash out the jar really well to ensure there is no kefir or milk residue.
-place the grains back into the clean jar... there is no need to rinse the grains... in fact, not rinsing them helps them to multiply
-pour a new cup of homo milk into the jar with the grains... filter... elastic... cupboard.
-pour the kefir milk from the bowl into one of the smaller glass jars... i use the funnel to make it easier and cleaner.
-place the finished kefir milk into the fridge until i'm ready to use it.
-wash everything really well and leave them to air dry.
you can do all kinds of things with kefir milk including baking and cooking. so far i have only used it to make daily smoothies (or yogurt as we refer to it). using an immersion blender, i simple combine the kefir milk with any fruits or berries we have on hand. if it's too tangy, i add a bit of organic honey or banana to sweeten it. so far lucy's favourite flavour is plain banana.
friends: if i've got you interested... i can hook you up with some grains. no charge. ha!
another option is to buy grains from kijiji or craigslist... seriously... just search for them...
now this is all my experience with 'milk' kefir grains... there are also 'water' kefir grains for those who cannot tolerate dairy products. you can buy those online as well.
although it takes a lot of dedication (weird eh?) to produce your own kefir... it doesn't mean you can't go on holiday or take a break from it. simply place them in your jar with a bit of milk and pop them into the fridge. this will slow down the process. but you will still need to change that milk once or twice a week, depending on how much milk you leave and how many grains you have.
another option is to have someone 'kefir-sit' them for you...