Sunday, July 10, 2011

Kefir… what the heck is Kefir???

Friends ask…  “what do you feed your dogs??”  Along with many other things I mention Kefir.  Kefir??  What the heck is kefir?  Yogurt on steroids, I say. huh?   Keeee-fer is the way I’ve always said it..  then I had a Russian gal in my class not long ago and I ask her if she was familiar with Keeee-fer and she looked at me puzzled and then said OOHH..  Ke-FEAR…  who knew?  …no one ever spoke the word to me… 

If all you want is “The Rest of the Story” scroll down and you’ll skip
“The Journey” and simply read about “The Destination”

Anyway, it all started for a dog (Kobie) who was diagnosed with Pancreatic Insufficiency.  As I started researching enzymes, probiotics, etc. I came across Kefir.   This was, if I recall correctly, in 2007.  So I bought some at the grocery store…  hmm thick.. very expensive and not what I would give to dogs.  So I went to the health food store and got some “starter”… little did I know what a poor substitute this was for the real thing… wonder I never liked it.   So I made it and gave it to the dogs for a a few months and then stopped for a few years.  Recently for other dog reasons (bloat) I looked into it again but this time bought some grains from The Kefir Lady who shipped them to me.  (by the way… don’t by grains..  they multiply and I have lots!! …when I get too many, the dogs get them in their food (lucky dogs, huh?) but I’d be willing to share.)   Anyway, when they arrived, I looked at them and thought hhhmm….  this is going to be interesting!

Several other websites I found helpful are The Happy Herbalist and Dom’s Kefir site but there are lots out there including two yahoo discussion groups, and

The health benefits of this amazing drink are all over the web but click here for a good link to check them out.

So I’ll try now to show you what I do and will add some things that I discovered.  First…  you have grains, they look like cauliflower and they keep you in business, so to speak!  The amount in the first photo is what I put into one jar of milk is shown.  I generally do two batches at a time. Let it sit for 12-24 hours (more about that in “Things I’ve Learned”) and then pour through a strainer and put in containers for storage..  or drinking whichever comes first..  although I do like it cold! I’m writing this, by the way, in December 2010. 

IMAG0091   IMAG0090   IMAG0088   IMAG0093 (2)   IMAG0094 

So now…   things I’ve learned:
  • If at first you don’t like it… give it to the dogs.. they like anything and that’s how it got started anyway. It gets better I promise.  Just don’t QUIT!
  • Keep it out of reach of the dogs. (need I say more??  …see photo where it’s on refrigerator.  Now I put it in the oven….no the oven is NOT on!)
  • Listen to and read what others have to say:
    • Grains need to grow and if there are too many grains for the amount of milk you are using, it will separate and taste terrible (my words).    What should you do…  use fewer grains or more milk…  duh…
    • The longer you let it sit, the more it will separate so don’t forget about it.
  • I don’t really like it without doctoring it up..  lately it’s kind of good when I taste it and I can tell the difference between batches but I still don’t drink it straight.
  • Do NOT (I repeat NOT) heat it.  I thought “what could happen”.. it’s hard to explain..  stringy, yucky.. even tried on oatmeal – won’t do that again.  Maybe you should try it just once, however, to see what I mean.  :)
  • I don’t know anyone who has a cow, nor do I have a cow, nor do I really want a cow for fresh raw milk. Ditto that for goats. I find that regular store bought milk works fine.  Actually I use powdered milk and add more powder than they call for and it gets creamier.  Apparently, I’m not a purist.
  • All is not lost if it really separates… the dogs don’t care, that’s what makes the best cheese and it’s just fine in smoothies! (see photo of refrigerator door with 3 bottles – one batch separated and the other didn’t separate)
  • If it separates and you shake it be aware that it’s like shaking a soda and it will fizz and maybe even pop the top off. 
  • Summer and winter are different – right?  Remember:  the warmer it is, the faster it processes.  During the winter I put a refrigerator bulb in my oven and put the kefir there to help it along.  I’m told kefir likes the temperature to be in the 70s..   don’t we all?? 
  • Ways I’ve consumed it:
    • Added baking cocoa and stevia to a bottle to taste… yum …chocolate milk. (update on that…  it’s only Nestle’s Quik now…  my favorite chocolate flavor!)
    • Froze some of the chocolate milk and then blended it and voilà …. a icy drink! (can’t wait till summer!)
    • Eggnog – half and half with the real stuff..low fat of course!  Added some blackberry brandy..  yum.. (at least I think so..)
    • Added some eggnog to the chocolate slush…blend..a smoothie..  (Eggnog - can you tell it’s Christmas, huh?)
    • Smoothies..  pictured is a chocolate one and another blended with frozen berries.
    • You know all those coffee flavorings out there today..  if you’re into them I’ll bet they would make it taste REAL good!  French Vanilla, Chocolate Mint, Hazelnut…
    • Cereal… poured over cereal with stevia sweetener. (no hot cereal please)
    • And then there is cream cheese and parmesan cheese. The cream cheese could be flavored any way you choose. (chocolate… ooohhh)  I’m addicted to it on my peanut butter and jelly rice cake (organic of course) for breakfast.  And what is left over when you strain the kefir is the whey which I bottle and pour over the dogs food. (see photo with red funnel and then bottles of clearer liquid.
    • AND sour cream!  I mixed 3 parts kefir to 1 part sour cream and just used it for a dip or with an avocado dip or bean dip and tostados.
2010-11-23 17.49.48  2010-11-23 17.52.07  2010-11-23 17.52.33  IMAG0084 IMAG0086  IMAG0083   2010-11-23 18.14.34    IMAG0112  IMAG0095   IMAG0096    IMAG0105    IMAG0149    IMAG0158  

So there you have it!  Lots of trial and error for me!  The good thing is that nothing is wasted when you have dogs AND when it separates, make CHEESE!  There are lots more technical terms that others use but from me…  this is it!!  You want technical terms….look elsewhere! (I did provide links, remember?)  It really can be good stuff but you have to take time to experiment with it!  Overall, has it taken much of my time.. nope!  I have to wait 15 minutes when I soak Kobie’s food with those darn pancreatic enzymes and this is a perfect thing to keep me busy while dogs are hovering wondering why they can’t have the food which is so obviously ready for them!   Have fun!

Please note:  Clicking a photo will enlarge it if you want to see the stuff closer up!!  Smile

- I made it WITH low fat chocolate milk – oohh – good stuff!  I’m sure it wouldn’t pass in the purest sense but I’m fine with that and am not posting this on any list.  OH..  and I made cream cheese with it also – yum!  Won’t mix those grains with the others!
1/8/11 - Check out Coconut Milk Kefir!  Looks yummy – I think I’ll try it!  Got this tip from a friend!
7/4/11Kefir and cancer – the results of a study…  very complicated so if someone understands it and wants to report to me that would be great!  In the meantime..  the big picture – It’s all good!

SO – What’s the latest?
– So this is what it has come down to….  smoothies and cream cheese…. both of which can be flavored various ways.  I do one batch at a time (less dogs) and if I get too much just put the current batch in the refrigerator for a day or so until I’m ready for it.  If it separates, I make cream cheese, if it doesn’t I have a drink.  I use what I have left over from the cream cheese (the whey – people pay good money for whey) for smoothies or on the dog’s food.  I even use different bowls now to make it..  check it out!  A salad spinner! … an old one I got in a thrift store!  I see a plastic pitcher with a built in strainer and a loose fitting lid…  oops.. the lid didn’t get into the pictures… take my word for you! So I put the milk in the pitcher and the grains in the strainer.  The lid has spinner so you don’t have to stir it.  (I so stir it but most often just spin the thingy on the lid which spins the basket….  THEN…  to drain it, just lift out after jiggling the strainer around a bit and pour with the spout into whatever you like.  I found one online that is more likely the updated version of mine…  might just have to purchase that so I’ll have 2!

IMAG1134     IMAG1135    IMAG1138    Progressive International Salad Spinner

Well that’s it..  Everyday I try to have the following:

  • A protein drink made with kefir and protein powder.  Actually I like to make these thick enough to eat with a spoon. Some flavors:
    • Chocolate powder with frozen berries or any variety of frozen fruit.
    • Vanilla powder with peanut butter, Stevia, ice cubes
    • Vanilla powder with frozen pineapple, juice.
    • Vanilla or chocolate powder with instant coffee, latte powder, Stevia, ice cubes
  • A glass of Kefir with Nestles Quik and a little Stevia.
  • Peanut, butter and jelly on an organic rice cake.

Yep…  not a purist…  but lovin’ it!   ….and so are the dogs!

November 9, 2011 – YET another update!  Saw on a list that Marilyn, the “kefir lady” needed to buy back some grains because she can’t produce enough herself to fill all her orders.  Why not I thought..  Here were her parameters:

I need your extra milk kefir grains if you can spare any. I will take any amount you have.They need to be making kefir continuously at room temperature for at least two weeks. I don't want any kefir grains that have been frozen recently or refrigerated. They have to be actively growing. I promise to find good homes for them.

So I contacted her and said I will send you some and if you like them I’ll send you more and if not, I won’t.  Mine were growing SO fast and I was giving them to the dogs so I thought why not make $15/cup that she was willing to pay.  But, hey, mine were made from powdered fat free milk, not goats milk so I was totally prepared to have them rejected.  Well, she loved them and called them “monster” grains and what did I do…  uh oh.. I had to fess up and admit that I wasn’t a purist.. didn’t seem to matter because apparently they were so good!  So if you didn’t click the link at the beginning of this post and read about the Kefirlady, you should do so now!!  oh…  and I promised not to refrigerate them ever again!!  Smile











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