Ew! Aren't they weird? Like soft cauliflower bits.
First I made my milk connection. Rose, who lives just up the hill, sells lovely cow's milk for $3 a gallon. I'm thinking pudding. I'm thinking yoghurt. And cheese. Huh. I did some research on making cheese - it's really complicated. And you need rennent, which comes from calf stomachs. Vegetarians don't have much to do with calf stomachs. Yep, you can get vegetable rennent, but most of it is GMO. And cheese is fussy about temperature. And has to age. Not a project for an impatient slob.
So now I have a fridge full of milk and I'm intimidated by cheese.
Kefir became Plan B - it's easy to make (the grains do all the work) and it's super good for you. Probiotics, you know. Like 50,000 different cultures. And it's 99-percent lactose free. I'm not a lactard, but that can change.
I bought a margarine-tub full of kefir grains from a nice woman in the valley. You have to have connections, man. Can't just order kefir makings on Amazon.com.
OK, I just checked that, and you CAN order kefir grains from Amazon.
Well, I'm feeling a lot less special.
I'll give you the basics, anyway. You keep the grains in the fridge in a jar, in a cup or two of milk. (Raw milk is best, but most kinds will work except for ultra pasturized. It's just too dead.) So the grains can chill in there for about a week without harm. When you're ready to make kefir, rinse the grains in cold water in a plastic sieve, and plop them into a clean jar on the counter. Fill the jar with milk. I usually make a half-gallon at a time. They say it takes 12-24 hours at 70 degrees to turn into kefir. I don't have central heating, so it takes two-three days to make a batch (at least in the winter).
As it brews it thickens and develops an interesting tart flavor. I stop mine when it's pretty thick, and a little layer of yellow whey appears. You can go longer, if you like a slight fizz and increasing sourness in your kefir. If you let it go too long and it's just too tart for you, make cheese (without rennet!) or feed it to the chickens and dogs. So I sieve out the grains, rinse them and store them in a little milk in the fridge. The kefir goes in a jar or bowl in the fridge. One thing - kefir doesn't like metal, so it's best if you use plastic or glass utensils and containers.
Fear of kefirIt took a few small batches before I was brave enough to actually drink it. I liked the idea of making my own (screw The Man, yeah!), liked supporting my local farmer, liked the sweet commercial varieties, wanted the healthy effects, but when it came time to actually swill it down… I poured it into the dog bowl. "Ew," she whined, "It's been sitting out for days, is kinda sour, and looks like calf slobber." The dogs were looking fat and glossy, but I didn't feel any better. Huh.
I finally shamed myself into trying a pint or so with a banana, frozen blueberries and a scoop of frozen apple-juice concentrate, all buzzed up with a stick blender in a wide-mouth quart jar. Delicious! Now I have one every morning. And I'm planning to build a goat-proof fortress for some blueberry plants. And to freeze small batches of berries and fruits from the garden this year, until every smoothie ingredient is homegrown. Mmm.