I love yogurt. I think it is delicious. I drink it, spoon it, spread it, and cook with it. While Jason was purchasing his homebrewing supplies (I hope to get him on here to write about THAT) I browsed the back half of the Corvallis Brewing Supply looking at wine making supplies, bulk brewing containers, and books. I happened to peek into the fridge with the yeast and saw that besides beer and wine supplies, they offered cultures and the like to make cheese, yogurt, and kefir.
Now I had no idea what kefir was. I had seen it in the dairy cases of my grocery stores, but kind of wrote it off as some kind of hippie health food (yep - laugh at the fact that it was ME thinking that). What I will say is that I really really really really really wanted to learn how to make cheese. When I investigated one of the cheesemaking books on the shelves I learned of a graduated process toward the chemistry of cheese that allowed one to learn just a couple of skills at a time.
And it started by making kefir.
First I had to learn what kefir was. What I have learned is that kefir comes from Turkey and is a means of fermenting milk. The end result is a sour, thick mixture that is similar in taste to yogurt, but contains different nutrients. Once I learned this I became intrigued and decided to give it a try.
The only thing I had to do to make my kefir was to bring my milk (I used 1% organic milk, but you can do it with most kinds including coconut and soy) to a certain temperature and add the kefir culture. I then poured the milk into jars, covered them with a cloth, and set them on the kitchen counter to ferment. If i wanted it to take longer I could put it in the fridge, but I wanted my kefir ASAP.
The end result of my first batch was a thick milky substance similar to pourable yogurt. It was sour enough to make me want a BIT of added sweetness - fruit for example - but had a pleasant tang like eating plain yogurt. I took two jars, added to them some canned apricots I brought from Moab, and began eating it every morning with fruit and Kashi. The rest I left in a larger jar in the back of the fridge to keep fermenting - albeit more slowly.
The one thing that confused me about the kefir was that all reports I got on it included the fact that I needed to strain out the "kefir grains," or the culture I put into the milk to get fermentation started. However, when I did strain the kefir I saw nothing that looked like these grains. I looked up pictures online to see if I was just looking for the wrong thing, but nothing has matched up.
I am currently trying an experiment with the kefir from the big jar, putting half into a strainer with a clean cloth in it to see how thick I can get it.
All in all the kefir experiment has been a success. I ended up with a gallon of kefir for $5 and 24 hours. It looks like what I made will last me almost a month.