While living in Panama, I was given a gift of Kefir Grains. I did not know anything about kefir at the time but decided to try it. What a wonderful yogurt type drink it makes. I think it is more flavorful than anything you buy in the store. First I guess I need to explain that kefir is a probiotic beverage. I have purchased two types of grains: milk kefir grains and water kefir grains.The milk kefir grains can be used with cow milk, goat milk or coconut milk. The water kefir grains can be used with sugar-water, juice or coconut water but more on water kefir when I start working with that in a few weeks.

Kefir grains consist of bacteria and yeast existing in a symbiotic relationship. The term “kefir grains” describes the look of the culture only – it is not a grain at all.

San Clemente 8.18b.2013 002I purchased these grains from a company in the US and had a friend bring them with her when she visited the states last month. They come in a dehydrated state and need to be rehydrated with milk to work properly.

Kefir 8.11.2013 008 I have a supply of raw milk delivered to my door three times a week. For .60 cents I buy a quart of beautiful full fat milk that I have used for making puddings in the past. Now I am using it for my kefir. It will take up to 8 attempts to get my grains really producing. Right now I am only making one cup at a time to get the grains to multiply. Once they start to multiply I will have more grains than needed and will eventually be able to share with friends and neighbors.

Kefir 8.11.2013 011The result, using one cup of kefir with a half pint of fresh frozen strawberries, was two dessert dishes of almost soft-serve consistency. No sugar added just the fresh frozen berries with the tart kefir…it was a hit.

16 thoughts on “Kefir

  1. Nancy, I love the way you describe these things. I have finally settled in Cuenca and I am starting to get my footing in this wonderful country. One of these days, Jac and I want to come visit you and Joe again. Keep living the good life,

    • Hola Doug and Jac, so happy that you are getting settled in Cuenca…You will need to get together with our friend Joe Tana, he moved there about 3 months ago and is also getting settled in. Let us know when you will be making a trip to the coast and we would love to get together for a long visit this time. Nancy & Joe

    • Mary and John, if you are interested in making your own I should have grains to share in a few months….say a prayer they are not growing the way they did in Panama, I just think it is a bit cool here…Nancy

  2. Hi Nancy

    I have been intensely researching fermentation for several months now. I am starting my own cultures for dairy and vegetables. I never liked Yogurt until I made my own. The reason was that American yogurt is extremely sour, and I thought it had to be that way. When I started making my own I realized that if you want less sour yogurt you just stop the fermentation sooner. I ferment mine for 48 hours at 80 degrees and that makes yogurt that I love… I am eating way too much of it–about a gallon a week–and since it is so cheap and easy to make I can’t see any reason to slow down… .

    I cheat, I buy a quart of ultra pasteurized, homogenized milk and add a couple of teaspoons of the previous batch of yogurt, cover it with cloth and then set it in the corner of my bedroom (most stable temperature in the house) and wait 48 hours. To get the original starter, I bought a small container of “live” commercial yogurt and added a couple of spoons full of it to the milk. Other “experts” have said you need to drain the whey from the yogurt and use that. That makes sense if you are going to use it as a starter for something besides milk, but just to make more yogurt I don’t think it is necessary. I am going to get a friend to bring me some Kefir grains in November when she comes back here… They sound like another good way to cheat as well.

    About raw milk… I am sure that you are aware that many people believe it is sure death to drink raw milk. I don’t, but sooner or later you WILL have some kind of problems due to bacteria, yeast, virus or fungus that get in to the milk, either through the cow or from the air where the cows are milked. There is a good chance that fermenting the milk prevents this and here is why I think that.

    I read of a semi-scientific experiment that was done to determine two things…

    1–Will botulism bacteria survive the fermenting process?

    2–Does the shape and type of container used for fermentation affect the fermentation process and the growth of “bad” bacteria?

    They used identical pairs of containers. In one they injected the botulism bacteria into the milk, then the starter was added. In the control containers they only used milk and the starter. This was done in different shaped metal, glass & ceramic jars as well as Ziploc bags.

    After the fermentation was finished, they tested both the control and and infected containers. They could find no difference in the fermentation process. In ALL cases except the Ziploc bags, there was no botulism bacteria detected in either the control or infected containers… BUT with the Ziplocs, BOTH Ziploc bags had botulism bacteria present–the control AND the infected container. They don’t know why, and don’t even have any theories. It could have been human error got some bacteria in the Ziploc–but EITHER way–the fermentation that killed the bacteria in the other containers did not work in the Ziploc bags. So I recommend not using plastic containers for fermentation. This could be specific to Ziplocs, other people use 5 gallon plastic buckets and I have found no reports of bacterial contamination with them.

    This got me to thinking. Raw milk has caused disease problems in consumers since they first started milking cows. It is not a new thing. Historically, drinking raw fresh milk was not common. Probably because they realized that doing so wasn’t a good idea when all the milk drinkers got sick but the non drinkers didn’t.

    Given that raw milk can cause diseases, how do you explain that for the last several thousand years, given the large and widespread consumption of fermented milk products (yogurt, cheese, etc..) made from raw milk–that there is no record of people commonly getting sick from eating them? I think it is because the fermentation process kills most “disease causing” bacteria. This seems to be true of fermented meats, vegetables and dairy products as well. People have been eating fermented foods for thousands of years, and as long as–it is fermented properly–I have not found any cases of where diseases were spread through fermented products. Any ferment can go bad, if it smells bad ALWAYS throw it away. Your nose is better than many scientific test–TRUST IT–at least for identifying the “bad” things. If it smells OK, but looks funny, do some research and if you can not find proof that the “look” is not harmful–throw it away.

    Three books I HIGHLY recommend you read are:

    1–Nourishing Traditions: Challenging Politically Correct Nutrition & Diet Dictocrats by Fallon in 2001

    One of the most fascinating, educational and well documented books I have ever read on the topic of food and health. It covers fermentation but also goes into detail about the health benefits an problems of It also has a lot of really interesting recipes in it as well–ones you will not find anywhere else.

    2–Wild Fermentation by Katz in 2003

    A must read book for those starting out in fermentation and those that want a general overview of the concept.

    3–Art of Fermentation by Katz in 2012

    His second book, I recommend that you read this last since the information in the first two will really help you get more out of this book.


    • Keith, thanks so much for your input it really means a lot to me because I truly respect your research and down-to-earth reasoning…I am going to read the ebooks that you sent me, wonder if Joe can put them on my Kindle??? I made my first sourdough loaf yesterday using the kefir to make a starter…it is delightfully sour and honestly the crust is thick and yummy..the bread itself had great air bubbles not big just right to make it luscious…I baked it in a cast iron pot in the oven, the loaf is huge but beautiful, used the cover for 30 minutes and then took it off for the last 15 minutes…just lovely….tks again, Nancy

    • Karen, it is good, if you can get yourself grains from someone it works better than using the dehydrated ones you can buy…if you go on line there is a list of folks in the US who will share grains with you…pick someone close to your home and email them…lovely sharing people, I even found one in Quito but we were not able to connect so I could get some of her grains….be well, let me know if you decide to do it and we can talk about it and how great it is to make your own…Nancy

  3. Nancy I love your food posts. I learn something new every time. I looked up the two types of Kefir grains and I’m going to order some when I return to the states for Thanksgiving. This looks wonderful and exactly what I need. I bet it tastes good with granola. Did you order the recipe book, too?

    • Hi Deb, It was a great thing when we lived in Dolega because it was difficult to even get store yogurt…OH My with granola (especially if you add more nuts and dried fruits to the store bought stuff) it is wonderful but you can make so many different things with it…just a great learning experience…I used Cultures for Health and they have a live chat during the week, wonderful, knowledgeable. I bought the water kefir also but the instructions say to use unrefined sugar…what??? I can get several types of sugar but unrefined…maybe the blocks of the dark sugar but the taste will be more like molasses…so I have not tried it yet..need to talk to the gals on chat to find out exactly what I need to do to get the dehydrated grains hydrated and ready for me to use coconut water…can you even imagine…I am so excited..kisses to you, Nancy

  4. Not fair my good friend. I can’t eat yogurt and that definitely looks yummy! Just got back from a Minnesota Twins game. They lost. :-(. Hope all is well. Kisses to you and Joe. C U in two weeks.

    • Hi Lyndell, you may be able to eat this because it is not like regular yogurt…unless you have really bad health reactions to yogurt you may want to try it…Sorry the Twins lost, enjoy your time back int he states.. Nancy

  5. Nan,
    Another advantage of yogurt is that the bacteria breaks down the lactose in the milk so even lactose Intolerant people should be able to eat it. Unlike taking the lactase enzyme to break down the lactose, It also builds up the good bacteria so if you eat enough of it and get the good bacteria growing in your gut, you might get over being lactose intolerant altogether. But if you eat the “Light” kind of yogurt from the store it often has “Sucralose” which actually is a chlorinated sugar and so it kills the good bacteria and makes the stuff worthless (or perhaps harmful).

    Other fermented foods that are good for you are Sauerkraut, Kimchee and maybe even pickles! 🙂


    • Tim, I loved my kefir when we lived in Panama but since starting this dehydrated one a few weeks ago it is not growing like I am used to. Not sure if it is because it is pretty cool here right now or that dehydrating grains take longer to get their act together. The kefir is great and I have allowed it over 36 hours for the past two days and the result is thicker with a much stronger flavor. We just had a smoothie made with strawberries and it was excellent. I love all the fermented foods that you describe and make my own sauerkraut here because I cannot find canned on the shelves…thanks for your comment, Nancy

  6. Hi, I have been fermenting little round potatoes in salt water, quart jar with 1 tablespoon seasalt, little bit of whey from my kefir milk and little bit of whey from when I made caliuflaur and garlic with 1/2 whey and 1/2 water, ( filtered water only ) I read about botulism, just incase there is botulism can I stick them in a hot oven before I eat them? Next time I will do 1/2 water and 1/2 whey

    • Hi Michele,
      You make a good point and I am sorry but I cannot answer your questions. I make kefir but that is about my limit. There is a lady on Facebook Donna Schwenk that I have followed for a while. She does a great deal with kefir and separately cultured veggies. If you go to the above link you can ask her a questions. She has gotten back to me in the past so she should be able to at least answer your questions.

      The only fermenting I have done is I make my own sauerkraut and have done it for several years but the recipe I use only calls for sea salt and the cabbage does all the work. I have made refrigerator cultured veggies, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, onions, celery but have never used whey or kefir in the recipe.

      Hope Donna can help you with your questions.

      thanks for following our blog, Nancy Levin

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