Monday, May 23, 2011

Kefir! Kefir! Kefir!

The lady at the farmer’s market who sells me my milk every week (I now know her name-that is a big step!) has tried in the past to sell me on the Milk Thistle yogurt.

“I have another customer who says it beats the pants off the yogurt at {insert another local farm}, you should maybe try it. It is drinkable, a little looser than {insert another local farm}’s yogurt.”

I regretfully inform my almost-new friend (whaddya want, I am actually pretty shy deep down), that I am not interested in her yogurt because it is drinkable. I explain Thing 1 likes Greek style yogurt, I buy the other yogurt because Thing 2 occasionally eats it and doesn’t like the Greek stuff. Oh, and I cook with {insert another local farm}’s yogurt.

Finally she wears me down, okay I will try it. And it was delicious. But I didn’t buy it again. I just wasn’t ready for change. But maybe, just maybe, my almost-new friend planted a seed…

Late last month, inspired by a recipe I had seen for vanilla water kefir soda during a blog carnival, I decided to hop on over to The Kefir Lady’s website. MB, my kombucha mentor suggested I try kefir, but at the time I wasn’t interested. He told me about the website though and I filed it away. Thinking about probiotic cream soda though was enough to make me commit to shelling out cash for kefir grains. And while I was at it, I might as well try using the milk grains. I ordered one order of milk grains and one order of water grains.

Marilyn contacted me about a week later to say that they would be arriving the following week, which they did. I didn’t mind paying for my grains. Especially because I do not know anyone personally except MB who makes their own kefir. When the grains showed up I was very excited! I bought coconut water right away for the water grains and poured the milk over the milk grains that night.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. The process for the water grains seemed more like the kombucha with which I was comfortable…sugar water solution, let ferment for 3-5 days, strain and allow for a second fermentation in a bottle. But the milk kefir procedure was altogether different. Every day?! They would eat more and more and more milk if I let them? The grains sounded like selfish greedy little beasties to me.

But I gave it a whirl. The first day they produced a thin mild kefir, about 2 cups worth. I wasn’t sure what to do with it, so I put it in the fridge. The next day it was the same, but I could already see that the grains were growing bigger. My milk source is excellent and quite high in fat, and Marilyn said the grains LOVE fat. I was making too much kefir. I had a quart after 2 days and I hadn’t even started drinking any! Not to mention the everyday ritual. I was starting to feel like the chubby guy in those Dunkin Donuts commercials from the 80’s. Only I was getting up every morning bleary eyed saying “it’s time to make the kefir, it’s time to make the kefir.”

Finally I did begin to drink the stuff. At first I took a serving, 8 or so ounces, to work. I had my kefir with my granola. I would have brought milk to have with my granola anyway, so this was an easy substitute for calories already in my diet. I tried it, and you know, I really liked it. The taste was pleasing and mild. The texture was not unlike buttermilk. In fact, the kefir itself looked a lot like the buttermilk I had used to make quark all those months ago… And within a week the texture got a little thicker. Especially when I started adjusting the ratio of milk to grains. My water kefir on the other hand was strange, it tasted like sweet fizzy coconut water, but it smelled like cheese.

I have been drinking kefir for breakfast every day for the last couple weeks. It is way more filling than regular milk, so I have been able to lessen my serving of granola or on some days and entirely omit it on others. And to my kefir I add a teaspoon or two of honey (please don’t tell me that that defeats the purpose!) and I have been drinking it through a straw. Although I had stayed away from kefir for the reason that it was too loose, now its liquidity was exactly the characteristic that I was finding the most pleasing. Drinking kefir was downright…comforting. Wholly unexpected.

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