Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kefir

Less than a year ago I didn't even know that kefir existed.

Well, Ok, I guess that's a bit of an exaggeration.  I had heard the word kefir, I had seen it in grocery stores near the milk. I think I had a vague idea (I think from reading about it in Weston Price stuff during my pregnancy) that is tasted like yogurt.  I honestly thought it was just one of those fad foods that may have originally been a healthy thing, but I was quite sure if I stopped to read the ingredients on these bottles of kefir I would find they were loaded with unhealthy stuff.  That was about the only notion I had of kefir just less than a year ago.  (And I have stopped to read the labels on the cow kefir since then & have learned that most of it is loaded with sugar & other things that I don't consider healthy, so I was, in a sense, correct)

And now kefir is a huge deal in my life. 

Back when Lil J was 10 months old or so I decided to start transitioning him over to whole cow milk from his formula.  I know that everyone does this differently, but I (completely on my own, I didn't read this anywhere--though after doing this I saw other people online saying they did this & I also saw other mother's saying it was the stupidest thing they had ever heard of) decided to make it gradual.  So at first I did 6 oz of formula mixed with 2 oz of cow milk.  I remember thinking he had a cold, his little nose was all stuffed up & he kept sneezing & had TONS of mucous all day long.  I had thought the cold would pass.  After 2 weeks (& the cold had not lessened at all) I moved him to 4 oz of formula & 4 oz of cow milk.  It was then that the mucous situation worsened TREMENDOUSLY & I realized it wasn't a cold at all, it was a reaction to the cow milk. 

I went to a health food store to buy goat milk, to give it a try.  I was looking for the powdered form, since it was like the formula, I thought that would be easiest.  I couldn't find it, so I asked someone who worked there.  She said they had it & went to look for it, but couldn't find it.  She showed me the evaporated form in a can & the fresh version in the dairy case.  She went to ask why she couldn't find the powder & came back to tell me they didn't carry it anymore. 

While I was waiting for her to come back a guy who worked there (who had overheard us talking) told me they also had goat yogurt in the dairy case, just in case I was interested.  I told him thank you.  Once she came back & I learned they didn't have powdered goat milk I wandered around & thought it over & decided to take some of the fresh stuff home, just to see if it would agree with Lil J.  While I was thinking it over it occurred to me that Lil J LOOOOVED yogurt, I had given it to him many times, but he always threw it up afterward.  I wondered to myself if that was maybe because it was COW yogurt. I wondered if I gave him GOAT yogurt if he wouldn't throw it up.

So I went back to the dairy case & grabbed a carton of goat milk & a container of goat yogurt.  When I got home I was looking at the yogurt & on the label was advertising for their goat kefir.  I think it was then that I googled kefir & learned a little more about it. 

Not only did Lil J do well with the transition to goat milk, he LOOOOOVED the goat milk.  And I have to say that he really didn't like the taste of the cow milk when I was trying to do that transition.  He also loved the goat yogurt & does not throw it up.  And, of course, he LOVES kefir.

Up until very recently I bought him the kefir from the store.  There is only one maker of goat yogurt & kefir to my knowledge.  I really love the company, they have such great products  & great ingredients.  They do not add sugar, only sweetening with fruit & honey & maple syrup.  In the beginning I would vary the kefir.  They had 2 flavors & a plain one.  Later on it occurred to me that I could give Lil J even more variety by buying the plain one & flavoring it myself.  Even better I thought, because they flavored their's with juice & I could do it with whole fruits & veggies in the blender rather than just juice.  And so that's what I did for a long time.

Now goat milk is already close to double the price of cow milk (organic cow milk, that is).  Depending on where you shop it might even be more than double the price of cow milk.  And when I first started buying the kefir it was the same price as the goat milk.  So I would give him milk with breakfast & kefir with lunch & dinner.  A few months later the price of the kefir went up, so I started only serving kefir with lunch to cut back on costs.  And then just a couple of months ago the price of the kefir went up again, quite a bit.  I did ask the company who makes it & they said that their costs had not increased at all, but that they could not control the price that stores sell it for.

I mentioned it to hubby, saying I was sad because I liked giving it to Lil J, it's so healthy for him, plus he's getting his fruits & veggies in it too.  I told hubby my only thought was to cut it back to every other day with lunch.  Hubby suggested I look into what it takes to make my own.  And so I did (I already had an idea, I knew it involved grains) & I ordered myself kefir grains, plastic strainers, & mason jars.  And off I went on my kefir journey.

In the beginning I was making both cow & goat kefir.  Cow for me & goat for Lil J.  I do like the taste of kefir & I do like the health benefits.  But I gave up making the cow kefir, at least for now, it's just not something I can drink everyday.  I'm the same way with yogurt.  I get tired of it FAST. 

It took me a couple of weeks to really narrow it down to clockwork, but I am there now.  It's really quite easy.  Most of it is just based on your personal taste preferences & you tweak it accordingly.  I've got it down to knowing how much milk to how much grains I need to brew for 24 hours (you can vary the time of brew, but 24 hours is easiest for me to keep track & remember when it's due).  And then I learned it tastes even better if you let it sit in the fridge for 24 hours before you drink it, at least by my taste buds, that is.

So every morning I strain out the one that's on the counter brewing & put it in the fridge to sit for 24 hours.  I then put the grains I strained out with new milk & set that out to brew until the following morning.  And then I pull out yesterday's from the fridge & put it in the blender with fruits & veggies for today for Lil J.  I seem to have a good idea of how much I need for each batch, but if I get ahead of myself all I have to do is stick it in the fridge (grains & all) & it slows down the brewing.

The grains grow & reproduce as well--they are living organisms, you have to take care of them & feed them, it's a little like having a pet to care for.  So as the grains grow I remove the excess (or else the kefir comes out too strong for my taste) & store those in milk in the fridge.  I give them new milk once a week to keep them alive.  I'm still learning about uses for them & eventually will offer some to give away if anyone is interested.  And I want to make a back-up in the freezer just in case something ever happens to the grains I'm using on a daily basis.

For some reason, when I was first making the kefir & was making both cow & goat, I noticed that the cow kefir was much thicker than the goat kefir.  I emailed & asked the woman I bought the grains from.  She said that goat kefir will ALWAYS be thinner than cow.  I still wonder WHY, she didn't specify.  I know that the fat cells are very different between cow & goat milk & it's because of this that makes the goat milk more easily digested.  I suppose it has something to do with that.  And the only store-bought kefir I have bought is goat & while the consistency of it did vary from bottle to bottle somewhat, it was thicker than what I am producing.  I can only assume that they added more cream to it.  I have no source for goat cream, so that's not an option for me.

And so I am now a kefir maker & am very happy about it.  I am hopeful that Lil J will continue to love kefir throughout his whole life.  And I am hopeful that he will have a very strong & healthy digestive system (which is the first step to a strong & healthy immune system as well) due to consuming all this kefir & yogurt so early on in life.  

3 comments:

Calfkeeper said...

I think it's awesome that you make your own kefir. I used to LOVE it when I could get it back in CA. But it's not something you can buy in stores around here, and I am not sure I could put the effort into making my own. Sometimes I DO make my own sourdough starter, and that also requires the "feeding" and refrigeration and all. I ought to look into it.

Frau Guten Tag said...

I've always wanted to make my own sourdough starter & have never gotten to it yet.....

in a couple of months I should have enough extra kefir grains that I'll be offering to give them away I think......if you want I can send you some then & you can give it a try, it's really not hard at all, but the first few batches are trial & error until you get it to taste how you want.

(((((HUGS))))) sandi said...

GO GIRL!!!!! I am so impressed! LOVE THIS! (((((HUGS))))) sandi