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Topic: OT: Kefir (3 msgs / 128 lines)
1) From: Randall Nortman
On Sun, Jul 08, 2007 at 01:31:34PM -0400, Angelo wrote:
<Snip>
Nope -- yogurt is made at high temperatures (around 115F-120F if I
remember correctly) and takes only a few hours.  Kefir is made at room
temperature and takes 12-24 hours, so a yogurt maker wouldn't work at
all.  I find kefir is best made even a bit cooler than normal room
temperature.  Mine comes out best during the winter, when "room
temperature" in my house means around 66F.  In the summer it's around
78F and that's a bit too high for kefir, so I put it in the
refrigerator for part of the fermentation period.
Making kefir is easier than making yogurt in my experience, because
everything happens at room temperature and you don't need to sterilize
your utensils -- the symbiotic kefir organisms form a rather stable
culture and will fight off contaminating organisms like E. coli and
salmonella, so long as the bad organisms aren't given a head start.
(This has actually been shown in lab experiments.[1])  I should caution,
though, that such things are never completely reliable, and if you
have a weakened immune system for any reason, I'd stick with
store-bought kefir.
The basic process is that you take the kefir "grains" -- which look a
bit like tiny clusters of cauliflower or ocean coral -- and put them
in milk in a non-reactive container (glass jar).  No need to boil or
sterilize anything, but everything should be clean.  You leave that
for 12-24 hours until it thickens, strain out the grains, put the
kefir in the refrigerator, and start another cycle by putting the
grains you strained out in fresh milk.  The grains are actually a
community of yeasts and bacteria living on a polysaccharide substrate
that they construct themselves (a little like ocean coral), and they
will grow and "bud" over time, so you end up having extra grains to
give to friends, throw away, or you can do what I do -- eat them.
If anybody wants a source of grains, I can recommend the woman I
got mine from:http://www.kefirlady.com/. I can also send some to you
for the cost of postage, though you'll have to wait until I have some
extra to get rid of.  Marilyn (at the above link) keeps plenty growing
and ships weekly.  (I have no affiliation with her.)
References, lest you think I'm making this up:
[1] Santos, A., San Mauro, M., Sanchez, A., Torres, J.M. and Marquina,
D. 2003. The antimicrobial properties of different strains of
Lactobacillus spp. isolated from kefir. Systematic and Applied
Microbiology 26: 434-437.http://scholar.google.com/scholar?clusterP20253246415814592See also: http://www.foodsciencecentral.com/fsc/bulletin-ff-free

2) From: Randall Nortman
On Sun, Jul 08, 2007 at 01:11:27PM -0500, Rich Adams wrote:
<Snip>
Yeah, that's Dom's kefir site.  Dom is to kefir what our Tom is to
home roasting, except that Dom comes off to me like a rambling, new
age lunatic most of the time.  Which is not to say that he doesn't
know his stuff!  There is a lot of good information on that site, if
you can sort through all the mess and wacky grammar to find it.  But
in the end, kefir is very simple, and there's way more information on
that site than you really need to make kefir.  For the more obsessive
folks (and we don't have any of those here...) it's a great site to
pour over.
<Snip>
They haven't been made in a lab *yet*, which I suspect is probably for
lack of any serious effort to do so, because it's rather easy to just
procure them from other kefir makers instead.  But the straightforward
method of just taking brewed kefir (or organisms isolated from it) and
trying to keep propagating the culture in the hope that the kefir
grains spontaneously form does not actually work.  Nobody has figured
out yet how to "seed" the grains so that they will start growing and
reproducing.  But obviously, it happened at least once, long ago, and
probably quite by accident.  Like with our friend Kaldi and his goats.

3) From: Randall Nortman
On Sun, Jul 08, 2007 at 11:53:47AM -0700, Lisa Carton wrote:
<Snip>
A few tips for you and others who might decide to give it a try:
Marilyn is very good about providing support for people who buy grains
from her, but you can feel free to ask me any questions as well.
Marilyn's personal experience is limited to her own use of the raw
milk from the goats she raises herself, and I think that's a bit
different than using pasteurized cow's milk from the grocery store.
In particular, I end up using a smaller amount of grains than she
recommends, but that also depends a lot on room temperature wherever
you are.
Your first batch probably will not taste very good, until you figure
out the right combination of grains-to-milk ratio, temperature, and
time.  Kefir is also somewhat of an acquired taste for some people,
but it is tweakable to individual tastes (much like coffee).  Letting
the kefir "ripen" in the refrigerator for a day after brewing usually
makes it a little smoother and more palatable -- so you always have
one jar brewing at room temperature and another jar (strained)
ripening in the refrigerator.  On the other hand, now that I've got it
figured out, I really love taking a few swigs of kefir immediately
after straining -- it's so buttery and creamy and delicious right
then.
If the kefir solidifies into curds, it can be hard to strain out the
grains -- in this case, cap the jar tightly, shake well to break up
the curds, then strain it, using a spatula to scrape the sides of the
strainer to help it along.
In the summer, my kefir spends half its time in the fridge: 12 hours
at room temp, then 12 hours in the fridge, then strain and repeat with
fresh milk.  In the winter it stays at room temperature all the time.
It is hard to kill kefir grains (unless you cook them -- never use hot
milk), but it's easy to get them "unbalanced" so that they don't
ferment well or produce overly cheesy or sour kefir.  Regular changes
of fresh milk at room temperature (with time in the refrigerator) will
usually get them back in shape in a few days.  Use any nasty kefir
they make while "sick" to make kefir cheese, pancakes/bisquits, fruit
smoothies, etc.  Lots of ideas for that sort of thing on Dom's site.


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