There are many of you that have been consuming our kefir consistently enough to notice changes in your body. Several of you have let me know how strong your immune systems feel and how healthy you feel as a result. There are also those who have seen lower cholesterol scores! I send a huge congratulations out to all of you. It is not easy to change your lifestyle and create a new habit. Many of you have done it!
As winter is approaching, our regular River’s Edge clients have been asking us how much longer our goats will be producing milk before their milking season ends and how much longer kefir will be available. For those of you who are new to our dairy, you may be wondering why these questions are being asked. One of our practices that makes our milk so good is that our goats produce milk seasonally. This means our goats produce milk when their bodies are geared up to do so during the days that are increasing or are long in day length. Once the days begin to shorten in August and into the fall, our goats’ reproductive cycles kick in and the goats’ efforts turn from milk production to reproduction. At River’s Edge Goat Dairy, we honour this natural cycle of the goat. We do not process fresh milk products from sometime the beginning of winter through to mid-March when our goats kid and the lactation cycle resumes.
I do not want any of you to lose momentum on growing your healthy gut flora while our goats take their break from producing milk over the winter. You can maintain those microbe populations! You can make your kefir at home easily.
When looking at online recipes for making kefir, it sounds so complicated. Keeping kefir grains, feeding them, dividing your grains, giving them to neighbours, etc. It sounds as difficult as learning about and keeping a new pet! Don’t worry! I have a much simpler way.
The kefir culture we use at River’s Edge Goat Dairy contains LOTS of different microbes. About 18 different species of microbes in fact! These beneficial microbes will grow and thrive in any milk. You may not have the goodness of River’s Edge Milk over the winter, but you can maintain the population of microbes in your digestive system. And if you did freeze some River’s Edge Milk for the winter, kefir can be made from thawed milk as well.
You don’t need any special equipment to grow and maintain your kefir culture. You only need one litre of milk; any milk will do. I don’t recommend nut beverages, which are not milk and do not contain lactose. Lactose is the milk sugar that the kefir cultures thrive on. During the fermentation process, the microbes consume the lactose present in milk and turn it into lactic acid. Therefore, those that are lactose intolerant can consume kefir, yogurt and even some cheeses! I’ll explain more on lactose intolerance in a future blog.
As the microbes convert lactose into lactic acid, the pH in milk drops, the milk chemistry changes, and curd is formed. This is the process that gives kefir its thick texture. Many variables contribute to this texture including the type of milk used, the temperature of the fermentation, the length of time the fermentation takes place, the quality of the milk and the amount of culture used. The thickness of the curd had nothing to do with the presence, or lack there of, of microbes. The acidity, or taste, of your kefir lets you know how many microbes are present. You are aiming for a slight sour taste and a slight effervescence, or feel of bubbles on the tongue.
To make kefir at home, save the last Tablespoon of your River’s Edge Kefir. Purchase one litre of milk that you would like to turn into kefir. This may be goat milk, but it can also be cow, sheep or water buffalo milk. Whatever milk you can find and are comfortable drinking. PLEASE be sure that whatever milk you are using is pasteurized. Pasteurized milk is not only the safest choice, it will provide a medium for your kefir culture, which are the microbes you want, to flourish. Remember, you only need a small amount of kefir daily to maintain your gut flora, and the kefir fermentation is going to make the milk easier to digest, so don’t get too hung up on what milk you are using. The main goal is to maintain those microbes. You can get back on to River’s Edge Kefir and milk in the Spring when our goats are milking again.
Warm your one litre of milk up to room temperature. You can do this by simply leaving the milk on the counter for an hour. The exact temperature isn’t critical, but it should be between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius for best results.
Once you feel your one litre of milk is close to room temperature, add your remaining one Tablespoon of River’s Edge Kefir. Shake the milk well for about 30 seconds, then let your milk sit undisturbed in a draft free and warm location for 36-72 hours. At River’s Edge Goat Dairy, we do a 72-hour fermentation.
Once this time period is up, taste your kefir. It should have a pleasant, slightly sour taste and leave a bit of a tingle on your tongue. If the kefir to your liking, simply put your new kefir in the fridge. If your kefir is too weak tasting, leave it on the counter and try again in a couple of hours. If your kefir is too strong, note the time and remember to shorten your incubation time next go round.
Don’t use the thickness of your kefir as a gauge of quality. The thickness is a result of your milk chemistry and is not a sign of quality of the microbes in your finished product. Depending on the milk you use, your kefir may be thick, it may be thin. Embrace the job this food is supposed to do and enjoy your final product.
That’s it! That’s all! If you want to make more kefir, simply save one Tablespoon from the batch you just made and buy another litre of milk to inoculate. Easy!