Makes about one quart
Simple and forgiving kefir is one of the most ancient and prized cultured milks. It’s made with a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (s.c.o.b.y) commonly called a kefir grain (though it isn’t a grain). Kefir grains thrive and reproduce in raw milk from cows and goats (and other traditional dairy animals!). Excess kefir grains can be used to culture a variety of foods. My favorites are coconut milk kefir, grape juice kefir, and kefir-kraut.
1 quart high quality milk, non-homogenized and not ultra-pasteurized
1 tablespoon active kefir grains (see cooks note)
In a one-quart glass canning jar combine the milk and kefir grains. Cover with a cloth or paper towel. Secure the cover tightly with a string or rubber band. Store at room temperature. Kefir is ready when it has thickened slightly and become pleasingly tart, about 1-4 days. Check twice daily by stirring with a wooden spoon and tasting.
Use a non-reactive strainer (or clean fingers) to separate the kefir grains from the finished kefir. Store in a tightly covered glass jar in the refrigerator. Place a sheet of wax paper underneath the lid. (The paper prevents the acidic kefir from contacting the lid.) The flavor remains stable for up to one week. As the kefir is stored longer the flavor becomes increasingly tart. Store for up to two weeks.
The grains can be used to make additional batches. Store kefir grains for up to one month, covered in milk, in a tightly sealed jar in the refrigerator. Longer storage requires re-activation (see cooks note).
Kefir may be served alone, sweetened with maple syrup, or used in fruit smoothies.
Long-stored kefir grains may need to be re-activated. To re-activate 1 tablespoon of grains place them in a small jar and cover with ¼ to ½ cup milk. Cover with a cloth or paper towel. Secure the cover tightly with a string or rubber band. Store at room temperature until the milk separates into solid curds and liquid whey. Strain out the grains. Discard the curds and whey. Repeat a second time. The kefir grains are now active and ready for use.