Posts Tagged ‘kefir’

Kitchen Experiments: Kefir

February 9, 2011

Full of calcium, beneficial bacteria, and - apparently - alcohol.

A buddy from Los Angeles was visiting last week and, as is his habit, he left some bizarre, apparently-good-for-you stuff in my refrigerator. This time, it was kefir. I’m late to kefir, the thick fermented milk drink with origins somewhere in Central Asia.

Like yogurt, it’s full of beneficial bacteria to say nothing of calcium and all those other nutrients of which we rarely get enough. It’s also, according to Harold McGee, ever-so-slightly alcoholic. Even that, however, wasn’t enough to make a  fan of me.

Part of the reason – actually, all of the reason – is the texture of the stuff. I like yogurt but I don’t try to drink yogurt from a glass. Kefir, not quite as thick as yogurt but hardly thin enough to drink, wasn’t much of an improvement. Or at least it wasn’t until it occurred to me – staring at the bottle Ed had left behind – that I could thin the stuff out.

I poured a glass about two-thirds full and then added some water, just enough to thin it out and make it gulpable. It occurred to me, too, that I could add fruit juice as well. Suddenly, the funky white stuff in my fridge wasn’t quite so off-putting anymore.

I drank the kefir-water mixture, pleased with the improved drinkability and the flavor – like yogurt, it’s tart, tangy, and lightly sweet – and then put the bottle back in the refrigerator. A few drinks more and I was nearly out.

I liked the stuff. I would buy more, I decided, but then I realized I could also just make it. The recipe couldn’t be much different from making buttermilk, for instance. Keep a small amount of the kefir to use as a starter, add it to milk, and let it ferment.  So I did.

By the next day, nothing had happened. I opened the bottle – the same bottle the kefir had come in – and found about a liter of regular ol’ milk. The problem, I figured, was that it needed to be warmer. I broke down and looked up directions for making the stuff on line – indeed, it needed time at room temperature to let the bacteria grow. I pulled the bottle from the refrigerator and left it on the counter. The next morning, about 18 or 19 hours later, I checked again. It was still thin.

Disappointed, I considered throwing the mixture away but didn’t. Instead I placed it back in the refrigerator. Some of the information I had read said kefir, developed at a low temperature, would happen and given the slow fermentation, would actually taste sweeter. I really didn’t want to wait a week, however, and removing the bottle from the refrigerator again, placed it back on the counter.

A few hours later, I had kefir, thick and tangy. Actually, I wasn’t sure how it tasted at first.

It might have just gone bad, I thought. It might taste, well, sour and not pleasantly so. I put the now-thickened mixture back in the refrigerator and then, a few hours later, looking for something to have with breakfast, I decided to give it a shot.

It was just fine.

Apparently, kefir culture is really only good used this way a few times. If I want to continue making kefir, I’ll need to buy starter. For now, it’s a nice novelty and I’ll keep it going for a little while longer. If I like it enough after that, I may track down some starter.