Milk kefir. Not many things can match its impressive list of benefits, easy recipe, or flexibility of use. To my family, it has been both an extraordinary healing tool and a common staple in our kitchen. Thanks to a good friend for introducing it to us, we will (hopefully!) always have it available to enjoy and in our arsenal of natural remedies. 🙂
It has been about 2 years since we’ve been making it. I’ve taken a couple of breaks (morning sickness!), but, it has come to the rescue for me every time. I’ve tried many recipes with finished milk kefir, changed how I make it, and I’ve finally tinkered around with it enough to come to an excellent routine that makes delicious kefir with only once-a-week maintenance. Perfect for our busy schedule!
There are so many milk kefir tutorial videos and instructions out there that making it can seem overwhelming and confusing. It can even seem scary…my extended family is slowly coming around to it, but I’m sure that the majority of them still cringe at the thought of letting milk sit in my closet or on my counter for 24+ hours! I’ve invested a lot of time trying to figure out how to make kefir the easiest and most delicious way…and I love to read about its benefits and how it has helped people too, of course! I always finish my reading about milk kefir feeling inspired. If you’re interested in any reading about milk kefir, I’ve linked some of my favorite resources at the bottom of this post. Onward, my friends!
The recipe I’m about to share with you is suited to how we like our kefir, but you can change it to meet your own kefir taste and texture preferences. Please feel free to change this recipe and tailor it to your needs.
My recipe for thick, easy, delicious kefir:
Find 1-2 tablespoons of milk kefir grains. Activate grains according to the instructions from the seller; Etsy is a good place to find them, or, if anyone you know makes homemade milk kefir, ask them if they’d be willing to sell/give you any of their extra grains. If possible, acquire grains used to make kefir from raw milk; in my experience, those grains are stronger than grains only used in pasteurized milk and they yield a better flavor.
Notes on milk: I’ve tried 3 kinds of dairy milk to make milk kefir. The very best flavor and thickness comes from raw/organic/antibiotic-free/hormone-free A2 cow milk, Kalona brand whole milk (in 1/2 gallon or 1 gallon jugs), or Organic Valley brand whole milk in 1 gallon jugs only (their half gallon carton is ultra-pasteurized and your kefir grains may not thrive in it). I do not have experience using goat milk, milks that are ultra-pasteurized, or low-fat milk. I find that making milk kefir from pasteurized milk is more economical while still maintaining incredible probiotic benefits. However, the milk kefir made from raw milk is an entirely different ballgame in terms of flavor. It is absolutely delectable.
Because we make only one batch of milk kefir a week, making it in larger quantities is necessary. One gallon or more is what we use in a week. This way, my children and I can enjoy a large kefir smoothie for breakfast and additional kefir throughout the day.
To make 1/2 gallon milk kefir:
1. Place ~1 tablespoon of kefir grains in a clean 1/2 gallon glass jar.
2. Pour 1/2 a gallon of milk over the grains. Put a lid on loosely.
3. Let it sit in a cabinet (or closet; our linen closet works great for us) until it reaches a thick consistency. During winter, this is about 24-34 hrs for us, but the fermentation may differ depending on the type of milk you use and the time of year. Raw milk thickens much sooner than pasteurized milk, so you can let this sit based on your desired thickness or sourness. The kefir should be noticeably thick, but not separated at his point.
4. When it is thick, tighten the lid and shake the jar hard until the congealed kefir breaks up so it can be strained easier. You can also use a hand-mixer in the top of the jar if you have very thick kefir, which will likely be the case if you’re using raw milk.
5. Strain the finished kefir into another 1/2 gallon jar using a pure stainless steel or nylon fine-mesh sieve. It helps to place a funnel under the strainer to make the transfer less messy.
6. Optional: add the peel of half a small lemon or orange to the finished kefir and let it sit on the counter for 1-6 hours. Lemon peel is my favorite second ferment. Letting it ferment a second time with citrus peel for too long will make the kefir separate, but it’s still good. Just shake it up and use it as normal. I prefer to let it sit for one hour on the counter, and without removing the peel, I simply place the whole jar in the fridge to continue the second ferment throughout the week. I like to do a second fermentation because it changes the flavor to a more mild, slightly citrusy flavor, while making the nutrients skyrocket at the same time. So, why not?
7. Place your kefir grains in 1-2 cups fresh milk. I reward my grains by giving them raw milk to eat while they rest. Then, place them in the fridge with the lid of your jar screwed on tightly. Feed them new milk at least once per week; do this by making another 1/2 gallon of milk kefir or by simply refreshing the resting grains by giving them a new batch of 1-2 cups of fresh milk to eat as they stay in the fridge. Finished kefir tastes best if consumed within one week. It will stay good for a long time, but the older it gets, the less lactose it will have, and the more sour it’ll taste. Fruit smoothies cover too-sour kefir very well.
- I’ve discovered that the less amount of grains that are used, the thicker the finished kefir gets. Thicker kefir is what we prefer, so do whatever best suits your preferences. Doing about 1 teaspoon of grains per quart of milk is the smallest amount of grains that I’ve had success with. Doing any less than a small teaspoon per quart of milk may not be enough to culture the milk safely.
- The fermentation time of milk kefir varies based on the temperature of its environment; hotter houses take less time to reach the desired amount of fermentation (aka thickness/sourness). You can go by taste, but I find the congealing of the kefir to be a good indicator of when I like it to be done. You can let it go for 48 hrs, too, if you want. It’ll just be more fermented. But, your grains will probably will be hungry again at 48 hrs, so make sure to remove them from your finished kefir and feed them fresh milk.
- Do not be afraid to try making milk kefir! It’s hard to mess up, really. And, if you do mess up, your nose will tell you something is off. Trust your body. What do you have to lose besides a little milk, anyway? As previously mentioned, this recipe can be changed to suit your preferences. Some people like more sour and thicker kefir, whereas others like less sour and thinner kefir. It’s all up to you! Experiment and have fun. 🙂
Once you’ve mastered the [super easy] art of making delicious milk kefir, you can try making other things with it, such as kefir bread, quick sourdough starter, non-dairy milk kefirs, straining off the whey to make fermented condiments and vegetables, et cetera. There are endless things to try! Here are a couple of yummy ideas: breakfast pudding or fruit smoothies.
Kefir is amazing in ways that extend beyond the kitchen. I have tried some, but not all, of these ideas: kefir as a DIY face mask, a topical treatment for yeast infections or eczema, adding it to compost, feeding it to pets, adding it to a tampon or injecting it vaginally for bacterial vaginosis/yeast infections/general itchiness/preparation for birth in reducing GBS infections, et cetera. Please research these ideas before trying them yourself.
Some personal benefits I’ve received from drinking milk kefir are:
- Calms me down in times of stress (I need 1-2 cups to get this effect)
- Easy digestion of any food, no matter how processed
- Reduction of cravings
- Healing of my teeth (this is also because of eating more animal-based foods in general)
- Clear skin (also due to eating of more animal-based foods)
- No constipation, bloating, or diarrhea
- No more yeast/fungal infections (tinea versicolor, ringworm, and vaginal infections included)
- No more chronic UTIs
- No more ear infections
- Self-control while eating (I used to STUFF myself to a point of discomfort…probably because I was nutrient deficient. Thanks, veganism!)
Good sources for learning more about kefir are:
- -Youtube tutorials. There are so many of them! I like this one a lot because the finished kefir looks so delicious.
Do you like milk kefir? Has it changed your life, as it has ours?
- Easy recipe
- Personal benefits experienced
Disclaimer: All information on this blog is for informational purposes only. I am not a licensed medical professional. Please discuss any dietary or lifestyle changes, supplements, or medical questions with your doctor.
Diane Stanislowski is a wife, mother, and researcher with the goal of restoring the practice of traditional holistic approaches to wellness and sharing evidence-based information with the public.
She lives in Grand Forks North Dakota with her husband and two children and receives raw milk and pastured meats from Bartlett Farms.