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How to Make Fermented Dairy Products Using Kefir

By Abby Eagle

To make Kefir cream you may use Kefir grains or Kefir as a starter. Kefir will dilute the cream according to how much you use, while a disadvantage of Kefir grains is that they tend to get lodged in the cream. Experience will be your best teacher of how much Kefir or Kefir grains you need to culture sour cream.

I generally add equal parts of kefir to 60% fat cream. That is one cup of Kefir and one cup of double weight cream. Once again the incubation period is dependent on temperature, quantity and quality of the starter and substrate.
Cream seems to require a longer fermentation period than milk (about double) and should be gently mixed two or three times in that period.

Light Cream Cheese
A simple cream cheese may be made by straining Kefir through unbleached linen. (Cheese cloth is not quite fine enough.) Cut a piece about 45cm square, boil it for about ten minutes to remove pigment and chemicals, and hang to dry. You may sterilise it with an iron if you wish. Line a large glass bowl with the linen and pour in the Kefir.
Gather the corners of the linen and tie with a length of string, making a loop at the end. Find a clean, cardboard box that is tall enough to hang the bag of cheese with space at the bottom for a glass bowl. Make a hole in either side of the box at the top, just large enough to fit the handle of a wooden spoon through. Hang the bag of cheese from the wooden spoon from the looped string.
Close the lid of the box and cover with a tea-towel to prevent intrusion from insects. Hang the cheese for about 24 hours, or longer if you prefer a stronger cheese. If you need to hang a large quantity of cheese try hanging it from a stick suspended across the backs of two chairs.
Once the cream cheese is dry enough scrape it from the linen bag with a curved scraper and store in a plastic container in the fridge. Transfer the Kefir whey to a glass jar and refrigerate. Kefir whey makes a refreshing drink and may be used in a number of recipes e.g. Ricotta cheese may be made from whey). Kefir whey may be used as a starter for sourdough bread and so on.
In keeping with the traditional spirit wash the linen with a dilute solution of lye water (potassium carbonate) available from Asian grocery stores. Pot ash lye or wood ash lye as it also known may be made by soaking wood ash in a bucket of water overnight. The resulting caustic liquid is decanted and filtered before use. The ash may also be used to scrub bench tops.

Richer Cream Cheese
To make a rich cheese use the same procedure as above but add cream to your initial culture. A good starting ratio is equal parts of milk and cream, as in kefir cream. You may culture the milk and cream together, or separately and mix them prior to hanging.
There are three basic methods for cheese making. A cultured cheese as for the above recipe; a rennet cheese made by adding rennet to hot milk, and a third method of curdling milk by the addition of an acid. The cheese may then have a new starter culture added, be mixed with a variety of other ingredients such as chives and spices, before being pressed into blocks or wrapped in wax, and then left to mature for up to a year or more.

Kefir Butter

Butter is developed by churning cream which causes the fat to separate from the protein. To make butter, gently churn Kefir cream with the ‘paddle’ attachment in a food processor at a slow to moderate speed. After a few minutes the cream should separate into globs of butter and a watery buttermilk. Wash the butter in cool water to remove traces of buttermilk then press the butter into a jar or plastic container with the back of a spoon. Store in a refrigerator.

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Abby Eagle gives comprehensive lectures about traditional nutrition including demonstrations of recipes from around the globe. Abby is the local chapter for the Weston A Price Foundation on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. As well as a wealth of information about ancient wise food ways, he is a source of free Kefir grains and Kombucha. You can find more recipes and information at his website rejoiceinlife.com

COMMENTS - 12 Responses

  1. I have tried my own version of cheese making - will this work - I left out raw milk until it separated (about 2-3 days at present - it’s cold), I then refrigerated the whole lot for several days as I was busy. I have now strained the whole lot into a clean tea towel and have it hanging.
    My question is - will it be edible since I haven’t used a culture as such. Secondly it is taking a while to drain - ?tea towel too thick.
    Comments appreciated.
    Nicole

  2. Use your nose, Nicole. If it smells wrong to you, don’t eat it to be on the safe side. How you made this cheese is how I make cheese now, since I killed my Kefir. I was busy and left it to starve, geez it smelled bad when I found it in the back of the pantry. The chooks loved it though.
    After it has drained for a while, it will look set on the outsides but still a bit mushy in the middle. Scoop the sides and corners of the cheesecloth (teatowel) and place a rubber band around them. Hang it on the line for a few more hours until it stops dripping. Then it’s ready to use.

  3. The method you used Nicole is essentially the way they make raw milk cheese isn’t it?

    I make a goat’s cheese using strained kefir and it tastes just like the goat’s curd you buy in the shops! I culture for 24 hours, then leave to drain in a cheesecloth for another 24 hours. The longer you leave it to hang the less wet it will be.

    There is also a recipe for cheese on the junket tablets which is essentially the rennet method for making cheese. I haven’t tried it yet btu it would be intersting to compare the two.

  4. Thanks Joanne and Marie, I have hung it for 24 hours now and it is still pretty wet. I guess I will hang it outside out of the (beautiful) rain and see how it goes. This is way better than chemistry (which I failed btw). I generally go by my nose, but like to combine instinct with advice, especially from wise women (who seem to be popping out of the woodwork quite frequently for me now I’m looking). Sounds like I should buy some muslin / cheesecloth?
    Thanks X Nicole

  5. hello, I have a question about kefir. Ive been drinking it most mornings after leaving it to ferment for 24hrs, and it seems i tend to feel slighty queezy and sick in the stomach, after drinking it. I decided to go off it for a while to make sure it was the kefir, (and no longer felt ill) then i tried it again today, and felt sick so im pretty sure its the kefir. Im just wondering if anyone else has had this reaction at all or if they know why i might be experiencing it? its almost like i don’t want it to be so after reading about all its health benefits! perhaps its just my body…. thanks

  6. Try letting it ferment for a bit longer. I find that my body does best if it’s had at least 48 hours to ferment. Most times I let it sit for 3 days! When ever I have a tummy ache now, I mix up a Kefir smoothie and I’m digesting normally within hours! Oh, and do you cover it with a cheese cloth or an air tight lid?

  7. Hi Sophie
    Are you replacing breakfast with your glass of kefir? If not, what is normal for breakfast?

    You may be experiencing nausea due to:
    A). If you’ve been a breakfast skipper for a long time and have started the keffir as a breakfast substitute you might have poor stomach acid and digestive enzymes. If you’re a bit of a stress head you might also be sympathetic dominant or living on stress hormones which switches your digestive system off and can leave you feeling queasy after eating in the morning.
    B). Your liver might need some TLC. The tart or sour taste of kefir can be quite stimulating to the liver and gallbladder and this can leave you feeling a little queasy.

    My suggestion would be to try blending the keffir with an egg yolk and a little bit of fruit (such as berries). You won’t taste the egg yolk I promise. The fats in the egg yolk will help with digestion and nourish your liver. Otherwise, start with small amounts of kefir, such as a tablespoon and slowly increase over a period of weeks. Take it at room temperature, not icy cold from the fridge (let it sit on the benchtop while you get ready in the morning and then drink it once it’s warm up a bit).

  8. Thanks Lacey and Sarah for your comments. Its always so great to hear others thoughts. Firstly i usually let it ferment with cheesecloth for 12 hours, then air tight for 12 hours, then its usually in the fridge for another 24 before i eat it. maybe it needs another day…

    Sarah - I have eaten breakfast all my life, when i went off the kefir, I had eggs instead. That said i have been deficient in digestive enzymes before, but i was hoping after eating traditionally for several months i thought they may be back up to scratch! I sometimes take swedish bitters to help with digestion too, which helps alot. But i see that as more of a band aid approach, so it would be great to get my digestion back up and running well again. Im off to a naturopath next week.

    Ive tried kefir with raw egg yolk as well, but it had the same effect. I can tolerate raw egg yolk on its own just fine.

    I suspect my liver could do with some TLC as you suggest!

    Thanks again for you thoughts - hopefully i will be friends with kefir again soon :)

  9. I’ve never tried to leave it under just a cheese cloth. I wonder if it makes a difference? I start mine in an air tight lid until fermented and I usually drink it immediately before it even has a chance to get to the fridge. Who knows! Perhaps your right, maybe your liver needs a little detox before it’s ready for Kefir? Good luck!!

  10. Sophie
    I have read that it takes the body a few weeks to adjust to the kefir. I too felt slight nausea but persevered.It does work as an antioxidant and enhances liver function .
    You might find this site interesting ….if you haven’t been there already.

    http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/Makekefir.html#*Note

  11. 11. Diane Sharon
    Nov 2nd, 2010 at 3:39 am

    I’m a bit concerned about advice of adding an egg yolk. Salmonella has lately been cropping up and I think it’s a bit risky to use raw eggs. Honestly, it could be you are not used to Kefir and it’s amazing amount of good bacteria,
    but it could be something else. It could even be gas coming from your digestive tract being overly stimulated from the kefir.

    I would first make sure I am culturing the kefir perfectly - which means to cover it with a breathable paper towel
    or cloth and rubber band it around so it’s tight. Don’t keep it right near a lot of cooking (the stove when cooking) so the cooking smoke and whatever doesn’t get into your culture. I also keep my culture wrapped with a towel on all sides except the top to help with warmth and it really works. When I remove the towel, the jar feels warm sometimes. Kefir basically keeps itself free of other bacteria, but I still am careful about keeping things clean and pure.

    I would try taking a small dose of it and then building up. If you are stick with just a little bit, it might not be for your system. When I first tried Kefir I think I had a psychological response because I wasn’t used to leaving milk out for 24-48 hours and felt squeamish when I finally swallowed it down. However, I have no negative reactions to it now. I do test each batch to make sure it’s okay.

    To sum it up, I think taking very little and building up would be best. Try a chigger’s worth and move up from there. You may need very little. Those tiny bottles they sell in the supermarkets now of probiotics show that a big glass of Kefir or otherwise is not really necessary to get those bacteria in and helping you digest.

    Hope that helps.

    dsl

  12. 12. Diane Sharon
    Nov 2nd, 2010 at 3:41 am

    P.S. typo - I meant to say, “if you are SICK with just a little bit, it might not be for your system.”

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