Making Milk Kefir Is EASY!

First, find a friend who already has kefir grains growing. Ask for about one Tablespoon to get started.

Or, if you do not live near a source, find a reputable vendor online. I used Fusion Teas as recommended by my best friend Jamie.

I could make a video for you, but I like this one from Chrone’s Babe. It’s well done and easy to follow. I pronounce kefir differently though. Not sure which is the right way. I say it like keefir.

Also, fyi, I use regular whole milk from the grocery store, usually off brands like Kroger or Great Value. There is a lot of debate over the quality of kefir based on which milk is used, but in the end, you get super powerful kefir from both kinds of milk. You get the same result, in my opinion. Do what works for you!

I also do a second fermentation, usually with flavor. Look below for some photos of my kefir and some very simple recipes you can make in no time for your family.

Troubleshooting with Kefir 101:

When I first got my grains in the mail, there was a learning curve to making kefir. The grains were working so well that my kefir turned super runny and smelled heavily like sour milk. But I knew from talking to Jamie and doing research that bad bacteria could not grow with the grains. So I drank it while plugging my nose.

The problem was that I had too many grains in a small amount of milk. You want a very thick creamy kefir that after fermentation, has what looks like a thick layer of cream (think Greek yogurt consistency), on top.

Cream Top
Cream Top

To get my grains and kefir on track, I moved the grains to a larger jar, quart sized, added in one cup of heavy cream, and filled it the rest of the way with whole milk.

I covered the jar with a coffee filter and rubber band, put it in my “fermentation basket” covered with a kitchen towel, and waited. 24 hours later, I had silky smooth, thick creamy kefir. After that I did not need to add any more cream.

Before straining into your nylon mesh strainer, give your kefir and grains a vigorous stir to mix everything together. Pop the grains back into the jar, fill it with milk, and put it in your fermentation spot.

At this time, you can pour your finished kefir into a jar and flavor it before doing the optional second fermentation.

Because I make kefir every day, there is always at least 2 jars doing first fermentation, 2 jars in the pantry doing second fermentation, and the nice cold flavored jars in the fridge that we drink.

You’ll learn to know when your kefir is done just by walking by and smelling the kefir. Without lifting the towel, I can usually tell by the strength of the yeasty smell coming from the jars.

If I think “ok, think it’s done” I pull a jar out and look at the bottom for large pockets of whey. When I see them it’s time to strain. This is how we like our kefir. Some like to ferment longer until the whey goes halfway up the jar. It’s entirely up to you.

Here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy kefir.


 

Flavoring Kefir:

Second fermentation with orange peel.
Second fermentation with orange peel.

My all time favorite flavors are lemon and orange. Simply place a large piece of lemon or orange rind in the jar of kefir. Cap it. Place it in your pantry for about 12 hours.

When it is done it will look something like this with more or less whey forming. Just stir it all up and it’s once again a thick creamy beverage.

Flavored Kefir
At this point, I just stick it in the fridge to cool until the next day. I leave the peel in until we serve it.

 

Gelato Kefir:

Unless we are doing a smoothie, our favorite way to drink kefir is to mix it with fresh lemon or orange juice, liquid stevia, and vanilla extract. I call it Lemon Gelato Kefir.

Lemon Kefir

 

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Our morning servings of Lemon Milk Kefir

I do not eat gelato or ice cream so to me, this concoction tastes like Lemon Gelato. So delicious! Quite a treat.

My one year old will not drink plain milk, only kefir. She loves and I have to put a cup of it in her hand at least 10 minutes after she wakes up.

Vanilla and Stevia
I use Penzey’s Vanilla, but pour it into this retired stevia dropper bottle. It is so much easier to control, not to mention I don’t have to worry about the cap getting sticky.

I prefer to sip mine, whereas Brent likes to chug his down as quickly as possible.


 

Green Kefir Smoothie.

This came from my friend Kathy. We all love this smoothie and it’s the only way my kids will eat spinach.

For one serving, simply place 1 cup kefir, 1 banana, and 1 big handful of raw spinach in your blender. Mix it up and drink it cold. If it’s really thick and won’t blend, you may need to add a liquid like a little almond milk.


 

Kefir Cheese:

Simply place your mesh strainer over a 4c. measuring cup or a bowl big enough to hold your strainer. Place 2 white coffee filters in the strainer. Fill the strainer to the brim with kefir. Cover it with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for 24 hours.

When it is done, it has the texture of a thick ricotta. Not quite as thick as cream cheese.

You can eat it plain or use your own seasonings or a dip mix. We like it with Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix. I used about half a packet.

We eat it with carrots, snap peas, and whole wheat crackers.


 

Please let me know if you try it and how it works for you! Or if you already drink it, please chime in with your own flavoring ideas and what kefir has done for you.

Peach Pie Filling

If I can make this, you can do it too! Canning fresh, in season fruit is something I never saw myself doing. But now that I am determined to become a true homesteader, canning must be in my repertoire of skills.

Canning does get a little easier with practice. Talk to me in about a year and a half after I’ve canned, dried, and frozen food from my 2016 veggie garden.

For now, I am happy to have some practice under my belt making apple jelly and peach pie filling.

The recipe is so simple!! However I do not recommend doing this solo your first time. Do what I did and find a canning veteran. Make a day of it, and end up happy and ever so content to stare at those gorgeous vibrant jars of pie filling.

PREPARE AHEAD OF TIME by gathering these items


  • quart canning jars with rings and new lids
  • jar lifter and canning funnel (I bought mine in a nifty kit)
  • LOTS of big bowls
  • blanching pot
  • water bath canner
  • towels and pot holders
  • ladle
  • nice sharp knife for slicing peaches

INGREDIENTS

  • Peaches. We bought 20lb of CO peaches. I ended up with 7 quarts of pie filling and enough sliced peaches leftover to dehydrate some for future snacks.
  • 5 1/4 Cups Water
  • 2 Cups plus 2T Clear Jel.
  • 7 Cups sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1-2tsp almond extract (I used Penzey’s, very good)
  • 1 3/4 C. bottled lemon juice

*I accidentally purchased Instant Clear Jel instead of Cook Type. What Julie and I learned is that the instant did not require heat so it actually sped up the whole process by about 15 minutes. If you end up with instant, it’s all good! Just make sure you peach slices are staying nice and warm while you mix the clear jel mixture.

Let’s Get Cooking


  • Yep, Peel the peaches! Each peach must boil for 40-60 seconds, then be taken out and put in a big bowl of cold water. This is where a blancher comes in handy because you can do quite a few peaches at once and then pull the blancher out and pour the peaches into a cold water bath. But if you do not have a blancher, you can do 4-5 peaches at a time and remove them with a big slotted spoon.

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Peel the Peaches

  • Once you are done blanching, it’s time to start peeling! If you have help, use it. I found most of the peaches easy to peel. There were a few that took a bit more work.

    Bringing her up right!
    Bringing her up right!

Slice the Peaches

  • Slice the peaches with a nice sharp knife. The most dangerous tool in the kitchen is a dull knife! I began slicing and cooking at a young age so I let my 8 year old daughter help us slice peaches. With proper training, it is safe to empower kiddos in the kitchen.
  • Slice the peaches no thicker than half and inch.
Julie is a pro!
Julie is a pro!

Blanch the Peach Slices

  • Julie and I did some math and decided to blanch 24 cups of peaches. We were planning on 6 quarts of pie filling but ended up with a bonus #7 and a small bowl which we ate while it was still warm.
  • Blanch in 4 batches and place slices in a large bowl. I used a heavy heat proof bowl that held in all that heat.

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Make the Filling

  • Immediately following the blanching, get a big pot and combine the sugar, water, and Clear Jel. Because I had Instant, we did not have to wait for the mixture to bubble and thicken. We simply stirred it all together over a very low heat to warm the mixture and then added in the cinnamon, almond extract, and lemon juice.
  • Pour in your peaches very carefully! It sure helped having Julie right by my side. Canning should always be a team effort! One person to hold the giant heavy bowl and another to gently ease the peaches into the pot.
  • Heat through. If using Cook type Clear Jel, cook for 3-4 minutes. If using instant, just warm through.

Water Bath Processing

  • Use warm jars.
  • set the jars on a kitchen towel so the cool counter does not crack the jar
  • Fill each jar to 1/2 inch head space
  • Top with a clean warm lid and then a ring
  • Lower jars into the water bath canner, making sure water comes at least an inch above the cans. Two inches is better.
  • Bring back to a rolling boil and start the timer for 30 minutes. DSCN1101
  • After 30 minutes, turn off the heat and let the pot settle down for about 4 minutes.
  • Carefully remove the jars with your nifty jar grabber and set the jars on the towel again.

Stand back and listen for the delightful PING sound that the lids make as they seal. Let the jars sit undisturbed for about 24 hours, label, and move to a cool pantry area! It’s going to be easy and fun to make a delicious peach pie this coming fall or winter! A taste of summer to warm us up during the colder months.

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