You will need to have a jar. As you can see, Steele and I use a 1.5 qt Ball mason jar that is blue, which isn't necessary. The size of your jar should reflect how much kefir you plan to go through. If you're just using a small amount per day, you will be fine with a quart or even a pint jar. If you use more kefir, a larger jar will be better. With the 1.5 quart jar, I could fill it up completely with milk and have a supply of kefir that would last several days. These are just things to think about. You can always change your jar size once you get a better idea of how much kefir you'll be going through.
Step 1. Put your kefir culture in the bottom of the clean jar. Our culture is large since we've had it for over a year. The culture will grow over time. Yours will start off small, unless you get a larger clump from a friend.
Step 3. You don't want to use a normal canning jar lid for your kefir. Cheesecloth works best, but you can use a coffee filter just as easily. Secure it with your jar ring.
Step 4. Your milk and culture need to sit at room temperature in order to convert the milk into kefir. Depending on the amount of milk in our jar, it normally takes about 24 to 36 hours for ours to reach the consistency I like. It may take longer if you have a new or small culture. For consistency, you will want the kefir to be about the consistency of yogurt, if not a little thinner.
Step 5. Straining. This is my setup. It's very important that you use a plastic, not metal, strainer. If you live in the middle of nowhere like I do, Dollar General carries these. It isn't the world's best strainer but it does the trick.
The kefir will pass through the strainer, leaving your culture behind.
Step 6. Pour your kefir into a jar for storage. At this point it needs to be refrigerated. Kefir also tastes much better when it's cold, so I don't often use freshly strained kefir unless I've had it stored in the fridge.
For storage jars, we use old pickle jars (after we get the pickle smell out of them). You can also use regular ball jars with canning lids. It's ok to use a metal lid at this point, as long as the kefir isn't coming into contact with it.
Step 2. Fill the jar with as much milk as you'd like to use. This is a little less than I normally pour, but it was the last of our milk and now I need to go grocery shopping.
Milk. It is important what kind of milk you use. The best type of milk to use is goats milk, but cows milk works just as well and to many people, including myself, tastes better. After you decide what animal your milk comes from, here's what you need to consider:
Pasturization. Raw milk is the best. Low-heat pasturized is the next best. Unfortunately, unless you have access to raw or live close to an Amish community or dairy, most of what you find at the grocery will be ultra-pasturized. That's ok.
Fat Percentage. You need to use whole milk.
Organic vs. Non-Organic. It's your preference on whether to use organic or regular milk. As you can see, I normally buy the Kroger whole milk, but County Market carries Organic Prairie Farms at some locations. Always try to choose a brand that supports local farmers. For Central Illinois, that would be Prairie Farms.
This is what your kefir will look like when it's finished. You can see that it has thickened enough that the culture has moved to the top of the jar.
At this point, if I'm not ready or don't have time to strain the kefir, I will put the jar in the fridge. Putting the kefir and culture in the refrigerator will slow the process so that the kefir is not continuing to thicken.
You will also need a bowl that's large enough to hold all your kefir, plus have a little space so your strainer doesn't end up sitting in it. This pitcher works perfectly for us. Trust me, you will want something that is spouted for when you pour the kefir. Again, don't use metal.
After you pour your kefir through the strainer, take some time to really wash your jar.
Rinse your kefir culture of with some cold water. You can do this while it's still in the strainer, then move it to your clean jar.
And we're back at Step 1!
How to Use Kefir & Tips
Tip: Take advantage of the season's bounty. While local fruit is in season, individually freeze it on a cookie sheet. Amount of time needed in the freezer varies by size and fruit. Once it's completely frozen, move the fruit into a freezer Ziplock. Now you have local, flavor-packed fruit all year round and it's so easy to grab just a few berries or handful for your morning smoothies!