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Old 12-19-2014, 02:46 PM   #1
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Anyone have advice on Kefir or making your own?

I've been researching probiotics because I have eczema. The cost of the pills is ridiculous and there's no guarantee that there are the probiotics promised. Plus, I grow most everything else I want (big gardener). I read that kefir has about 10 probiotic strains and then found an article that says you can ferment your own milk and make your own.

There are forums dedicated to kefir, but I need another forum like a hole in the head so I thought I'd just ask here and see what resulted. Maybe someone here has tried growing their own kefir. Well, I guess that should read "fermented their own."

Advice? Know a good forum? Have supplies? Drink a brand of kefir and like it?
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Old 12-19-2014, 03:36 PM   #2
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I've made kefir before, using starter culture* from Yogourmet (a Canadian company whose website says they're also distributed in the US) which is sold in one of my local shops.

Very easy to do and required no special equipment, just heat up the milk in the microwave, let it cool enough to mix in the starter, and then stick it in the toaster oven (off, just so I have some reasonably sheltered place to put it; it could probably have gone on top of the fridge like some cookbooks advise for keeping rising bread dough warm) to help it incubate and leave it overnight and into the next evening, according to the packet directions.

I found out that if you mix in skim milk powder for a more solid consistency, you end up with something very, very solid indeed and I was surprised that it ended up setting much firmer than my yogurt culture which went into a dedicated yogurt maker that actually has controlled continuous warming.

(That said, mixing kefir and yogurt starter cultures together when making yogurt doesn't seem to significantly affect the texture of the resulting yogurt, even with extra skim milk powder added.)

* It contains 6 packets which do a litre of milk each for about $5 CAD around here, and Wikipedia's entry on kefir says that you can DIY by reusing your starter-cultured kefir to begin your own cultures, although you won't get the distinctive graininess with further batches (I've never tried this, so I couldn't possibly say if that was accurate or not).
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Old 12-19-2014, 04:42 PM   #3
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Cool. I just went to Sprouts and bought some to try it. I've had it before, but it was in Japan and I have no idea what they called it then. The label would have been in katakana or kanji so I didn't know what it was. It's decent tasting (I added chocolate.) Thankfully the stuff I bought was half off. I think I'd much rather make my own. That's just the way I roll. I'll check that link.

Around these parts, you don't need to leave things on the fridge. The last time I tried that with a recipe, it was too warm. In Texas, room temperature is about the same as the top of a fridge. Although it's winter here, so maybe the fridge would work. I tried making vinegar on the top of the fridge. It was so warm it evaporated through the not-sealed lid. When I grow sprouts, I've learned to keep them off the fridge. It's too hot!
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Old 12-19-2014, 04:48 PM   #4
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I think I'll also like it better with fruit. I added my own chocolate mix and that's okay, but this yogurt type flavor is probably better with fresh strawberries or bananas or ice cream...okay, okay maybe not the last!
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Old 12-19-2014, 05:45 PM   #5
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I did water kefir for a while, but I got sick and tired of having to feed and tend to my culture every two to three days. It also got too warm and my culture started to take on some unpleasant characteristics, so I finally disposed of it.

That said, I really enjoy making Saurkraut and picked carrots/cauliflour, which is a LOT easier and tastes great! If you want any input on how I do that I'd be glad to share.
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Old 12-19-2014, 05:58 PM   #6
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Sounds like growing sprouts. I rinse them twice a day or more and in the summer here they just rot because of the heat. The bean sprouts do better in summer here, but I have to watch them in the winter because they don't like the cold!

I don't think I like pickled cauliflower and I am pretty sure I don't like saurkraut. My mom likes saurkraut and that is the only time I remember seeing/eating it. I wonder if I should get the recipe and see if she wants to make it. She loved the stuff if I recall. And they grow cabbage (it's made from cabbage, right?)

I'll ask her. See if she is up for it!
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Old 12-19-2014, 06:27 PM   #7
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Yes, Sauerkraut is basically just cabbage and salt.

As for the sprouts vs. water kefir... at least the sprouts allow you to take some time off. With a Kefir culture, if you skip a few days or let it get too hot it gets funky and starts to die, then you have to get a new culture.
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Old 12-19-2014, 06:28 PM   #8
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BTW, another really good food with bacillus probiotics is REAL brine fermented pickles. I *LOVE* home-made [cucumber] pickles. (not vinegar based, but fermented)
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Old 12-19-2014, 06:45 PM   #9
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BTW, another really good food with bacillus probiotics is REAL brine fermented pickles. I *LOVE* home-made [cucumber] pickles. (not vinegar based, but fermented)
This is interesting to me. I didn't know there was such a thing and I make regular pickles (vinegar/canned). But I'm not that fond of my own recipe because I don't put in enough sugar. I wonder if some of the Japanese pickles were brined/fermented. They must have been because I could never figure out the taste.

Do you have any recipes for these? I don't have cucumbers right now, but am likely to have them come late spring. Sometimes I grow so many I can't eat them all and other years I get one or two. Last year was a bad year so I expect this year to be a good one!
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Old 12-19-2014, 07:13 PM   #10
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I'd have to dig those up, they're a bit harder to find. Let me see if I remember when I get home and I'll send it your way. It's fairly easy... basically cucumbers, grape leaves for tanins, pickling spice mix for flavor, and salt water... put in a pickling crock (I use the pickl-it brand jars) and leave them in a cool place for a few weeks.
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Old 12-19-2014, 07:33 PM   #11
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I love kefir, and tried making it a few months ago. A friend from another forum sent me some kefir grains and I used them to destroy a couple of gallons of milk before giving up. Now I just pick a couple of quarts whenever my favorite supermarket happens to have it in stock. Unfortunately that's been pretty infrequent lately.
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Old 12-19-2014, 07:51 PM   #12
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Thanks twowheels. If you find it, great, if not, I am sure I can google it when the time comes. I googled the general idea and it does appear it's an Asian technique for pickling. There were some good pickles. They made some kind of crunch red pickles that I loved. I never knew what vegetable they were from, but maybe beets. Don't know.

I tried (today) to sign up for some kefir grains on a site, but one email was no longer working and the other appears to be some sort of scam to sell something other than kefir. Shrug. I haven't tried the other link from Drake. With the holidays it's not an ideal time to contact anyone anyway.

Kefir is pretty good though. At least the one I tried today was good. I found it on sale so it didn't even set me back too much. I can see buying it on sale and drinking it now and then. It sounds like keeping up with the grains is like keeping up with my garden--a lot of work!
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Old 12-19-2014, 07:52 PM   #13
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I love kefir, and tried making it a few months ago. A friend from another forum sent me some kefir grains and I used them to destroy a couple of gallons of milk before giving up. Now I just pick a couple of quarts whenever my favorite supermarket happens to have it in stock. Unfortunately that's been pretty infrequent lately.
Any idea what went wrong? Too hot? Too cold? Not enough fat? I read that some fat is necessary and that it was harder to grow in non-fat or powered varieties. Of course many people rec non homogenized milk. There's a brand here of non-homogenized milk, but I only buy it on sale and it rarely goes on sale.
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Old 12-19-2014, 07:53 PM   #14
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I don't know if milk Kefir is as much work... my experience was with water kefir, which is a different species that lives on simpler sugars like regular white sugar rather than the more complex lactose -- it was grown in sugar water.

Edit: and yeah, I know about the garden -- plenty of work there.
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Old 12-19-2014, 08:36 PM   #15
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I tried (today) to sign up for some kefir grains on a site, but one email was no longer working and the other appears to be some sort of scam to sell something other than kefir. Shrug. I haven't tried the other link from Drake. With the holidays it's not an ideal time to contact anyone anyway.
If you're not having luck with the other sites, here's the US distributor for Quebec's Yogourmet products. They do mail order and carry two different kinds of kefir starter, as well as probiotic-enhanced yogurt starters from Yogourmet & Yogotherm, and also maintain a list of local retailers which carry their products, down at the bottom of the FAQ.

I think you mentioned that you were in Texas? So there's two options from natural foods stores in Montgomery and Longview which may or may not be anywhere near you. Also, they've a recipe for "Fruity Kefir Shake" down in their drinks section which you might like to give a try.

ETA: for the record, I used 2% skim milk for my kefir and yogurt, and it turned out fine (though the yogurt was helped along with some extra skim milk powder).
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