I gave a friend of mine some kefir recently, so I thought I'd post a tutorial about how to use it. If you bought your kefir starter I hope it came with instructions, but if your husband brought it home late at night in a paper bag the instructions were most likely in the same frazzled condition as the woman who gave them to him. Hm, that sounds like I have someone in mind. . . .
Put your starter in a glass jar with milk. You can also apparently use water or coconut milk, but I haven't tried it. Our family of four uses 1 1/2 - 2 pints of milk for one batch of smoothie.
Cover the jar with a paper coffee filter and hold it on with a rubber band. It wants to breathe.
Set a non-metal (such as plastic or melanine) strainer over a measuring cup or blender.
Stir with a non-metal utensil like a spoon or spatula. Feel free to choose an unconventional grip, as my model did here. Never use metal, ever, ever. I'm not sure what will happen if you do (maybe the spoon would melt or the kefir would mutate) but I'm a firm believer in rules. I saw the movie Gremlins.
I have used wood in a pinch, but I think the kefir might colonize the wood grains and I'm not sure how I feel about that.
You will be left with rubbery curds in the strainer and a creamy substance in the vessel. I'm not exactly sure which is properly known as the kefir, but apparently it doesn't bother me enough to research it.
Put the curds back in the same glass jar without washing. The kefir likes continuity. Fill the jar with milk (or whatever) and cover it with its hat. Use the cream in smoothies (you'll probably want to sweeten it) or as a buttermilk substitute. Much of the good bacteria will die in the oven, but it has the same properties as buttermilk and let's face it---your spouse can get tired of washing the blender all the time.
Leave the kefir at room temperature overnight or for a week or longer. If you jiggle the jar gently from time to time, it won't separate as much into curds and whey. But since you have to stir it in the strainer, I don't think it makes much difference. The longer you let it sit, the more distinct its flavor becomes. Sometimes we like a little vanilla to cut the tang, sometimes we just drink it through a straw (it helps to keep your nose away from the smoothie).
Enjoy your kefir!
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