Kefir: The Sustainable Dairying Culture
Sustainability is a buzz word these days, just like green and organic were just years ago. Sustainability can be defined as the ability to continue a way of doing things because it does not draw unreasonably on resources.
Perhaps, this concept can be applied most clearly in the kitchen. Sustainability depends on the foods you buy, how they are grown, how you source them, how you prepare them, what it takes to produce the food you eat, and what it takes to store it.
Culturing food is as old as food itself so there is no question that the fermentation of food can aid in sustainability. But with our modern culture comes far too many choices, even in terms of culturing food!
Dairy Kefir is one culture that can help us produce a variety of foods in my kitchen without having to purchase separate cultures, use a lot of time or resources on culturing this food, and with wonderful and tasty results.
This sustainable culture is milk kefir!
If one purchases milk kefir grains they can be supplied with a lifetime of various types of cultured dairy products. That means for a one time purchase you could pass down your kefir grains to your children one day.
Now you’re probably wondering “How is milk kefir going to produce my favorite foods like butter and both hard and soft cheeses?”
The answer is simple - start with kefir grains and you can produce the following five cultured dairy foods simply and with little equipment in your home kitchen.
How to Make: Making milk kefir is as simple as placing your kefir grains in a quart jar, adding milk, stirring with a wooden spoon and covering lightly for culturing. Allow to culture for 12-24 hours, depending on temperature and flavor preference.
How to Use: Drink as is, use like yogurt in a bowl with fruit and nuts, or blend up as the base of smoothies.
Kefired Sour Cream
How to Make: The process is exactly like making milk kefir, as above, but using cream instead of milk. The result is a tangy, delicious soured cream.
How to Use: Top your favorite tacos, soups, or desserts with this lush cultured dairy product. It can also can be used as the base of a rich vegetable dip or salad dressing.
How to Make: Use kefired cream from above to make butter. Simply replace the cream you would normally use with kefired cream and beat cream until the butterfat separates from the buttermilk. Wash and rinse as you would with regular butter.
How to Use: This butter will be rich, nutty, and tangy similar to cultured butter often found in Europe. Because it is cultured it will also have a better keeping quality. Spread on breads, cook eggs in it, or use in your favorite frosting recipes.
Soft Kefir Cheese
How to Make: Place completed milk kefir in a sieve that has been lined with cheesecloth, a coffee filter, or a very clean tea towel. Allow to drain over a bowl for 6-12 hours or until the texture of cream cheese.
How to Use: This tangy cultured cheese has the consistency of cream cheese and can be used as such. Spread on toast as is. Add chopped herbs and garlic to make a spread or dip. Mix in fruits and honey for a delicious bagel spread. Use in place of mayonnaise in potato salads.
Hard Kefir Cheese
How to Make: Hard kefir cheese is simply a continuation of the soft kefir cheese. Once your soft kefir cheese is ready you are going to want to press even more whey out. So wrap the cheese in cheese cloth or a towel and place it in a colander. Set a plate on top of the cheese and weigh the cheese down using canned foods or something similarly heavy. Start with a minimal amount of weight and continue to increase the weight every few hours until the dripping stops.
How to Use: This is a crumbly cheese that can be grated over your favorite dishes such as soups, salads, sandwiches, pizzas, tortillas, vegetables, and anything else that could use a tangy, creamy pop of flavor.
If you are interested in a healthy, sustainable, “green” kitchen or way of eating at all then I highly recommend you get yourself some kefir grains and spend a lifetime making these various delicious kefir dairy products.