Thursday, April 3, 2014

Homemade Kefir + A Honey-Roasted Banana Kefir Smoothie + A Cookbook Giveaway

Homemade Kefir | Adventures in Cooking

Ever since I got a yogurt-making machine as a wedding gift, I've become increasingly obsessed with fermenting things. I ordered a sample pack of different yogurt-starter bacteria and was surprised and intrigued by the different yogurt flavors and textures the same batch of milk produced, and how much tastier each of the strains were than the store-bought stuff. Being a Greek & all, my favorite form of yogurt has always been plain thick Greek yogurt with honey swirled in (especially when some of that honey stays in a lump on the spoon, and I get a little bit of it with every bite. HEAVEN.) Having the yogurt-machine was a nice introduction to dairy-based cultures, and right around the time I started feeling confidant about it, the lovely Julia Mueller of The Roasted Root reached out to me about reviewing her new cookbook, Delicious Probiotic Drinks.

Homemade Kefir | Adventures in Cooking

I'd had store-bought kefir before and enjoyed it, since the fruity ones I'd purchased reminded me a lot of  lassi-type beverages (basically a fruit and yogurt smoothie), and had always been really curious about the difference between kefir and yogurt. The curiosity was further sparked when I saw there were juice-based kefirs at the store, too. So, what does this term "kefir" mean? Kefir is basically a blend of different bacteria, including yeast, that reproduce in liquid to create a large amount of pro-digestive bacteria that keep the stomach healthy and help it break down food. There are two types of kefir, water-based and dairy-based. Water-based kefir is made from water, juice, and sugar, and the bacteria consume the sugar and reproduce. Dairy-based kefir is made from animal or coconut milk, and the bacteria break down the lactose, along with any other sugars present, and reproduce. The amount and variety of bacteria depends on the type of kefir starter you use.

Kefir Grains | Adventures in Cooking

I made milk-based kefir, and with that type of kefir you have two starter options, fresh kefir grains or a powdered kefir starter. Kefir grains are small, lumpy, opaque clumps that look kind of like off-white pieces of cottage cheese. They have more than 50 different strains of bacteria in them that promote digestion and overall gastrointestinal health. You can also use kefir grains to make kefir indefinitely, as long as they are adequately cared for (i.e. no cross contamination and never allowing the milk the grains are in to spoil). Meanwhile, powdered kefir starter usually only has about 7-9 strains of bacteria in it and does have a limited life span. With powdered kefir starter, you would use a little of the last batch of kefir and put it in milk to make a new batch. Whereas with the kefir grains, you just sift the grains out of the kefir and use only those in fresh milk to make a new batch. Kefir grains are only a little bit more expensive than the powdered kefir base, and they last longer and have a larger array of bacteria, so I went with the fresh kefir grains.

Homemade Kefir | Adventures in Cooking

Like most of the products I own, I ordered the grains on amazon. They came with instructions on how to revitalize them, (which I go over in the recipe below), and once I read the through the cookbook's directions, I was pretty surprised by how easy kefir was to make. The steps basically go like this: put the kefir grains in milk. Let the milk sit for 12-48 hours depending on how warm your house is. Remove the grains from the newly made kefir. Place the grains in fresh milk. Drink the kefir the grains were in. Repeat every day forever. Of course, you can put the fresh kefir in the fridge to chill it before consuming, and you can mix it with fruit, too. Julia goes over a ton of different ways to flavor your kefir in her cookbook, and I chose to try out her honey-roasted banana kefir smoothie. Yes, it was as delicious and magical as it sounds. The sugars inside the banana caramelize when you roast it in the oven and creates this crazy banana-creme brûlée flavor, and then when you blend that together with a rich, creamy homemade kefir base, you end up with an incredibly healthy and ridiculously tasty way to start the day.

Homemade Kefir | Adventures in Cooking

And homemade kefir is just the tip of the probiotic iceberg with this cookbook, there are recipes for kombucha, jun, rejuvelac and kvass; a traditional Russian pro-biotic beverage made from beet juice. Mmmm sweet sweet beet juice. I feel like my eyes have been opened to a whole new world of tangy, sweet, and sour beverage creations. Instinctively, I want to try making cocktails with the wide array of probiotic juice beverages, but I think that the alcohol would kill the beneficial bacteria, so I'll probably have to keep enjoying those two separately. In any case, this cookbook was a wonderful introduction to the world of making probiotic beverages at home, and I am so very happy that Julia is giving away a copy here for one of you to take home with you and fill your abode with probiotic goodness. To enter, use the rafflecopter widget below, the entry period ends April 17th at 11:59 pm Pacific Standard Time. Good luck, everyone!!!


Homemade Kefir | Adventures in Cooking


Homemade Kefir


1 tablespoon fresh kefir grains
3 cups warm organic milk (animal or coconut, must be organic because remnants from antibiotics in non-organic milk can kill the bacteria cultures in the kefir grains)

Honey-Roasted Banana Kefir Smoothie


2 bananas, ripe but firm
1 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon raw sugar
pinch of cinnamon (optional)


Roasted Bananas | Adventures in Cooking

First, make sure everything that touches the kefir and kefir grains is clean, as you do not want to introduce harmful bacteria into the fermentation environment. To revitalize your new kefir grains, place them in a clean container with 1 cup of the milk. Cover with a breathable fabric or cheesecloth and use a rubber band to make it taught and sealed. Let it sit for 24-48 hours, gently shaking it side-to-side a bit  about 3 times a day. 

Kefir Grains | Adventures in Cooking

Once the milk has thickened, use a clean mesh strainer to filter out the kefir grains. Keep the grains, and discard the first batch of milk. Place the kefir grains in another clean container and add 1 cup of fresh milk. This will be your first batch of kefir. Allow it to sit at room temperature for 12-48 hours, or until it thickens and the texture is like thin yogurt. The warmer your home is, the less time it will take, and vice versa. Strain out the kefir grains again, place them in a clean container with another cup of milk, cover with breathable fabric and repeat. The kefir you strained from this batch is ready for drinking! You can drink it at room temperature, or refrigerate it to chill it a bit. Feel free to blend it with various fruits, spices, or extracts to add some flavor. The next time you make your kefir, feel free to add 2 or 3 cups of milk instead of 1. It might take a bit longer to ferment, though, so keep an eye on the texture.

Homemade Kefir | Adventures in Cooking

If you ever notice any spots of mold of any kind on your kefir, throw it all away, including the grains. This only happens if the materials that came in contact with the kefir were not clean, or if it was left to ferment for waaaaay too long. But if it does happen, it is not worth the risk of using contaminated grains to start another batch, so toss those little guys and order some new ones.

Homemade Kefir | Adventures in Cooking

To make the smoothie, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel the bananas and cut them in half length-wise. Coat them in the honey and place them on a baking sheet lined with tin foil. Sprinkle with the raw cane sugar and bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool completely. Once cooled, place the bananas in a blender or food processor with the kefir and cinnamon. Blend until smooth and serve immediately.




Homemade Kefir | Adventures in Cooking

Homemade Kefir | Adventures in Cooking

54 comments:

  1. This looks absolutely divine. I live in India so I do not have access to the different types of cultures that you have described. I can try this with our regular yogurt for sure though! It will make for a lovely lassi!

    http://saltpeppernspice.blogspot.in/

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    1. Thank you, Disha! Definitely give it a try with your regular yogurt, I am sure it will taste just as delicious :)

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  2. Ginger beer! That would be a fun experiment. :)

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    1. Ohhh yes!!! I love love love ginger, and that has been on my to-make list for quite some time.

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  3. I'm so glad you're enjoying the kefir!! I love making it homemade and adore how different it is from the store-bought kind. The roasted banana kefir was definitely one of my favorites - so glad you tried it!! Thanks so much for this amazing how-to - your photos are absolutely gorgeous, as always and now I'm craving a tall glass of roasted banana kefir!! xoxo

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    1. Thanks so much, Julia!! The homemade stuff really does just have an amazing flavor of its own. I'm so happy you got in touch with me about the giveaway! :D

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  4. Why do your photos always make me drool? I am always so delighted whenever I visit your site!

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  5. WOW! have you changed your look here, it's fabulous! I think you ought to try kimchi next. as always, your photos are superb.

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    1. Thank you Becky! I'm glad you like the new design :) And I have been dying to make kimchee, I also got a big fermentation crock as another wedding gift (you can imagine all the fun kitchen goodies I registered for) and I think kimchee would be the perfect was to try it out :)

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  6. This looks splendid! I think you should try a coconut & pineapple kefir.

    Q: A family friend gave me what he calls a "dairy mushroom" (translated from Russian). The "mushrooms" are a slightly transparent milky color, squishy like a gummy bear, and very tiny. They double in size after each batch. I have to pour room temperature milk over them & leave them covered with a mesh cloth or strainer out on the counter every night for them to ferment. In the morning, the milk is lumpy like plain yogurt. Then I have to rinse with water & repeat.

    Are these the same as the kefir grains you mentioned in your recipe?

    Thanks,
    Mariya

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  7. A lot of my colleagues make kefir. I definitely have a source for fresh grains, but I'm wary of making a dairy-based product since I can't drink milk. Do the grains really break down the lactose?!? I miss milk like whoa; this could be a way to get my fix!

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    1. Indeed!! But I am not sure how long you'd have to let it sit for the bacteria to break down all the lactose. But you can also make kefir from coconut milk using dairy kefir grains, so that would be a 100% certain lactose-free kefir option. Plus coconut milk is just so damn tasty anyway, I kind of like it more than regular milk to be honest :)

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  8. Oh kefir is a favorite in my house. I've always really wanted to try making my own sauerkraut. Fermenting is kinda fascinating to me. :)

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    1. Agreed! It's so interesting the way controlled additions of bacteria can change the flavor and texture of foods. I really want to try my hand at curing meats, too.

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  9. So cool! I recently bought Kefir at the store but homemade would be amazing!

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    1. You will love it!! Let me know how it turns out for you if you give it a try :)

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  10. I make my own kefir and yogurt. This year I would like to ferment foods from my garden, fruits or spicy mixed vegetables without cabbage.

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    1. I've heard carrots ferment pretty quickly due to their high sugar content, so that would probably be a nice and easy fermentation.

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  11. I love Kefir cheese. My husband would like me to make Boza, which is like a fermented corn drink. Its hard to find a recipe though.

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    1. That sounds suuuper good, I love the mildly sweet flavor of corn and I bet it would ferment really well. I found a couple recipes online, I hope this helps! I will have to try my hand at it sometime too, though, it sounds really tasty!

      http://www.ilkeskitchen.com/2010/12/boza-a-turkish-winter-wonderland-drink/
      http://english.turkishcookbook.com/2006/11/boza.html

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  12. I have just started getting into probiotic drinks, I just made water kefir and Kombucha...they are currently brewing so I'm not sure as I haven't tried them yet. I'd like to try the kefir you have or yogurt but not sure how I would take it as I'm lactose intolerant....I've heard there is another probiotic drink that uses beets....that sounds interesting.
    Samantha

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    1. Anonymous, Beet Kvass! Soooo easy. I'd be happy to help guide you.

      http://www.loveandwildhoney.com/archives/568

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    2. You can make kefir with coconut milk instead of dairy milk and it will work just as well, plus you get the delicious flavor of coconut in there, too! And beet kvass sounds awesome, there was a recipe for that in the cookbook too and I was *this close* to making that instead of the kefir, but I just love kefir so much that I wanted to try making it at home. Definitely going to be attempting the kvass eventually, though.

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  13. Have you tried beet kraut yet? It's addictive.

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    1. DEAR LORD. That sounds like the tastiest thing ever. I am soooo making that in my giant fermentation crock.

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  14. Leave it to you to make milk kefir stylish and heavenly! Love it! You might want to try out water kefir which I have found to be pretty freaking fun. I did a lot of research...hope this post helps! http://www.loveandwildhoney.com/archives/1381 Soon the kombucha is coming..... ;)

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    1. Ohhh yay!!! Man your blog is so cool, I read through your other post in the earlier comment about kvass. You have like all the things on there that I want to try to make. The water kefir grains are so pretty! Like little crystals almost, I bet it tastes so refreshing with that hint of lemon, too. I am going to have to order a batch of water kefir grains, next! :)

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  15. I've never tried kefir before but now I am very intrigued!

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    1. You should definitely give it a go! They have it at pretty much all the chain grocery stores now, it's always by the yogurt. They usually have it in fruit flavors too, so far my favorites have been strawberry and vanilla :)

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  16. WOW, we love Kefir. I've never thought about making it ourselves and I'm really intrigued to give it a go.

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    1. Awesome! Let me know how it turns out for you if you try your hand at it, it's really tasty stuff :)

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  17. I have never had kefir, but would love to try!

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  18. I would love to know how the Russian beet juice one was.

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  19. i would love to know more about sauerkraut -uses for it besides on a sausage/hot dog...?!

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  20. Wonderful post!

    I am curious, could I ever use my kefir grains in conjunction with my yogurt maker? Or would that create too warm an environment?

    Thanks!

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  21. I love kefir! I have been doing it for ages thanks to my mum who got me into it. I am always looking for new ways to use it!

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  22. i've never tried kefir, though this seems like an ideal way to give it a try!

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  23. This is really cool! I've had kefir a few times and thought it was really good--especially with granola mixed in! <3

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  24. I never would have though kefir was so easy to make! Seems like an ideal way to get more probiotics without a lot of hassle.

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  25. I'm willing to try kombucha again, even tho I'm terrified of the "mother"

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  26. What a great giveaway! I really do hate to say, but Kombucha has always seemed so intimidating! Are there variations of flavors you could reveal, perhaps? And I feel silly to not know and wonder but just for an idea, is ginger ale fermented? Another great beverage!

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  27. What a delicious sounding recipe! Have you ever tried bananas foster? It is my favorite dessert, and I highly recommend trying it!

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  28. Anything ginger !!! Ginger bug ginger beer ohhh yes. This recipe sounds so good i am making this for breakfast thank you for sharing .

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  29. Anything ginger !!! Ginger bug ginger beer ohhh yes. This recipe sounds so good i am making this for breakfast thank you for sharing .

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  30. i make my kombucha but have been wanting to try kefir. thanks for the recipe! i think you should try the beet kraut or kvass next... sounds awesome!

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  31. Beautiful food photography! What lens and body are you using? And are you using VSCO films as well?

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  32. Awesome photography and a great giveaway...fresh and healthy

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  33. I like store bought kefir drinks and I love anything with bananas! This seems pretty simple to do!

    I also love anything with ginger so I would be interested something fermented with ginger!

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  34. I literally just ordered water kefir grains like five hours ago. YES! I would love to get my hands on that book!

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  35. How about fermented apple cider or Cinnamon Apple Kombucha?
    Digicats {at} Sbcglobal {dot} Net

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  36. This sounds delicious, with coconut milk too, often wondered as a vegan if it would work with other milks. Rejuvilac sounds interesting, thanks.

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