Similar to yogurt, milk kefir has a delightful tang. On the other hand, milk kefir is thinner than yogurt. Even though milk kefir and yogurt are two distinctly unique and separate cultures, milk kefir is sometimes referred to as drinkable yogurt.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF MILK KEFIR
Milk kefir, like most cultured foods, has a long and rich history rooted in simple agrarian culture. It is most likely that kefir was developed by accident centuries ago by the people of the Caucasus Mountains. The kefir grains were then a result of the symbiotic relationship between the beneficial bacteria and the yeasts and other organisms in the milk kefir.
TYPES OF MILK KEFIR STARTER CULTURES
Milk Kefir Grains
Milk kefir grains are a gelatinous mass harboring a generous variety of bacteria and yeast. They are used to make continual batches of milk kefir. There’s no actual grain in kefir grains. They are called grains because they are small and numerous, like grains of sand.
HOW-TO VIDEO: How to Make Milk Kefir
Powdered Kefir Starter Culture
Milk kefir can also be made from a powdered kefir starter for those who do not wish to maintain kefir grains by feeding them on a daily basis.
Many purists argue that true milk kefir can only be made from kefir grains. Kefir grains contain dozens of microorganisms, some of which haven’t even been identified. Powdered starter, with far fewer bacteria and yeasts, could not mimic the microorganism content of milk kefir made from grains.
HOW TO PRONOUNCE KEFIR
The word kefir is said to stem from a Turkish word keif, which loosely translates to “good feeling,” most likely because of how consuming kefir made the people of the Caucasus feel. Kefir has been pronounced in different ways:
- Ke-feer' is one way that people pronounce it, sounding almost French with its short e followed by a long ee sound.
- Kee'-fur is one of the more common ways it is pronounced in America. The long ee sound followed by the word fur is a more blunt pronunciation and perhaps the most popular.
- Keh'-fur is another pronunciation that you will commonly hear and is often used by those of Middle Eastern descent.
There really is no right or wrong way to say kefir, as pronunciation varies in different cultures and communities.
HOW MILK KEFIR CULTURES WORK
When kefir grains or a starter culture are added to milk, the bacteria begin feasting on the lactose in the milk. The lactose nourishes the grains, allowing them to grow and reproduce.
Once milk kefir is finished culturing, it has consumed the lactose in the milk. At this point the kefir grains need fresh food. If the kefir grains are allowed to remain in the milk past that point, the grains will begin to starve, which stresses the grains. So, after the grains have finished culturing, they should be strained and moved to fresh milk immediately.
Once you get this cycle down you can create fresh kefir indefinitely, while keeping your kefir grains strong and vital.