Shipping Milk Kefir Grains In Canada
Milk kefir grains require special treatment for shipping to ensure they arrive ready to go to work in their new home. Milk kefir grains can be shipped either partially dehydrated or fresh.
If you want to ready milk kefir grains for shipping, first take about a tablespoon of fresh milk kefir grains. Milk kefir grains look a little like little cauliflower florets. They feel squishy, like soft gummy candies. They can grow to quite a size too. I have seen some the size of my thumb. They tend to work better if they are smaller though (about the size of my baby fingernail) so if they get too big I usually just break them up by squishing them between my fingers.
Put the kefir grains in a plastic or nylon mesh strainer and gently rinse them under cool water. I use water straight from the tap as we have a well that is spring fed. If you are on city or town water where there is chlorine or fluoride added to the water, you should buy bottled water. Chemicals like fluoride and chlorine can damage the grains.
Next pat the grains dry and then into the dehydrator they go. You are only going to leave them for a couple of hours. You want the outside of the grains to dry, while still leaving the grains active on the inside. They will feel dry to touch, but spongy when squeezed between finger and thumb. When they come out of the dehydrator, they are a yellowish color.
I then cover them with dry milk powder to keep them safe during transport. The kefir grains and milk powder should be double bagged in zip lock bags, and placed in a padded envelope for the trip to their new home.
How To Make Kefir from grains shipped in milk powder
When your grains arrive, you need to try to get them into milk as quickly as possible, so it is a good idea to make sure you have the equipment you will need. Really, what you need is very minimal.
- A glass or ceramic or porcelain vessel to hold your milk. (I just use a mason jar)
- A plastic or nylon mesh strainer
- A coffee filter, paper towel or light cloth and something to secure it with. (coffee filter and mason jar metal ring is my stand by)
- Milk (full fat milk or even half milk half cream gives the thickest kefir)
- Your kefir grains that have been packaged in powdered milk
DO NOT RINSE- There is no need to rinse off the milk powder as they were rinsed prior to drying! Just place them in the jar, milk powder and all, and add only 1/4- 1/2 cup of milk changed every day until the grains are culturing. This could take up to 10 days but usually only takes a few days. Cover them with coffee filter (or whatever you gathered as above) and secure. Change the milk every 24 hours.
Set somewhere not too warm or cold. Check every few hours or so and stir or gently shake. If your product is fermented in 24 hours you can strain the grains and use 2 cups of milk. The general rule of thumb once your grains are re-hydrated is 1 tablespoon of grains for 2-3 cups of milk. NOTE: I used to recommend 1 tablespoon per 1-2 cups like everyone else on the internet, but after reviewing the scientific data, it appears that the grains grow faster and stay healthier in MORE milk! So I now put my grains in more milk.
What To Expect-
They may have frozen… this is ok!
The grains will probably smell like sour milk. They often smell like baby spit! (yummy sounding eh?? ) teehee
The first few brews could smell yeasty, or sour. They could be frothy or fizzy or bubbly. All of these things are quite normal. The grains come to life in different stages… some bacteria and yeast activate faster than others and they need to find their balance again.
Change the milk every 24 hours and expect a proper fermentation in 2 to as many as 7 days! PATIENCE!
How To Make Kefir From Fresh Live Grains
and see video below so you can see just how easy it is.
- DO NOT RINSE the grains! No matter what anyone tells you, do not do it. The only time the grains need to be rinsed is if you are drying and storing them, you dropped them on the floor, or the dog licked them!
- Put your grains in a glass jar
- add milk (1 TBSP of grains for 1-2 cups of milk)
- cover loosely, and walk away.
- stir or gently shake once in a while
- 12-24 hours strain off the grains. You now have kefir. Use the grains to start again.
- OPTIONAL- After I strain off the milk kefir grains, I like to put the kefir in a lidded jar and refrigerate for a couple of days. This “second ferment” is an optional step that will increase the fizziness of your kefir, and cause it to thicken more. I like the taste much better… it becomes ‘tangy’ rather than ‘sour’.
Milk Kefir Tips:
Milk grains often pick right up and culture the first or second batch perfectly, but they can take up to a week to recover from the trip. They get used to a certain food, and milk varies by region, so they sometimes need time to adjust.
Here in Canada, my kefir is thicker and more viscous… quite like a thick cream, in the summer! In the winter, it is thinner.
Culturing your kefir in the fridge will slow down the fermentation. When I get too much ahead I just put my new batch in the fridge with the grains in it.
If your kefir thickens to curds and separates with a clear yellow fluid on the bottom (whey) you can still drink it. Just stir the whey in before you strain the grains. Your kefir will be much more sour though. You can also strain off the whey and use the curds as cream cheese (just add a little salt) Use the whey for bread making, in smoothies, or as liquid in baking. If you don’t want the curds and whey next time, culture less time or use less grains.
I don’t like the taste of milk kefir plain. I find it has a yeastier taste than yogurt. (I don’t like plain yogurt either though!) Just kefir, strawberries and vanilla protein powder makes the best strawberry milkshake I have ever had! If you don’t care for your kefir, it doesn’t take much to make it delicious! I think it is well worth the experimentation to find some blend that you like. The health benefits are well documented!
Here’s a little video from Tammy over at Tammy’s Recipes (dotcom) showing just how easy it is to make milk kefir. Tammy’s kefir is very thick as you can see in the video. My kefir is like that in the summer when I use milk mixed with cream. Tammy uses full fat milk for her kefir (I think…. ).
Find out more about the history of kefir on Wikipedia.