Kefir is a slightly sour, creamy, dairy drink produced by fermentation of fresh, untreated cows milk, or more often in contemporary circumstances, by fermentation of Ultra Heat Treated Milk (long-lasting milk) in the presence of kefir granules/grains. In regular milk, sold in refrigerated section of supermarkets, kefir granules do not work. We make our own kefir on regular basis for several years now. Our first attempt many years ago did not last long. The reasons behind that were a constant overproduction of kefir and our inability to find the use for this product. The second time around several factors came together and made the process work beautifully for us. We started to make our own cottage cheese using kefir, both with reduced fat and full fat content. We also adjusted the recommended technique to use kefir granules for milk fermentation by periodic refrigeration, and thus dramatically slowing down the process and adapting the speed of production to our needs. However, one of the main reasons, was the necessity to keep and grow kefir granules alive for our friends, who used them in the environment, where kefir granules lived and fermented the liquid, but not for a long time. We had to provide the replacement for granules that stopped working from time to time.
Homemade kefir can be stored refrigerated for 2-4 days, before going too sour, it lasts less time compared to an open package of commercial buttermilk. Homemade cottage cheese can be made in 2 different ways, the quick and easy way by adding the equivalent quantity of kefir to boiling regular milk, as described here, or just only from kefir, with very low-grade heating involved, saving most probiotics alive in the product. Both techniques can be used to produce low or no fat cottage cheese,
or full fat product, when both types of milk have around 4% fat content.
Low fat cottage cheese my husband uses every day to make oatbran galette for his breakfast.
I make full fat fast cottage cheese mainly for baking purposes, my absolute favourite cottage cheese bake for everyday use – cottage cheese mini-cakes or soft biscuits.
To make kefir you have to obtain kefir granules for fermentation. They are easily purchased online, quick Google search shows several sites that sell kefir culture here in Australia, and also in USA and Canada. Ultra Heat Treated Milk provides healthy environment for kefir granules to work, growing and reproducing in the process. Kefir granules usually come with the instruction for the fermentation process: granules to milk ratio, temperature of the process, washing or not washing kefir granules when moving them from kefir to milk, etc. When starting the process for the first time I strongly advice to follow these instructions. What we do now, after many years of making kefir is not correct/proper or very scientific, but handy and convenient. Not only kefir, but we have a life, too! We regularly put the container with milk and granules in the fridge, sometimes for hours, sometimes for days. Spending some time in cooler environment makes kefir less sour and more creamy, and overall tastier. I do wash my kefir granules under tap water, while the advice is either do not wash them at all, or wash them using decriminalised water or cooled boiled water. I use very small quantity of kefir granules (1 heaped serving spoon) per 700-1000 ml of milk and keep container mainly in the fridge on a lower shelf. My kefir granules do not grow in these circumstances, which is exactly what I want. I make my kefir once in 5-6 days, or more often, when I need cottage cheese for baking. My husband makes his kefir every day, he uses a lot more granules for the same quantity of milk. He takes the container from the fridge for 2-4 hours, depending on the temperature in the house and puts it back in the cold for the night. I wrote about all these details to show that the culture will adapt to practically any conditions which will suit your household.
- place milk into glass container
- add kefir granules
- cover container with a lid or plate, the cover have to be not air-tight
- leave the container at room temperature until milk thickens and becomes a touch sour in taste
- put the liquid through the sieve, drain and collect all liquid
- for faster fermentation of the next portion of milk do not wash kefir granules, alternatively wash them in cooled boiled water
- place granules into the next milk portion
Cottage cheese preparation with minimum heat exposure
I tried this process several times and have found that the best shape of the container to use is without the narrowing on the top. I opted for 1 L Pyrex glass and rejected 2 L glass jar, where it was difficult to get cottage cheese out of the jar without disturbing its texture.
Only initial stages of cottage cheese separation are shown on the photo above, the process ended up at 1 a.m. in the morning (no photos).
- place milk into glass container, add kefir culture, cover loosely
- periodically mix the content of the glass, granules tend to gather on the top
- check the taste of milk, when in starts to become sour, remove kefir granules from the liquid by draining it
- return slightly sour milk to the same container only without kefir granules, let fermentation continue at room temperature
- the liquid will start to separate
- when the full separation in 2 distinct portion occurs, place the container into a larger bowl (you can use the sink) with warm water (temperature around 40-45C)
- the upper layer will become more narrow and thicker in texture
- I like to transfer only cottage cheese portion using large serving spoon, to drain into the sieve, lined with double layer of muslin cloth
- cover cottage cheese with the cloth and put some weight on it to squeeze excess liquid
You can get 270-300g of cottage cheese out of 1L of full cream milk, depending on how dry you want your cottage cheese. The taste can vary from a little sour to sour, depending on the time and temperature of the process. The texture is very close to that of mascarpone cheese. Low fat milk will produce less quantity of cottage cheese.