During the summer I keep a jar of dairy kefir out on the counter. I use it freely and top it off daily – with summers abundent milk supply. Now that winter is here I find our dairy kefir usage has plummeted. It’s just too cold to mix up a frosty smoothie and, not in the least, our milk supply has dried up. Yet, kefir grains need to be fed regularly. So how does dairy kefir fit into my winter kitchen?
For starters I keep my jar of diary kefir in the fridge. This slows the fermenting process down considerably. That means there’s less to use daily and I can feed my grains less frequently. The kefir still ferments so when I do want to use some I can. Then I replace however much I just used up with fresh milk. If I use over half the jar I might leave the jar out to ferment on the counter, otherwise it might not be ready for a few days at least.
During the summer kefir generally goes into smoothies and veggie dips and dressings. During the winter I use kefir mainly as a replacement for yogurt or buttermilk in recipes, like pancakes or meatloaf for example. These are cooked so they won’t contain the benefits of live kefir; although any grains in the recipe will benefit from soaking in the acidic kefir. You can still reap the benefits of kefir’s live cultures if you make dressing, dip or consume it unheated in some other way.
Here is a recipe I adapted from Nourishing Traditions, it’s kind of a three recipes in one recipe. It’s a light mild dressing. NT calls for piima cream or creme fraiche but I used kefir instead.
First make the basic dressing (pg129 NT) This makes about 3/4 cup.
Combine the mustard and vinegar then add in the oil in a thin stream, stirring all the while till emulsified.
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 Tlb plus 1 tsp raw apple cider vinegar ( NT calls for wine vinegar)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 Tlb flax oil, if you have it.
Add 1 tsp finely chopped fresh herbs i.e. parsley, oregano, tarragon, thyme, basil etc. This is now the herb dressing (also pg 129 of NT).
Finally blend in 1/4 cup kefir.
Now you have 1 cup creamy dressing (pg 131 of NT).
Adjust seasoning to taste. I like to let it sit for a while to let the herbs have a chance to release their flavor.
Some other recipes using kefir:
Susan’s Whole Wheat Kefir Pancakes (or use your favorite pancake recipe replacing the buttermilk or milk with kefir)
Ranch Dip (from cultures for health- this one is a favorite)
Also, try straining the kefir for a thick & smooth kefir cheese. Season with herbs and salt and pepper. You can roll the seasoned cheese into small (about golf ball size) balls. Place balls in a jar and cover with olive oil.