Tuesday, March 01, 2016

RSBC Week 4: Kefir--Free to a Good Home

Run Swim Bike Cook 2016: let it be known to all the world (or at least to Anonymous and the handful of other people who look at this thing) that I finished!  Friday I biked 20 by sticking in the saddle after spin class, Saturday morning was beautiful, so I knocked off my run with 7.2 miles around Zorinsky, then biked another 4 with my family.  Sunday was the 28th, so had it been a normal year, I would have missed the deadline.  Thanks to lucky leap year, I headed to the gym on Monday morning for the last of my swim (.2 miles) and the rest of my bike (14) before sending Jason a text: "Hallelujah!"

Today I'm resting.

Anyway, onto the cooking challenge: kefir.  Okay, so I confess that the only reason I chose kefir was because I couldn't think of anything else to ferment, with the possible exception of making cheese, and that just seemed too complicated.  I'd seen kefir in the stores, and even though I'd never actually tasted any, I was curious.

Overachiever that I am (snort, snort), I looked online and discovered that I could actually make my own kefir from these mysterious kefir grains.  Just a teaspoon of grains could magically transform your cup of milk into "yogurt on steroids"--chock full of probiotics just waiting to delight your gut.  Not only that, the grains would grow and you could have even more to share with your friends.

And so, even though I'm rarely an impulse shopper, the online mania got the better of me, and I paid $18 for a whole tablespoon of these bad boys.  (Of course, that did include the online cookbook of amazing kefir recipes.)  I even paid an extra $1.50 for the expedited shipping to make sure that these live cultures didn't suffer too much during their lengthy journey.  The kefir grains arrived looking healthy and plump, so I was optimistic about our future relationship.

This is what the grains looked like after rinsing.  You're only supposed to do this once.  After that, you set them in a cup of milk in a warm spot (like on top of the refrigerator) for 24 hours, then strain the mixture before scooping the grains (now coated in kefir-goo) into a new jar for the next day.

Before I knew it, my fridge was positively sprouting with kefir in all various stages of fermentation.  I tried to use mine within a week or two, although some sources I read said that it can last much longer because there isn't really anything in it to go bad.  (Spoiler alert: my opinion is that if that's true, it's because kefir is bad already.)

Whatever was happening inside my jars, the bacteria were certainly busy.  After I popped open one of them (half full), it fizzed up like a root beer float with a giant head of foam.

Here's what it looked like after it settled down.

Okay, so here's the dealio.  I think my kefir is very healthy.  I've managed to make lots of thick, tangy, sour milk stuff with grains that reproduce quickly.  The only problem is, I don't like it.  My kids don't like it.  My husband doesn't like it.  Even my Dad (the buttermilk lover) doesn't really like it.  Despite the bravest face and best of attitudes, I just can't get it down.  One day I went to the store to buy all the stuff to make a kefir smoothie, hoping that I could disguise the flavor.  While there, I noticed this product and brought it home, just so I could know what I was shooting for.

And guess what?  I don't like it either.  Even in its smoothest, most consumer-friendly form, kefir is just not for me.  I looked at all that fresh fruit for my smoothie and said, heck no!  I'm not ruining that with kefir.

On the other hand, kefir is great for baking, particularly as a substitute for buttermilk.    These waffles were certainly a hit.

Can I just say that we love our waffle maker?

Almost as much as we love our new whipped cream dispenser.

Our honey-buttermilk bread recipe turned out quite well, too.  I thought it was hilarious to hear my kids begging for more kefir bread. 

Perhaps the best part of kefir is that it makes for an amazing science experiment.  While making bread, we measured out two cups of kefir and then added a little bit of baking soda.  It started to foam impressively until we added the salt, which must have acted as a catalyst because it suddenly went into overdrive, putting every baking soda and vinegar volcano out there to shame.  What a mess!  (But admittedly awesome.)  This is what it looked like once we transferred the explosion into the mixing bowl, along with some yeast and honey.

Okay, so now I'm left with this dilemma.  What do I do with my kefir grains?  I am definitely tired of having to take care of them every day, especially since I don't really like the stuff, except for baking.  It's hard to justify the time and expense and calories (my kefir prefers whole milk) of keeping it up when all of the healthy bacteria area getting cooked away.  Plus let's face it: I just don't bake that much.

But all the same, I can't seem to force myself to chuck it out.  After all, I spent good money on those grains, not to mention the gallons of milk and new strainer.  (I know, I know, sunk costs.)  I might not really like them now, but what if I change my mind and decide I want them later?  Even more, these grains are alive.  I've fed them, cared for them, nurtured them. Pitching them feels a little bit like, well, kefir murder.

And so, torn between my innate desire for simplicity in life and my inner cheapskate, my kefir grains are quite literally chilling in the fridge until I decide their fate.

In search of a good home: Kefir Grains--free for the taking.

1 comment:

Erin said...

Way to get those miles done! Maybe if you post your kefir grains on craigslist, you'll get some takers. Or facebook? The waffles do look good.