Oh the unending pleasures of raw milk! In addition to my fierce new fondness of Dagoba’s Xocalatl hot cocoa (so spicy, so delicious!), my pal Robbie has turned me onto the joys of making kefir. In case you don’t know, kefir is a fermented milk product, similar in taste to yogurt but slightly thinner in consistency, and full of probiotic goodness. It’s so easy to make, I’m doing it every week now (reserving a couple cups of milk for my cocoa habit), putting it in smoothies, eating it with granola, or just stirring in a spoonful of raspberry jam. You can also use it as a substitute for sour cream or yogurt, and I’ve even used it in place of milk in baking.

There’s oodles of good information out there on the nutritional benefits of kefir and myriad versions of how to make it. Here’s what works for me.

The first thing you’ll need is some starter. Similar to sourdough bread or kombucha, you can use a portion of a previous batch as a starter or you can find kefir starter grains at your local natural health food store – for Richmonders, you can find starter grains at Ellwood Thompson’s, Good Foods Grocery, or One Earth Natural Marketplace.

The second and only other ingredient is raw milk—this is very important—you cannot make kefir with pasteurized milk. If you don’t know where to get raw milk (then you haven’t been reading my blog very much) check out the Realmilk to locate cowshare programs near you. Again, for Richmonders, Avery’s Branch Farms has cow shares available and their milk is really lovely.

Here’s what I do. I pick up my milk on Wednesday afternoons, so that’s kefir day. When you get your milk, pour off a couple cups from the jug to make room (and for cocoa later!) and let the rest warm to room temperature—this will take a few hours at least. Once it’s warmed, add in your starter. If using the powder starter the first time, follow the directions as to what amount they suggest for your volume of milk. If using kefir from a previous batch as a starter, use about a cup. Put the top back on the jug and shake it well. Let it sit out at room temperature for about 24 hours, shaking occasionally. By the end of that time, the milk should have fermented and thickened—voila, kefir! Refrigerate and enjoy for up to two weeks.

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