A friend of mine, Becca, recently was experimenting with both kefir and kombucha, and since I have had a fascination with all things fermented since my college biogeek days, I prevail upon her to give me some kefir grains (the kefir mother culture, a solid lump the size of a walnut and resembling a bit of tapioca that was allowed to harden), and I've been making some of this odd cheese-yogurt-beer stuff all week.
Kefir is just about the easiest fermented food I know of. You just put the keifr grains in a large jar with about a quart of milk (preferably fresh, unhomogenized milk if you can get it, but any milk that doesn't have antibiotics in it will do), covered with a clean cloth tied off with a rubber band. Set this aside in some cool (but not cold - the refrigerator woudl slow it down too much) dark place like a cupboard, making sure not to expose it to direct sunlight. After a few hours, a layer of curds will begin to form at the top, and the milk should have a sweet smell. As the curds and whey start separating, you'll want to shake the jar gently to mix them back together. After 24 to 48 hours, the main fermentation should be finished, so you strain off the kefir grains and pour the kefir into another jar, which you can then either drink as is (though you might want to spin it down in a blender first, which smoothes out the consistency and flushes out the carbonation) or ferment further. The fermented kefir can be stored in the refrigerator for over a week. You can also strain the curds to make a sort of cottage cheese, and use the whey for cooking. You then use the grains to make the next batch, and hopefully you'll have one or more new grains form.
I'm not sure what to make of it so far; it's pretty weird stuff. But I've found it makes a pretty good banana smoothie, which is a start. I might try making the pot-cheese from it sometime, but so far I'm just using it as a drink.
Do any of you know anything about this? There's a web page
on it that my friend referred me to, but I have no idea how trustworthy it is - it looks like a typical health-fad evangelist page to me, complete with absurd claims and denunciations of the competition who don't have the really truly real thing. I don't take the health claims very seriously, but then, I'm mostly doing it for the pleasure of it, so that's not a big issue to me so long as it isn't likely to make me sick. It did make me somewhat gassy the first day, but so far I haven't had any other negative effects.