I like drinkable kefir, but I adore this thick creamy yogurt kefir! I usually use this method over the 24 method, as I find it so versatile. I use it like I would regular yogurt, topping it with this fruit topping to sweeten it, as a sour cream substitute, a cream cheese substitute, hard kefir cheese, and in smoothies. I also whisk in pure maple syrup, or this fruit topping to sweeten and drink it. I like kefir plain, but this makes it more palatable for my kids. I also save the cream off the top to make cultured butter.
Even though there are two steps in this method, the process is easier for me: no stirring thick kefir through a sieve to retrieve the grains. Maybe I should explain, I really don't know, or remember exactly how I came to do kefir the way I do. I am very familiar with dairy cultures, including cheese. I think cultured dairy is magical and fascinating, so I have experimented quite a bit. Sometime during that experimentation, while pondering over cultures and curds and how I could manipulate things to produce a thicker kefir, I developed my method. I love it and I hope you will too.
Two Stage Kefir Yogurt
1. Obtain kefir grains.
2. Place 2 tsp. grains in a glass pint jar, or 4 tsp. grains in a glass quart jar. I prefer to use wide mouthed jars. The amount of kefir grains you will need changes slightly with the seasons. When it's colder, you will need more, when it's hot, you will need less, but this is a good happy medium to start with and adjust as needed.
3. Pour fresh raw milk into the jar and fill to where the bottle begins to narrow.
4. Cover jar with a lid and shake well. Loosen the lid just slightly, so some of the pressure that develops can escape.
5. Leave on the counter for 12 hours. Shake occasionally throughout the first 12 hours. (If you remember, but not critical.)
6. Strain thin, milk-like kefir through a fine mesh, preferably plastic sieve into another jar. While a metal sieve can be used, it is a bit too abrasive and can be hard on your grains.
7. The strained milk has been inoculated with beneficial bacteria and yeasts. These will need additional food.
8. This food can be lemon juice, another fruit juice, pure maple syrup, vanilla, etc.
9. Feed inoculated kefir milk 1/4 tsp. in a pint jar and 1/2 tsp. in a quart jar. This will not flavor the kefir, but provide just enough food to keep the bacteria happy and productive, producing a thick and creamy kefir. Food that has a higher sugar content may cause your kefir to culture slightly faster, so keep an eye on it. Cover jar with a lid and shake well to mix. Loosen lid just slightly, so some of the pressure that develops can escape.
10. Culture strained and fed kefir on the counter for 12 more hours, before storing in the fridge. Do not shake it during this period, as it will be thickening up during this second stage. It is done when it is thick like yogurt (it will thicken up a bit more as it chills in the fridge.) If your grains have been dormant, it may take longer to get thick. Let it go until it gets thick. If it takes a lot longer than 12 hours, use a teaspoon more grains next time, or reduce the amount of milk that you use. If it starts to curdle and even separate into curds and whey, or thin out, it has over-cultured. It is still fine to drink. Put it in the fridge and adjust time and amount of grains for your next batch. See this post for trouble shooting.
11. Place strained kefir grains into another jar and repeat the process.
Every 12 hours; ideally morning and night at approximately the same time, you will tend to your kefir. This may seem like more work if you have been doing the 24 hour version; however, I find it easier as I don't have to stir and stir and stir thickened kefir through a fine mesh sieve. After each 12 hour period, you will strain grains off milk, add food to strained milk, and place strained grains into a new jar with fresh milk. I keep and rotate 3 jars as follows:
3 Rotating Jars
1. One jar that I strain kefir grains out of; that jar goes into the dishwasher.
2. Another jar that I strain the milk (that had kefir grains in it) into. I feed that batch with some type of food.
3. A third jar for my new batch with the kefir grains and fresh milk.
4. Now you have 2 jars on the counter. To keep them straight, I usually set the new batch I just started, behind the batch that will be done sooner, with 12 more hours to go.
5. You can also write on the jars with permanent marker, which cleans off with rubbing alcohol, or a good scrubbing.
6. Don't feed the jar that has kefir grains in it, only the milk that has been strained off of the kefir grains. This can adversely affect the health of your grains. If you make a mistake here and there, they will likely be ok, but the best "food" for kefir grains is fresh, raw milk.
7. Store finished kefir in the fridge for several days and up to a week. It does get stronger the longer it is stored. We usually consume the kefir I make the next day, after it has chilled.
8. You likely won't want precious, probiotic raw milk kefir to go to waste, so consuming soon after it has been produced is recommended. However, if a batch is in the fridge too long for some reason and becomes too strong to drink, see this post ** for some ways you might use it.
For more information, see posts on Kefir Basics here, Kefir Troubleshooting here and Traditional 24 Hour Kefir Method here.