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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Making Your Own Sour Cream and Buttermilk

I like to use buttermilk for a lot of my baking - in things like biscuits, scones, bread and muffins all have a great texture and flavor when I use buttermilk. I do not, however, like to buy buttermilk at the store. So, I make our own.

I use Kefir Grains to make a soured milk called Kefir - it is much like buttermilk. I purchased a 1/4 cup of the live grains through the mail. When they arrived, we put them in a glass 1 quart jar and added about a cup of whole milk from a local dairy. The milk we use is pasteurized, but not homogenized so it still has cream that comes to the top.

After about 12 hours, we had our first cultured kefir. I strained the liquid through a strainer- keeping the grains and putting the cultured milk in a glass jar in the fridge. We can drink this cultured milk as a drink or use it as you would buttermilk for any baking. I then put the kefir grains back into a glass quart jar, add more fresh milk and start the process over again. We do this every day.

Now that we've been doing this a while (about 2 years), we have lots of kefir grains. They continue to grow and multiply and before you know it you could be making a gallon of kefir (buttermilk) a day! When our grains grow to the point where we have excess I either sell some of them or save them (if you are interested in purchasing kefir grains to start your own, please email me by visiting the Contact Me link.

You can save them by drying out the grains and freezing them in a glass jar with powdered milk to protect them from ice crystals. They can usually be re-started up to 2 months after freezing them.

You can also dry out the grains and keep them in a glass jar with powdered milk in the refrigerator. You can re-start them this way up to 18 months after storage. Saving some of the excess grains like this ensures grains for the future should something unforeseen happen to my current batch. Here's a photo of about a cup of grains that I've just rinsed and am starting to dry for long-term storage:

You can also pause your grains for up to a week by putting them in milk in a glass jar in the refrigerator. They can only be left this way for a week, then you must re-start them or change out the milk again. They can be kept on "pause" in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

We also use the kefir milk to make our own labne (sour cream) and cream cheese. Once I've strained the liquid off the kefir grains, I line a strainer with a sturdy cheesecloth that I've moistened. I put the strainer over a pot and pour the cultured kefir milk into the cheesecloth.

Depending on the amount of liquid, sometime in about 8 to 12 hours you get a cheese texture in the cloth similar to sour cream. Leaving it longer allows it to dry even more and it takes on more of a cream cheese consistency. Here's a batch I made for sour cream. This is how it looks when I first pour the kefir milk into the cheesecloth, when it is ready as sour cream and a final of how the sour cream looks when I put it in the container:
If I had let this set a few more hours, it would have dried more and been the consistency of cream cheese.

When I end up with more kefir milk in the fridge than I need for baking or drinking, I sometimes take 2-3 quarts of it and make the kefir cheese.

I also save the whey that is left from making the cheese. This I use in baking also, especially when I want something with a really sour taste. When I make my artisan bread, I often substitute most of the water with kefir whey and it gives the bread a delicious sour dough flavor without using sour dough starter. I also use the kefir whey in my regular loafs of bread. Sometimes I pour a little over the food for the dog, as it is excellent protein. There are a TON of uses for kefir whey.

This is how we make our own buttermilk, sour cream and cream cheese. I haven't had to buy any of these products in several months. I do have to buy the milk to keep the kefir growing. The milk we prefer to use from a local dairy is $3.89 per half gallon. I can use anywhere from 1-3 of these half gallons per week, depending on how much kefir we are making. So, it might cost a little more than purchasing sour cream or cream cheese would, but I'd prefer to know the origin of the milk that I use in these products than just buying whatever is on sale this week at the store that often has added fillers and ingredients.

Does anyone else out there use kefir grains?


TEAM HALL said...

Hiya Prepared in TN! This is a fabulous post! I have heard of the Kefir grains but it sure was great to see them in real life! I'm betting it would be cheaper for us in Canada to make the buttermilk/cream cheese since our food is way more expensive here. You've inspired me. Now off to find a dealer in Canada.

Anonymous said...

hell yeah..i've been doing kefir for a few years,,,i keep it simple and alternate between one day and three day cultures,,keeps me a regular guy..awesome post!!!get the word of the critters out,,,we can conquer the world with em::

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