Archive for Sprouting and Fermenting

How to Make Kefir

So… yeah. I’m all about the probiotics. I’m all fermenting and making my own yogurt, and I love me some miso.

I guess it was just a matter of time until I got to Kefir.

how to make kefir

I don’t know why it took me so long. It’s not hard. And according to some of the stuff I’ve been reading, the probiotics that go into Kefir are even better for you than the ones they put in yogurt. Well, maybe. Depending on where they come from.

You see, the kefir grains are a lot like sourdough. It’s one of those things that you can’t really buy (although you can), but you can have “passed down” to you. And because these strains have been around for so long, they are really rich and full of different kinds of bacteria.

If you’ve never had kefir, the best way to describe it is as a fermented milk drink of about the consistency of drinkable yogourt. It’s not as thick as yogurt, but it has very similar properties. You can drink it as-is, or some producers add blueberry or strawberry puree, for example, to it, to make a kind of strawberry drinkable yogurt. I use mine, simply, in smoothies, or pretty much any other place where you might use yogurt (I’ve even used it in a cake in place of buttermilk). I always put yogurt in my smoothies, as I like the creamy consistency it gives them, and the bonus probiotic.

There are basically three steps to making your own kefir.

First, you have to get the kefir grains. You can buy them commercially at The Gourmet Warehouse, and probably also Whole Foods, and they also sell more ancient ones at the Homesteader’s Emporium. Probably the best source of kefir grains, though? Craigslist. You can get water kefir, for making something similar to kombacha, or you can get milk kefir (which is what I use).

Secondly, you heat up your milk, then you let it cool a little. This helps to create the thickened texture of the kefir.

Next, you let it sit for 18-24 hours. Now, I’m sure you’re thinking, “waitaminit, lady. You’re telling me to let a milk product sit out, unrefrigerated for 24 hours?” Yep, that’s exactly what I’m saying. The bacteria need a warm environment to do their work. Once it’s completed, you can put your kefir in the fridge to keep for the next week.

How to Make Kefir


  • 1 litre milk
  • kefir grains or kefir starter (I’m using Yogourmet–one 5 ml packet)
  • 1 litre mason jar
  • candy thermometer


  1. Heat the milk gently in a saucepan on the stove until it reaches 180 degrees F (82 C). You don’t want it to boil.
  2. Take the milk off the heat, and allow to cool down to 75 degrees F (25 C).
  3. Take a ladleful of the milk out of the pan, and place it in a small bowl. Add the packet of culture, and mix well.
  4. Carefully pour the milk into the mason jar, then pour the small bowl of milk (with culture mixed in) into the mason jar as well. Mix or shake well.
  5. Allow the mason jar to sit out, on the countertop, for 18-24 hours, or until your kefir reaches a desired consistency. It should be like a thick yogurt, but still smooth. If it gets too lumpy, you’ve left it out too long. Give the jar a good shake, and then store it in the fridge. Shake prior to each use.

A Beginner’s Guide to Fermenting: KimChi

This week is all about new, healthy ways of getting the most nutrients out of your food.

Actually, “new” is a misnomer. “Old” is probably a better term. Sprouting and fermenting are two really old ways of preparing food, but we’ve gotten away from them. Sprouting takes a little work, but it’s actually pretty easy, and the health benefits are great (read my post from Tuesday for more info). Fermenting freaks a lot of people out, I think. We’re pretty afraid of getting food poisoning.


However, eating fermented foods is really, really good for you.

You see, our guts (which is your stomach, small and large intestine), need bacteria. A lot of bacteria. Different kinds. These bacteria help to break down our food, and they even help us to get nutrition from our food. They also protect you from getting sick and support your immune system.

I recently had to take a course of antibiotics, and one of the challenges with that kind of medication is that it kills all the bacteria in your gut, the bad and the good. One way to fill your belly up with good bacteria is to eat fermented foods.

They include:

  • yogurt or kefir
  • miso
  • kombucha
  • sauerkraut
  • tempeh
  • sourdough
  • pickles
  • kimchi

You can buy all of these products  in the grocery store, but they’re even better if you make them yourself. And they are surprisingly easy to make! I got a yogurt maker last year, and I have been making my own yogurt in it–next I want to try kefir.
I just recently got this book, Fresh & Fermented: 85 Delicious Ways to Make Fermented Carrots, Kraut, and Kimchi Part of Every Meal, after meeting the author, Julie O’Brian, at The Wellness Show.

The book is a bit of an eye-opener. The first part explains the advantages of fermenting, why it’s good for you, and how it’s been incorporated into the cuisine of many cultures for hundreds, and in some cases, thousands, of years. The second part shares a few basic fermenting recipes: basic kraut, basic kimchi, and basic fermented carrots. The third part of the book is recipes that you can make with your ferments, and this is where it gets a little mind-blowing. You can included your fermented food in smoothies, grilled cheeses, mac ‘n’ cheese, dips, even desserts (“Sweet and Sauer Chocolate Pudding”)!

I decided to start out with something easy and make kimchi. If you’re not familiar with this Korean staple, kimchi is a spicier version of something that most resembles a sauerkraut. It’s mostly eaten as a condiment, a fiery addition to almost any meal in Korea. In fact, they consume 18 kilos of the stuff per year, per person! Wikipedia

It’s not hard to make, but you need a little patience, because it takes about a week to do its thing. I made mine in a flip-top mason jar, but you could just as easily do it in one with a screw-on lid.

kimchi ingredients

Firefly Kimchi


  • one head of cabbage (I used Napa)
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt (coarse is better)
  • 3 tbsp thinly sliced green onions
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbps minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp (I used less, because I’m a wimp) Korean red pepper. I just used regular dried chilies, along with a pinch of chipotle, and it turned out fine.


  1. Peel off the outer leaves of the cabbage. Cut off the stem of the cabbage (save for later), and then cut it in half, length-wise. Slice each half into ribbons, of about 1/4″ wide.
  2. Place the cabbage in a large bowl, and sprinkle it with the salt. With your hands, mix it all up well together. Let it sit on the counter for about a half an hour or so, until it has wilted down to about half its size. It will have a very watery base to it. Add the rest of the ingredients, and toss well.
  3. Place the whole works into your mason jar. Make sure that the brine is completely covering the cabbage. Use your reserved cabbage stem to weight it down, and make sure that there is some head room (about 1″) in the jar. Let the jar sit at room temperature for about a week, and then it’s ready to eat! After it’s fermented, you can store it in the fridge.

For more recipes to cook with your kimchi, check out The Firefly Kitchen’s Blog.


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