Real food takes some pre-planning and that's taken me a while to get in rhythm with. I'm one of those spontaneous, in the moment kinds of folks, so the idea of getting the chives, garlic, and green onions dehydrated and ready for when I'm making the cheese is a little daunting in itself. Right now I have the green onions and have made green onion, black pepper and cayenne cream cheese. Yesterday I found some chives at Our Little Market (a private co-op I belong to), so they are in the dehydrator and tonight we're going to chop garlic.
Sometimes I just want it done. Fermenting is a process. As I've learned and experimented I realize that the more I get in tune with this process, the more in tune I get with the flows of life. Completing the current step your working with is a key. Then it's easier for me to figure out what the timing is for the next process. Remember, watched pots never boil. If there are dates I need to remember, I put it on my Droid3 calendar. That's the one thing I'm always paying attention to.
You need grains for Kefir. The best thing is to have someone give you some. You can buy them at Cultures for Health, or Culture Club 101 if you live in the LA area. That's where I got mine. The grains (not seed grains) are a community of live microflora. And they multiply like microscopic rabbits. When I first brought home grains I had less than a quarter cup. Right now I have about a quart (16 quarter cups) and I've given away a pint, and have some I separated for goats milk kefir.
For a half gallon of raw milk you need at least 1/4 cup, and using a cup or a pint won't hurt, just give you stronger kefir faster.
Step 1, Day 1. Making Kefir. In a half gallon jar put 1/4 to 1 cup kefir grains and fill with raw milk.
Step 2, Day 2. After 24 hours, separate the liquid from the kefir grains. I use a steamer to do the straining cause the little round holes in it are just right to separate the grains and yet let the solids of the milk go through.
Now you have basic kefir and you have a choice to make. Do you want to make kefir cream cheese or do you want to continue fermenting? Continuing to ferment has its advantages, it increases the nutrition of the kefir, especially the folic acid and if you are going to make kefir drinks this is the way to go. I'll discuss this more in another article.
Today I'm focused on making cream cheese.
Step 3, Day 2. Strain the kefir so that you separate the milk solids from the whey. Don't worry, you can use both products of the straining - the whey for fermenting and the milk solids for making the cheese.
I use an 8-cup pyrex measuring cup and a 7.5 inch double mesh stainless steel strainer. You want to line the strainer with cheese cloth (well really the best thing is butter muslin). As a side note it is called butter muslin because it was a finely woven cloth that was used for wrapping butter.
Double line your strainer and pour in the kefir. Cover and let drain. I have a heavy hand-made pottery plate that just fits over the top. Let it drain in the refrigerator overnight -- at least. If you need to, you can just leave it alone for a couple of days.
Step 4, Day 3 or 4 -- Check your draining kefir. Probably it will have stopped dripping. But, the bottom of the cheese cloth will still be wet. So now it needs to drain more. To do this you'll need some kind of tall cylindrical container and a wooden spoon. Tie the ends of the cheese cloth around over the spoon and then use the spoon to suspend the cheese over the container. The weight of the cheese will cause it to drip and dry out further. Put it back in the refrigerator and let this drain for another day. Pour your whey in a quart jar and date it. Whey is good for about 4 months, and when you add new whey it renews the whole thing.
Step 5, Day 4 or 5. Wrap in paper towels. Untie the kefir milk solids and wrap in paper towels. This will further dry out your cheese. It depends on how thick you want the cream cheese.
Step 6, Day 4 or 5. Making the Cheese. After several hours of letting the paper towels absorb additional dampness, dump into a stainless steel mixing bowl. Mix with some cream. I use a fork. A danish dough hook works well, too. And you can get them from Amazon.
I end up with about 2 cups (give or take) of the kefir cheese and to start I add a half cup of raw cream. Then I mix and see if it's the consistency I want. Just keep adding cream until it's the perfect consistency. What determines that? You do!
You can add in chives, garlic, green onion, salt, black pepper and cayenne at any time in this process. I usually wait till toward the end after I've achieved the consistency I want.
This cheese is fabulous for appetizers on a gluten free sour dough baguette