This simple, spreadable cheese is made using fermented milk from kefir grains. The fermented milk itself may be an acquired taste for some, but this cheese passes the picky pallet test with flying colors. Naturally Gluten-free with only 91 calories per serving, pair it is can be paired with either vegetables or crackers to fit a variety of dietary needs. Kefir is extremely versatile and can also be used to make bread (see Homemade Bread from Kefir) without the use of regular yeast. This soft cheese recipe is an adaptation from David Asher’s book, The Art of Natural Cheesemaking: Using Traditional, Non-Industrial Methods and Raw Ingredients to Make the World’s Best Cheeses and is a combination of the methods for Creme Fraiche or “french cream” which is made with kefir, and portions of his “Dream Cheese” that is made from yogurt. In addition to phenomenal recipes (for all kinds of cheeses) he also gives an easy read on what kefir grains are, how to use them, what to look for when buying them, and why they are so good for you.
Making the Culture: (for a 4 person serving)
- 1 Tablespoon Kefir grains
- 1 Pint Full-fat Cream (for it to be true creme Fraiche); or plain whole milk that is not technically making creme fraiche. We like using our raw goats milk even though it doesn’t get a fancy name that way. 🙂
Put the kefir grains in a quart size jar (to give it room) and pour the milk or cream over them. Cover with a coffee filter and rubber band or a canning jar lid that isn’t tightened down all the way.
Place the jar of milk/cream and kefir grains out of direct sunlight, but where it will be at room temperature.
After 24 hours, the milk/cream will have thickened and your culture is ready for the next step.
Pour the culture through a sieve to remove the kefir grains.
Turning It Into Cheese:
Once you have removed the kefir grains, you will want to separate the solid, curd like culture from the whey. An easy way to do this is to strain your culture through a coffee filter or several layers of cheesecloth. I prefer a coffee filter in a mini size colander that fits into one of our small milking pails.
Cover the straining culture with a towel and let it drain for 4 – 6 hours. The time will depend on how thick your culture got during the 24 hour period. Thickness can be affected by size of your grains, whether you used milk or cream and the ambient temperature. It will be ready when the culture that remains in the filter is a little shy of the consistency of room temperature cream cheese. A little firmer than sour cream, a little less than cream cheese. There’s no right or wrong, only preference. I shifted the cheese in the picture below just a bit so you could get a better idea what it looks like. If you get to the 6 hour mark and would like your cheese to be a little firmer, it’s completely fine to let it drain longer.
What you will be using is the white cheese retained in the filter, but the clear liquid whey that has been strained out is chock full of beneficial qualities of it’s own. Add it to soups, bread recipes, use it as the liquid to soak grains or beans before cooking (lacto-fermentation) or put it into a smoothie. It is essentially the same thing as the whey protein powder found in the nutrition section of the grocery store or at a health supplement chain store, only better because you know how it was derived. It freezes well so you don’t have to come up with a use for it right away.
Flavor It… Or Not:
We like to flavor our cheese, but you could certainly use it just as it is. A little salt and herbs round out the flavor, but it’s pleasant tangy essence makes it tasty enough to serve up even without adding anything extra. There are lots of variations for the flavors you can add but some of our favorites added to taste are:
- Pureed Garlic
- Parsley flakes
- Crushed Rosemary
- Lemon Zest
- Roasted Red Peppers, drained and chopped.
- Minced Garlic
Hot & Spicy:
- Chopped Jalapenos and/or
- Chopped Green Chilies
- Black Pepper
- Red pepper
- Roasted Tomatoes, drained & minced
- Black Pepper
- Pinch of Sugar
Stir in your seasonings and pop it into the fridge to firm it up a bit, then serve with toasted Kefir Bread slices, Ritz type Crackers or Carrot sticks. Use your imagination and taste buds to create your own favorites, the possibilities are endless. But… be sure to come back and share your distinct flavor creations! We want to know all the tastes!