Sunday, September 07, 2008

Product Review: Kefir

It’s been a while since I’ve done a product review; so here’s a product I recommend wholeheartedly: kefir. A kind of cultured milk that tastes a lot like plain yogurt, kefir is very popular in Russia and Eastern Europe (it probably originated in the Caucauses or Turkey). It’s usually eaten with a little sugar, jam or fruit, as a snack or a light meal. I also like it with cereal.

Kefir has all sorts of health benefits—in Russia, it’s said to be good for digestion; in the U.S., it's praised for its probiotic qualities. You can buy kefir at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods or any Russian or Eastern European grocery store. I’ve tried various brands, and they’re all pretty similar. In Russia, I liked the brand “Prostokvashino” for its slightly carbonated kefir.


adele said...

Oooh. Can I bake with it?

Yulinka said...

Adele-I bet you could. You could probably sub kefir for buttermilk in some recipes. Also, I've seen baking recipes that call for kefir on Chocolate and Zucchini.

Anonymous said...

I love kefir! Lifeways is a good brand also. The company was started by Russian immigrants. From Lifeways, you can also get the starter to make your own kefir at home. This way you can use unpasteurized milk if you live in a state that allows its sale. I've made it at home and it comes out great.


Julia said...

I like the sound of the name Prostokvashino because it reminds me of the childrens book/movie/tv series.

And kefir is yummy too :)

raiuchka said...

Yum, kefir! Adele, I have a recipe for a flaky but firm pastry (like for pirog) that uses kefir as the liquid. It makes a delicious, sort of tangy, crust.

Yulinka said...

Kevan--I didn't know you could get starter from Lifeways! I'm kind of curious about making my own kefir. I don't think unpasteurized milk is legal in Wisconsin, though.

Julie-Agreed! The label had a cat on it--a resident of Prostokvashino in the book/TV show, I think.

Raiuchka--Could you share the recipe?

Anonymous said...

Hello Yulinka,

Indeed! Here is the link to get it:

You don't need unpasteurized milk to make it. I've made it using regular whole milk from the store, though I use organic. Homemade kefir has a flavor all its own. You just have to remember to retrieve the main kefir grain before drinking if you wish to re-use it. Some people like to ingest the kefir grains as they are a great probiotic. See here:

See here for great kefir-making instructions:

This guy has great information. Hmmmm....I'm going to get back into making it myself again.


raiuchka said...

Happy to share! This is the crust that my Russian "second mom" uses for her meat pie, and she also uses it to make sheets of pastry for napoleon. I've adapted it for American white flour, and also because the kefir I buy here is a lot thicker than the kefir we got in Crimea. It comes out perfect for her every time; for me it's hit-and-miss, honestly. But then she's a fantastic baker and I'm not.

Tyotya Vera's Layered Dough

600 g bleached all-purpose flour
150 g cake flour (such as Softasilk)
2 sticks Nucoa brand vegan margarine (I don't know why this is the only American marg that works, but it is. I haven't tried butter.)
1/2 C. kefir
about 1/4 C. whole milk for added moisture (this will be added at the end if necessary)
1 egg

Place the flour in a large bowl. Grate the margarine on a medium-holed cheese grater into the flour. Using a light touch and cold hands, mix and rub the margarine into the flour until it resembles very coarse meal. Crack the egg into the kefir; stir just to mix. Add to the flour mixture and combine with your fingers. If there seems too much flour for the amount of liquid, add small amounts of milk as necessary. The dough will be really sticky until it rests.

This dough needs to rest in the refrigerator at least two hours before rolling. For a pie with a top crust, split one-third of the dough out. Form both pieces of dough into flat rounds, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

Roll out immediately after removing from the fridge to preserve the flaky texture. Roll out with plenty of flour on the board.

- AbsolutStoli said...

oooh, that is a good brand too! they have a bunch of different "flavors", which is interesting. trader joes/whole foods/other american distributors usually cary plain and fruit flavored varieties, but these guys have like a "farmers" kefir, a childrens kefir...wish i could find it out here in colorado.

PS - you definitely can bake with it. i use it in my scones recipe.

also, nonpasteurized milk might be illegal to sell, but if youre really interested you can probably get a share in a dairy farm/cow and get the milk that way. lots of people are doing that, and its legal because its technically your milk, so youre not buying it. im sure theres farms like that in wisconsin.

mikemiller34 said...

Sendik's carries the Lifeway stuff. I'm not sure if the marketing name is kefir, but it appears on the package somewhere. Same bottle shape as in your picture.

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