Jesse and I are into breakfast smoothies. It started as a harmless habit and has quickly evolved into an expensive art form. The blame for this mostly lies with kefir, that deliciously tart, liquidy yogurt that gives the smoothie its texture and tang, balancing the sweetness of the fruit and honey. In our house, a smoothie isn’t a smoothie without it. Plain yogurt need not apply.
However, at almost $4 a quart, our kefir habit was getting ridiculous.
As with most of our nutty DIY projects, the idea started with Jesse, who has been convinced for quite some time that we could just get our own kefir grains and start our own self-sufficient, fermenting smoothie colony. Mmmm.
I didn’t think much of it until I saw him surfing Craigslist one afternoon. “People are just giving this stuff away!” he said. Jesse works in the sharing economy and embraces the idea of sharing, bartering, and working together with unabashed enthusiasm.
Seeking balance, I meet those same ideas with unabashed suspicion and paranoia. We make such a nice couple.
“Oh yeah, some stranger will just give us kefir grains. That’s not weird or anything.”
“You think that this is a scam that someone would actually put together? Luring people with free kefir grains and then poisoning them?”
He had a point. “Anyway, this guy is just going to meet me in the park to do the exchange.”
Not sketchy at all.
The next day, as scheduled, our Craigslist connection met Jesse and put a little ziploc baggie of kefir grains in his hand. The guy wasn’t interested in conversation, or gratitude. Jesse said he barely got off his cell phone, or made eye contact. It was like an artisanal drug deal.
And now, we are in business! Several days, several instructional web sites, and several botched batches later, we have a consistent supply of kefir coming out of our pantry. Once we got the proportions right it was smooth sailing. Every day we pour milk over our growing colony of grains, and the next day there’s kefir waiting for us – sour, sweet smelling, and bubbly.
I don’t know how it works, or why. It’s like having a strange and mysterious pet in our closet. We don’t really know what it’s doing, but we just know to keep feeding it. So I offer these details not as instructions, per se, because we really have no idea what we’re doing. (There are lots of websites written by people who actually know what they are talking about. I would recommend referring to them before embarking.)
I’m probably not selling this very well. I can hear you saying “Maggie, you’ve got some weird substance off of Craigslist that you are letting ferment, unrefrigerated, in your pantry, and you are adding milk to it and then you are drinking it. And you have lost your mind.”
I kind of agree with you. The first few days I was nervous. But once you see that it actually works, there is something almost subversively satisfying about it. You save a bunch of money. You get to have your own little science project in your cupboard. You get to take some of the mystery, and even fear, out of your food. And after a few weeks, when your kefir colony has multiplied and expanded, you too can be the sketchy person giving away kefir grains for free on Craigslist.