The best kept secret about kefir is how much better it is when you “second ferment” it. Wow! Second fermenting powers up the nutritive value and further decreases the lactose content, and well, it just results in pure deliciousness because you add so many flavor combinations to it. So read on…
Simply put, a second ferment uses the kefir liquid leftover from the first ferment, after kefir grains are removed.
To a glass quart jar containing about 3 cups of your freshly cultured milk kefir simply add whatever fruit or spice or chocolate combo sounds good to you, lid the jar with a plastic lid, drape a dishtowel over the whole project to keep that kefir happy and dark, and wait as little as 6 hours or as much as 30 (personal preference–I’ve forgotten mine for 24 hours and it’s still good, but I like it best around 15 hours!). Shake occasionally (make sure that lid is tight first! and open it to release built up pressure especially if you are letting it ferment longer than 6 hours!) during the ferment process and before drinking. After however many hours you decide to ferment, add sweetener if you’d like and refrigerate. I promise, you will be hooked! You may decide you like kefir better blended in the blender before drinking, that’s fine. You probably want to remove the fruit rinds, cinnamon sticks, etc before you blend though!
A word to the wise, don’t be alarmed if your kefir separates and looks weird, it does that the longer you leave it on the counter, especially if you neglect to shake it a couple times in the second ferment process. It is not dead, you didn’t kill it! (just don’t leave it for more than a couple days…if that happens and it smells “off”, you will be glad you have kefir grains multiplying contentedly in that other jar with fresh milk in a ‘first ferment’ so you can try the second fermenting process another day!)
Should you lid it tightly or loosely? Boy, people do it both ways.My rule of thumb is loosely lidded for a first ferment, tightly lid it for a second ferment. With a second ferment you are steeping or infusing your kefir with yummy flavor. I’ve also read this past year more about how you want to anaerobically culture for the second ferment, so I tighten my lids for this part of kefir-making.
I am sugar free and my favorite sweetener for kefir drinks is liquid Sweetleaf stevia, the stevia clear option, which is available on Amazon and Thrive and in most health food stores. Sweetleaf also makes several other options for flavored stevia such as root beer, vanilla creme, hazelnut, etc.
Here are some delicious additions to try as you embark on your second ferment kefir adventure:
Orange Vanilla Kefir
My favorite! To 3/4 quart of kefir liquid add one orange slice and one vanilla bean (or up to a tablespoon pure vanilla extract). Leave the rind on your orange slice, and slice your vanilla bean lengthwise and open it up so all that good vanilla paste can flavor your kefir. I leave this blend in a glass quart jar on my counter with a loose plastic lid, covered with a dishtowel (to keep it dark!), for 15 hours and shake it if I can remember. When you’ve decided it is ready, you can remove the orange slice and vanilla bean (I don’t) and add a little of your favorite sweetener. I add liquid stevia to taste.
Raspberry Cacao Kefir
Whisk 1/8-1/4 cup cacao powder (to taste) into 3/4 quart kefir, add 1/4 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen), lid it and cover with a dishtowel, shake a time or two, and let ferment 6-15 hours ish. Add sweetener if desired, blenderize it if desired, refrigerate and enjoy!
Whisk 1/8- 1/4 cup cacao powder into 3/4 quart kefir and add favorite spices. I like to add a cinnamon stick (or 1 tsp cinnamon) and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Lid it, cover it with a dishtowel or stick it in a dark cupboard, shake it now and then and let ferment a few hours to desired taste. Add sweetener–honey is good in this one!
Two different variations on this one. To 2-3 cups kefir add a favorite tea bag or two. Chai tea is great with a cinnamon stick added and maybe some vanilla. Or, Teavana has a Lavender-Citrus tea that I really like with a sliver of lemon peel added. Lid it, cover it or place it in a dark place, shake it occasionally during the second ferment. Because you are “steeping” tea in a room temperature product, I like to let this second ferment for a minimum of 12 hours but often up to 24 hours. And I leave the tea bag(s) in the kefir when I refrigerate it. Before serving, sweeten with honey, stevia, or your personal favorite!
Cinnamon Vanilla Kefir
In a glass quart jar, whisk 1 teaspoon cinnamon into 3/4 quart kefir and add a vanilla bean or a tablespoon pure vanilla extract. You could also add a cinnamon stick and cut back your powdered cinnamon to 1/2 teaspoon. Add a sprinkle of nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice and lid it, cover it with a dishtowel, shake occasionally, and let ferment for 6-24 hours. Sweeten it with honey or stevia or your favorite sweetener and refrigerate. Shake before serving.
Now don’t forget to release any pressure build up if you shake your kefir up in a jar with a tight lid! Unscrew the lid after shaking and let that pressure off and then tighten the lid again. The longer you let it ferment, the more effervescent your kefir will become, especially if it had natural sugars like fruit steeping in it. I love it somewhat bubbly!
These are just a few that we’ve tried and enjoyed. Do you have any favorites to share in comments?