Anyone making milk kefir on a regular basis will occasionally end up with curds and whey. Though it’s usually the result of over-culturing, it is also a great way to make kefir cheese! Here’s everything you need to know about making this probiotic soft cheese and milk kefir whey.
Why does milk kefir form curds?
Acidity causes the casein protein in dairy to form curds. It doesn’t matter whether the acidity comes from vinegar, lemon juice, rennet, or bacterial culture. So as kefir acidifies, it naturally separates into curds in whey.
Here are the main reasons why kefir separates:
- The ratio of kefir grains to milk is off. Check out this post on how to culture milk kefir for the proper ratio of grains to milk.
- The milk kefir was cultured too long. It’s best to store your kefir in the fridge if you’re going away on holiday or you can take it with you.
- Temperature also plays a role in how quickly milk kefir separates.
In general, I usually let the kefir milk curd AFTER I’ve removed the kefir grain. However, occasionally I accidentally make separated milk kefir while culturing. Either way, the cheese is delicious.
Separating curds and whey
Here are the steps to separating curds and whey for making cheese.
- Strain the curded kefir through two layers of cheesecloth. I recommend saving the kefir whey as it’s packed full of protein and probiotics. I often make kefir cheese just because I want to use the whey! It’s great for culturing everything from vegetables to beans.
- After the whey has drained for about 30 minutes, gather up the ends of the cheesecloth and knot it together around a wooden spoon, and hang it so it can drain some more.
- Here’s what the ball of cheese looks like after 6 hours of hanging. It’s firm on the outside, but still quite soft inside. At this point, finish your cheese by mixing in some salt and any additional flavors.
What can you do with kefir cheese?
Kefir cheese is soft, creamy, and slightly tart. It is a versatile, simple cheese that can be used in all sorts of different ways.
Here are a few different ways to use homemade cheese:
- Make a savory cream cheese spread. See below for flavor options.
- Use it as a substitute for ricotta in lasagna.
- It’s perfect for sweet treats like kefir cheese frosting or kefir cheesecake.
- Make a firm feta-like cheese by pressing more whey out of the cheese.
My favorite way to enjoy kefir cheese is by turning it into a flavorful cheese spread. It’s perfect spread in sandwiches, on bagels, or on crackers as an afterschool snack!
To flavor kefir cheese, simply add herbs and other savory flavors when you mix in the salt. The let the kefir cheese rest for at least an hour before serving so that the flavors can blend in.
Here are a few of my favorite flavor combinations:
- 1/4 cup of chopped chives and 1 Tbsp of olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic and 1/4 cup of fresh basil, finely diced
- 1/4 cup of fresh dill
- Use mixed herbs for a Boursin flavored kefir cheese
Homemade Kefir Cheese
Kefir cheese is a delicious soft cheese that is a lot like feta or cream cheese. It’s easy to make, all you have to do is culture kefir long enough for it to separate into the curds and whey! See the section above for a few ways to enjoy this delicious and probiotic cheese.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: 2 cups of cheese 1x
- Category: Cheese
- Method: Fermented
- Cuisine: Probiotic
- Diet: Vegetarian
- 1 Liter of milk
- 2 Tbsp kefir grains
- 1/4 tsp of salt (non-iodized)
- Culture the milk with kefir grains for 12 to 24 hours. Remove the grains from the cultured milk. At this point the kefir won’t have fully separated into curds and whey, so leave it on the counter (without the grains) for another 12-24 hours until it has fully separated. (See photo above).
- Line a colander with two layers of cheesecloth (I recommend fine cheesecloth). Gently pour the curded kefir into the colander. Allow it to drain for 30 minutes. I recommend catching the whey because it’s very useful and probiotic!
- Knot the cheesecloth and hang the ball of kefir cheese, as shown in the photo above. Allow to drain for another 4-8 hours.
- Unknot the cheesecloth and place the soft cheese in a bowl or a container. Stir in the salt and any additional flavors. See the section above for a few different options for finishing the kefir cheese.
- Store kefir cheese in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. Use the cheese within 2 weeks, as it will continue to sour and ferment.
- I recommend using whole milk for kefir cheese as it is a bit creamier than skim milk cheese.
- Kefir cheese is tastier when it’s not made with over-cultured kefir. However, if you accidentally overculture your kefir (before you remove the grains) just remove the grains, and let your kefir sit for another 2 to 4 hours separate again before draining the whey.
Keywords: cream cheese, feta, probiotic, over cultured, separated, cheese spread, herbs, garlic, gluten free, keto,