Making cheese from kefir is easy and it contains all the beneficial probiotic micro-organisms that kefir is famous for. This recipe makes a tasty, soft cheese, similar to cream cheese but even easier to spread. I've also used it in recipes in place of ricotta cheese.
This is the basic recipe for making a plain kefir cheese, you can use it as-is or add herbs, fruit and nuts to create your own delicious variations. Let your imagination go wild!
Here's the recipe for making kefir. Here's the best place I have found to order kefir grains (they ship all over the world). If you want to make cheese from your kefir generally you'll want to let your kefir ferment for 48 hours (but this can vary depending on the temperature), or until the curds and whey separate out and the curds become quite thick.
This is the method I've been using, it uses a plastic colander and cheesecloth, but you could also use a nut milk bag if you have one, or care to make one. Using a nut milk bag would make it even easier, especially if you're in a hurry and want to manually squeeze the whey out, rather than using the ‘time-and-gravity method'.
If you do use a nutmilk bag instead you don't necessarily need to have a colander underneath it, as long as you have a way to hang it so the whey can drip out. But it's still a good idea to have a bowl underneath to catch the whey.
Start by lining a plastic strainer or colander with cheesecloth. Sit the strainer or colander into a bowl or jar so that there will be enough room for the whey to drain off into the bowl/jar without touching the bottom of the strainer/colander. Pour the kefir into the cheesecloth and let it sit in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours to drain.
You may have to experiment with the cheesecloth to see what works best, a single or double thickness. You may want to use a double thickness of cheesecloth if the kefir is a very thin and runny consistency. If the kefir is quite thick, with clots already forming you may be able to use a single thickness of cheesecloth.
And don't throw the whey out, it's nutritious as well. You can use it in smoothies and shakes, and probably many other recipes. Some people even use it in sauerkraut and cultured vegetables as a starter for the lacto-fermentation process.
Cultured vegetables don't need a starter, they will ferment without one, but I imagine using kefir whey gets the process happening much faster, and will add all the strains of beneficial micro-organisms found in the kefir to your cultured vegetables. It would be a good alternative to using a salt brine for anyone who wants to reduce their salt intake.
If you want to speed the process along, carefully gather up the corners of the cheesecloth and then the edges and twist them to form a sort of bag with the top closed off. Hold the twisted loose ends with one hand and squeeze the bag with the other. As you squeeze out some whey and compress the cheese you can twist the bag around even more. The whey will be squeezed out by the twisting action as well as when you squeeze the bag with your hand. You can use this technique to speed up the process of making the cheese and also to compress the cheese into a denser, dryer consistency.
4 cups of kefir should make around 1 cup of kefir cheese by the time the whey has drained off and it's reduced down.
Once you deem your kefir cheese is ready, tip it from the cheesecloth into a glass or ceramic bowl. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrap any remaining cheese from the cheesecloth.
As with all fermented foods, you want to avoid contact with metal utensils. Although stainless steel is supposed to be non-reactive and therefore shouldn't cause a problem, I just tend to avoid contact with all metal if possible.
Add any herbs, spices or other ingredients you feel like, or use it just as it is. It should keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.
If you try out this recipe, let me know what flavor combinations you come up with by posting a comment.