[Sokeh's Harbor, Pohnpei, Fed.States of Micronesia; 06º 58 'N/158º 12' E]
We acquired a kefir culture (pronounced KAY fee) from friends Caroline and Paul who sailed through Pohnpei in the fall of 2013. Caroline obtained her culture from a friend in Tasmania. Kefir is another SCOBY (see Kombucha Irina) - or a Stable Consortium Of Bacteria and Yeast. Reputed to be from Mongolia, this culture that forms a small lumpy gelatinous mass, was used to make cheese from milk in the leather pouches of the nomadic peoples there.
What kind of "cheese" you make is up to you - buttermilk, yogurt, cream cheese, crumbly cheese, or even hard cheese suitable for aging. Our recipe yields a creamy cream cheese that would be suitable for any recipe calling for cream cheese (e.g. Jalapeno Pie). It makes lovely yogurt or if somewhat liquid, the drink called kefir. Caroline mixes her kefir cheese with finely chopped peppers and garlic, creating a dip for crackers or flatbread.
We are cruising in the tropics and so I make kefir cheese in our refrigerator. The culture remains healthy but grows more slowly. If left at galley temperature we'd make cheese from milk in less than a day. By leaving the culture in the refrigerator, we can stretch the cheese making to a week, or just enough time for us to consume a batch.
2 @ Wide-Mouth 1 L Plastic Bottle
2% milk (UHT or boxed milk is fine), 1 L
~ 1 ft2 of Clean, Finely-Woven Cotton Cloth
Pinch Sea Salt
Pinch Sugar or Honey
Separate kefir culture from previous batch of cheese using a slotted plastic spoon. Place in wide mouthed bottle and add roughly 1 cup milk and a pinch of sugar or honey. Place in refrigerator. Every couple of days, add more milk. On day 7 or so, bring the bottle from the refrigerator and inspect. If the culture has curdled the milk completely, you have cheese. If it still appears to be uniformly white, allow the culture to remain at room temperture until you clearly have curds & whey separating. In our climate this takes only a couple of hours.
Lay the cotton cloth in the colander and place on top of a bowl such that there is space below the colander to collect the whey. Pour the curds/whey (cheese!) mixture into the colander through a slotted plastic spoon. The small lump of kefir culture will remain on the spoon; place this in a clean 1 L wide mouthed plastic bottle, add milk and return the culture to the refrigerator.
Allow the curds and whey to filter through the cotton cloth until you have "dry" cheese curds. If your whey appears milky, your cheese will be less creamy and more dry (like feta). If you want to have creamy cheese, select cotton that is more finely woven to retain fines.
Transfer cheese curds to a clean covered plastic container, add tiny pinch of salt to taste and whip with a fork. Place in the refrigerator.