Penance for a Food Product Snub

Forgive me, kefir, for I have sinned.

For years, I never tried you, never cared to, never even thought about it.

What can I say? There was just something about your name that turned me off.

I love your distant cousin, yogurt, whose name I’ve grown accustomed to saying effortlessly and joyously.

But you, kefir, every time I heard your name, I just turned the other way.

The tragedy.

I hope you can find it in your cultured, fermented heart to forgive me now, because thanks to the good folks at Lifeway, who cajoled and persisted with samples, I finally tried you.

And now — dare I say it — I ADORE you.

I know you’re supposedly good for the immune system, and may even be a godsend for everything from bad breath to lactose intolerance to high cholesterol to irritable bowel syndrome (OK, we won’t go there). But you know what I like most about you? That you’re like a bad boy who is actually a good guy. Oh you know what I mean — you tempt with your thick, rich, creamy body akin to a high-cal smoothie or milkshake. But really, you’re more like drinkable yogurt, except made with more than twice the amount of live and active cultures. And you’re easily found at Whole Foods or Target.

Kefir, my friend who is made with milk fermented with kefir cultures,  your lowfat self has only 160 calories in 1 cup (with only 2g total fat), and can boast of providing 30 percent of the daily calcium requirement and 25 percent of the daily Vitamin D requirement.

You rock. So much so that I even took the effort to spotlight you in a dessert of panna cotta.

I loved all your flavors that I tried, except for the cherry one, which for some odd reason, tasted a bit artificial, even though it isn’t. I used your strawberry lowfat self to create this eggless, unbaked custard that is cold, creamy and so satisfying on a warm summer day.

Kefir, I can never apologize enough for how I’ve wronged you in the past. But I hope this dreamy-creamy treat begins to make up for it.

Strawberry Kefir Panna Cotta

(Makes 6)

3 tablespoons water

2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin

1 1/4 cups whipping cream

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 cups lowfat strawberry kefir or your favorite flavor

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Fresh fruit and  mint leaves, for garnish

Pour 3 tablespoons water into a small custard cup and sprinkle gelatin over it. Let stand until gelatin soften for about 10 minutes.

Combine whipping cream and sugar in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture is hot; don’t boil it. Remove from heat; stir in gelatin mixture until completely dissolved and mixture is smooth. Cool mixture to room temperature, about 45 minutes.

Stir kefir and vanilla extract into cream mixture. Pour mixture through a fine strainer into a large 4-cup measuring cup. Divide mixture among six (3/4-cup) custard cups or ramekins. Refrigerate until panna cotta is set, at least 6 hours or up to 1 day.

You can eat the panna cotta right out of the ramekins or unmold them. To unmold, run a thin knife around the sides of each panna cotta. Then, one at at time, place bottom of each ramekin in a bowl that has 1-inch of hot water in it. After about 45 seconds, remove the ramekin from the bowl of water. Place a plate over the ramekin and invert. Then, while holding tightly onto the custard cup and plate together, give it one strong shake. The custard should then release and settle onto the plate. Garnish with fresh fruit and mint leaves, if you like.

From Carolyn Jung

More: Strawberry Shortcakes with Greek Yogurt

More: Cinnamon-Apple Yogurt Muffins

More: Where to Find Gourmet Imported French Yogurt

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  • A delightful panna cotta! Kefir is wonderful.



  • I was late in coming around to kefir too. I love that it’s like drinkable yogurt, and I love how long it can be stored in the refrigerator. Great-looking panna cotta!

  • Haha I too like kefir now!! πŸ™‚

  • LOL! This would be a good Foodgal contest. For me, the food would be quinoa. I thought it was hippie chow but when I started cooking with it, I fell in love with it.

    I’ve treated kefir with scorn but will try it soon.

  • When my niece was born 13 years ago she couldn’t digest regular milk so my sister gave her kefir. I remember it being extremely hard to find when she would visit. Now, as you said it is every where. I husband eat it with fruit every night! I love panna cotta, so I am excited about the recipe you provided, can’t wait to try it out!

  • Oh, Carolyn, how thou dost betray thy loyal readers!

    First you tout the lo-cal advantages (galore!) of this luscious beverage. Then you tempt our palates with the visual of that so smooth and sublime looking panna cotta. But *then*, only then do you allow our eyes to slide innocently down to the recipe where you’ve seduced us to overlook the subtle addition of a cup and a quarter of presumably full-fat whipping cream!

    Shame, SHAME on you!

    I am currently making a major effort to convince my eyeballs that what they *really* saw in your post was an alluring image of Kefir over granola, say…or just some fresh fruit.

    Panna cotta pictures before breakfast?

    A blatant betrayal!

  • PS: this is one of my most favorite-ever of your reviews. I’m sure our mutual friend Kefir has warmly forgiven your oversights of the past πŸ™‚

  • Carroll: Uh, I’m just trying to make sure you and all my other readers get your quotient of calcium. I’m looking out for ya. Don’t want any osteoporosis developing on my watch. πŸ˜‰

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  • Oh, I see, Carolyn…osteoporosis, eh? Well I guess I’ll have to ward *that* off by all the odious **EXERCISE** I’ll be doing to get rid of the panna cotta!!


  • This panna cotta looks irresistible! I used to have kefir a lot as a child but it’s been a while since I got some, need to also introduce it to my daughter!

  • When I saw this post, I thought you were talking about kaffir limes, which I love! I’ve never heard of kefir, but you know I have high cholesterol so this has piqued my interest to check out next time I’m at Whole Foods.

  • Oddly, I didn’t try Kefir until 3 months ago myself. A girlfriend kept raving about it yet I was too stubborn to make the leap. Now I drink it quite often because of the health benefits. But I’ll still eat full-fat Greek style yogurt anytime!

  • Dear Carolyn – You’ll probably think this is the goofiest comment ever πŸ™‚ But I have seen you around town (blog town that is) and I keep thinking I have to visit her – because your name keeps reminding me of Carl Jung and his theory of synchronicity which I digg. So here I am thanks to Carl!

    Glad I popped in. You have a lovely corner and since I have not yet made panna cotta this season, I am just in time.

    Ciao, Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  • talk about turning a 180! i guess i’ll have to try this kefir myself because as of now, i’m pretty intimidated by it.
    gorgeous panna cotta, by the way. πŸ™‚

  • A Lovely.. panna cotta! I have to try..Kefir looks delicious πŸ™‚

  • i love your intro. had me chuckling! i haven’t tried it either. now i have to!

  • Are Kefir products really that good? I shall try next time!

  • I’ve never tried kefir either, which is obviously a real tragedy. I need to just do it especially considering how much I like Greek yogurt. That panna cotta sounds splendid!

  • very funny post but very delicious looking panna cotta.

  • How amazing it looks smooth! We shouldn’t be picky before trying Kefir… learnt πŸ˜‰

  • Wow, I just drink the stuff, not sure I’d have enough left to make the panna cotta. But if ever I do, that’s what I’m making.

  • now this is intersting! lol! πŸ™‚ definitely!

  • I think kefir would definitely forgive you now after that love letter! πŸ˜€ I like it but it took a few tries to get used to it πŸ˜›

  • I just tried kefir for the first time last month and loved it. Thanks for this delicious recipe, can’t wait to make it!

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  • Love kefir and especially strawberries – great recipe!

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