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This copycat Orange Julius smoothie recipe delivers the nostalgic flavor without you having to set foot inside a shopping mall. To give our version a healthy probiotic kick, we recommend making your own kefir. You can make kefir from dairy or non-dairy ingredients, see our note below for more details on how to shop for the starter grains or powder you’ll need.
Choosing a Kefir Starter
This recipe calls for kefir grains. Here’s what to look for:
- Milk kefir grains These bacteria/yeast combo cultures literally come alive when added to cow’s milk or nondairy milk, which they thicken into rich, creamy kefir in about 24 hours. The grains can be strained out of the thickened kefir and used to ferment drinks indefinitely if added to a new batch of milk every 18 to 48 hours. Kefir grains can also be refrigerated in milk or dried and frozen for longer storage between batches. With regular use, the grains will reproduce and multiply and you can share, discard, or even eat the extras.
- Powdered kefir starter This stir-and-go starter thickens milks into kefir just like kefir grains, only there’s nothing to strain out and save. Powdered kefir starter is less expensive than kefir grains and won’t last as long, but it can be used to make several batches of kefir by transferring a few spoonfuls of finished kefir into a new glass of milk, and letting it culture overnight.
- Water kefir grains These dairy-free grains can be used to culture juice or sweetened, flavored water for fermented beverages. (Note: They won’t work with nondairy milks to make kefir.)
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Copycat Orange Julius Smoothie Recipe with Probiotic Kefir
1. Pour milk into pint-size glass jar, and stir in kefir grains. Cover jar with several layers of cheesecloth or paper towels, and secure with rubber band.
2. Store jar at room temperature out of direct sunlight and allow kefir to ferment until thickened. (Healthy kefir grains will thicken milk in 24 hours, though this process may take as few as 12 hours in warmer temperatures, or as long as 48 hours in cooler temperatures.) Check kefir periodically to gauge thickness.
3. When mixture reaches desired thickness, strain kefir into glass, stirring gently until only kefir grains remain in strainer. (To keep kefir grains viable, stir into new batch of milk within 48 hours.)
4. Combine prepared kefir, orange juice, vanilla, and sugar in blender. Pulse to combine. Blend in ice cubes individually until as creamy and frothy as you like. Taste, and blend in more sugar to sweeten as desired.