Friday, January 29, 2016

Kefir: What it is and How to use it

What is Kefir?
Kefir is a sour drinkable fermented beverage, made usually with milk, containing yeast and probiotics. It is made with kefir grains, milk and time, simple as that. It is very slightly alcoholic, just as a result of the yeast breaking down the sugars in the milk. The probiotics are abundant, and are the main reason I started drinking it myself, and then making it.

Kefir is available commercially, but can get quite expensive if you have several people in the household drinking it. This is the biggest reason I started making it at home. We were buying 4 bottles a week. Ack.

Kefir is traditionally made with cow's milk, but can be prepared using just about any drink containing sugar, including soy milk, coconut milk, fruit juice and more. Water kefir is something different than what I am discussing here.

In order to make it at home, you will first need to find kefir grains. The grains themselves aren't actually grains, just referred to as such. Kefir grains resemble small clumps of cauliflower, and are white or slightly yellowish in color. 

Here is a picture of mine at the moment, still coated in the last batch of strained kefir.


I know, I know....looks pretty gross. Hang with me, I promise it will be worth it. 

Anyhow, kefir grains can't be "made", you are going to need to find some grown from an existing batch. As you make kefir at home, the grains will multiply and grow. The extras can be shared with friends. I found mine online, but many people have luck looking on craigslist locally as well. Natural health food stores may carry them in your area, or be able to put you into contact with someone who has them.

Why Make Kefir?
Kefir is full of probiotics, the benefits of which are several fold. Most people in our society don't have a strong gut flora, leading to a variety of issues. Add onto that the existence of antibiotics, some of which can wipe out your good bacteria along with the bad, and you can start to have digestive issues, among other things.

Personally, I have a history of IBS and indigestion, among other things. Aren't you glad you know that? I kid...I kid.

If you have a personal or family history of digestive issues, I highly recommend you try this. Of particular interest for me personally is that I've seemed to develop a hint of lactose intolerance as I've aged. When kefir is made, almost all of the lactose is consumed by the yeast, leaving very little of it left afterwards. I don't have digestive upset when I drink this, but I do with ordinary milk.

How Do You Make Kefir?

  1. Procure some kefir grains.
  2. Spoon them into a glass container. I use a quart sized mason jar.
  3. Cover the grains with about 3 cups of milk. I use whole milk from our local dairy.
  4. Cover the jar with a cloth. You want it covered, but you want the kefir to be able to breathe. I use a washcloth, secured with a rubber band around the top. 
  5. Set it on the counter at room temperature and wait. The time will vary depending on the temperature and how active your grains are at that moment. 24 hours is good rule of thumb. It will take a bit longer when it is cold, can be quicker when it is warm. 
  6. When the liquid has thickened and you see chunks floating around the top, it is ready.
  7. Using a plastic strainer, strain the kefir into a new clean container, reserving the grains in the strainer. 
  8. Kefir can be consumed immediately or run through secondary fermentation at this point. Store in the refrigerator. Grains can be immediately placed into a clean jar and used to make another batch.

Secondary Fermentation
I prefer to use a secondary fermentation process for my kefir. I've used several different options to do it, and it's just a matter of personal preference which you might try. My favorite is to toss in some boiled lemon peel, but I usually use lemon juice because it is simpler. I have used fresh and frozen berries as well. All you do for secondary fermentation is to throw in something with more sugar (I only use fruit or fruit juice), shake it up and put it in the fridge for another few days. It thickens the kefir more as well as flavors it.

I Have SO Much Kefir. What do I do?
It can get ahead of you, for sure. As the grains multiply, you will need to pull some out to keep the ratios right or add more and more milk. If your ratios are off, it will start to separate into clearish liquid and thick chunks. If you have a fridge full of kefir and don't want to keep making more, strain off the grains and put them into a small glass jar, then put them in the fridge. They'll keep in the fridge for quite a while without feeding them. When you are ready to start making kefir again, know that it might take a little longer for them to "wake" back up. 

Kefir Smoothies
I tend to drink it straight, but most of the people in my house will only drink it in a smoothie. Here's my go-to breakfast recipe, and what I drink almost every morning. This recipe makes enough for 2 people. Toss it in a blender and enjoy. 

- 2-3 cups of kefir
- 1 large banana
- 2 tbsp chia seeds
- 1 tbsp wheat germ
- 1 cup frozen berries
- 1 cup washed kale, stem removed

One smoothie, three of your daily servings of fruits and vegetables, lots of protein and all the probiotics you need! 

I hope that I've answered most of your questions! If you have more, please add them in the comments. 

Happy bellies = happy people. 

3 comments:

  1. How interesting. It doesn't seem hard at all!
    I will definitely have to try this!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am lactose intolerant...and can't drink any of the milk substitutes, because of the texture of it. (Also why I can't drink milk, lactose-free or otherwise - the texture makes me quite ill).
    My question is this: is the texture of the Kefir the same as milk? And also, does it taste sour?
    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The texture is different. It is much thicker, like the consistency of a runny yogurt. It is sour as first made. You can opt to add flavoring or sweeteners to it, mix it in a smoothie, etc. You might want to try a brand of kefir available in the store initially and see how your stomach does with it. Those are available plain, but most of them are flavored and sweetened. Good luck!

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