What is Kefir?
In this article I’ll write about Kefir, a very popular drink that you can find in supermarkets, but which is much better when it's home-made!
The story goes that Kefir grains originated in the Northern Caucasus Mountains and were kept there in secret by family tribes, who regarded them as sacred. For generations kefir grains, and the secret of how to use them, were passed on from generation to generation.
Biology and benefits
Kefir grains are a mix of bacteria and yeast that grow in a complex matrix that resembles cauliflower.
This mixture of bacteria and yeast, promote a healthy gut flora, so the benefits will be pretty much the same than the ones advertised in popular fermented milk commercials. I’m talking about a healthier digestive system and a strong immune system.
Does this mean that drinking Kefir will stop you from getting sick? No! But it will sure make you stronger and fight back disease. Many serious studies are now showing how important proper nutrition and how healthy gut flora are important for a strong immune system and how this can be an advantage when confronting a serious disease.
So don’t be afraid to drink millions of this friendly bacteria/yeast because they are good for you!
Kefir and lactose intolerance
Kefir grows by eating away the sugar in milk. Guess what that sugar is? Right! Lactose! What is great about Kefir, is that after the fermentation process almost all the lactose has been digested. So this makes a great beverage for those who are lactose intolerant.
How to start growing Kefir
To start growing Kefir you'll need some Kefir grains. Nowadays you can also find ready-made Kefir in many supermarkets, but making your own will bring you more benefits. First, it will be cheaper, since you only need fresh milk to keep you Kefir grains happy. Second your kefir will be preservative and sugar free.
Kefir grains can be found over the internet or some health shops. These are normally in a dehydrated form, and just require you to add some milk to start growing them. You can also check with your friends and see if any of them is growing Kefir and can share some grains with you. Mine were given to me by my father who got them from a friend.
- Kefir (the beverage) is normally ready after 24 hours fermentation. Then it is time to separate your grains from the ready beverage and add fresh milk.
- I like to keep my Kefir grains in a glass jar. Plastic is also ok, but you should avoid any type of metallic container. Trying to grow your grains in metal containers will actually harm them and eventually kill them.
- To separate the grains from the milk I normally use a plastic strainer. The fermented milk can be kept refrigerated in the fridge for 1-2 days.
- Put your Kefir grains back onto a clean glass jar and add fresh milk. The amount of milk depends on the volume of grains. I recommend to add 3x the volume of the grains in milk.
- Keep the glass jar in the dark at a temperature of 20-25ºC (68-77ºF). Don't screw the lid of the jar so the gas produced by the fermentation can escape (otherwise the finished beverage will have a more bitter taste).
- The actual amount of milk you'll need may vary. If after 24 hours your Kefir drink doesn't have a 'curdle' appearance, then next time add a little less milk. On the other hand, if your Kefir is too 'curdled' or too bitter to taste, try increasing the milk volume.
- How kind of milk should you use? Either cow's milk or goat's work just fine. It doesn't matter if you use long or short shelf life milk. I'll recommend using semi-skimmed milk or whole milk, but I would avoid skimmed milk as it's probably too low in sugar to keep your Kefir grains happy.
- As time goes by, your Kefir grains will increase and you'll need to add more and more milk. At this point, it's advisable to freeze some of your grains, so you have some backup stock. You can also give some away to your friends!
Kefir can be drunk plain, made into smoothies, mixed with cereal or honey! Have any suggestions? Leave me a comment below and thank you for reading my hub!