Saturday, July 4, 2009

Kefir

Over 1,000 years ago, Kefir, a cultured milk drink, originated in the Caucasus region, an area between Europe, Asia and the Middle East. It is prepared by inoculating cow, goat, or sheep's milk with kefir grains. Kefir grains resemble cauliflower and are a mixture of bacteria and yeast, clumped together with casein (milk proteins) and complex sugars. The grains can range in size from tiny(the size of a grain of wheat) to large(the size of a grape) Today, kefir is becoming increasingly popular due to new research into its health benefits. Kefir contains several major strains of friendly bacteria not commonly found in yogurt; Lactobacillus Caucasus, Leuconostoc, Acetobacter species, and Streptococcus species.

It also contains beneficial yeasts, such as Saccharomyces kefir and Torula kefir, which dominate, control and eliminate destructive pathogenic yeasts in the body. They do so by penetrating the mucosa lining of the intestines where unhealthy yeast and bacteria reside. Kefir forms a virtual SWAT team that housecleans and strengthens the intestines so that the body becomes more efficient in resisting such pathogens as E. coli and intestinal parasites. Since Kefir bacteria can actually colonize your intestines, something that yogurt cannot do, it can provide more nutritive value than yogurt by helping digest the foods that you eat and by keeping the colon environment clean and healthy.

Because the curd size of kefir is smaller than yogurt, it is also easier to digest, which makes it a particularly excellent, nutritious food for babies, invalids and the elderly, as well as a remedy for digestive disorders. Because the lactose is consumed during the fermenting process, many lactose intolerant people find it to be something they can drink without any problems.

The best part about kefir is that it is very easy to make. If you start with a little of someone else's kefir you can begin immediately. This is called a kefir culture. You use a little to make more, just like yogurt. However, eventually it won't work anymore and you will need more cultures. If you purchase Kefir grains, they can be used indefinately. They feed on the lactose in milk and will continue to live and grow as long as you supply it. They can be purchased through us or at some health food stores. If you would like to purchase kefir grains, you can contact us at candlerfoods at bellsouth dot net.

I like to make raw kefir so that I can preserve all of the healthy bacteria that exist, but some packaged kefir grains will ask you to pre-cook the milk and then cool it. It is a personal choice not to do this step and while you may need to do this for the original batch, you can use my process after that if you wish.

Making kefir from kefir drink:

What you will need:

1 quart wide-mouth jar, clean and sanitized with lid
2 cups of fresh milk
1/2 cup of kefir(from a previous batch)

Pour the milk and then the kefir into your jar. Shake. Place in a cool, dark place overnight. Refrigerate. Stir (or shake) and Drink.

Its really that easy. I usually allow mine to culture about 11 hours. I have heard some folks culture it for up to 18 hours. The longer it sits, the more tart it will taste and the thicker it will get. If you culture too long, you will see it separate from the whey and then eventually it can spoil. You should have a creamy, thick drinkable liquid when you are finished culturing it. It will continue to thicken in the fridge, but at a much slower rate. I like to drink mine in the morning before breakfast. It tastes somewhat like buttermilk and/or yogurt with a taste all its own. You can add fruit or sweeteners to it, but I like mine plain. It would make a great smoothie too.

Making kefir with kefir grains:
What you will need
1 quart wide-mouth jar, clean and sanitized with lid
2 cups of fresh milk
1/4 cup of kefir(from a previous batch)

Pour the milk and then the kefir into a clean jar. I use wide mouth quart jar add the milk and 1/4 cup of kefir grains. Cover the jar loosely with a lid and let set about 12 hours. Then, simply pour the kefir through a strainer to catch the grains and put the liquid in a jar and refrigerate. Put the grains in a clean jar and add fresh milk to make more. If you don't want to make another batch, you can put the jar of grains with the fresh milk in the refrigerator.  We drink it constantly, so I just make more.

Because you can make this so easily yourself and you get a 100% return when you make it, its an economical addition to your meal plan. There is no by product with kefir. No whey to pour off and it will constantly produce bigger fatter kefir grains. Its much easier to make than yogurt and its better for you. If you have milk, give it a try. You might love it!

4 comments:

Phoenix's Muse said...

I'm really seriously planning on trying this, but despite having read it, I'm still... mystified. If I have this straight, I can buy kefir grains, then put them in coconut water (instead of milk, I've watched videos of it done with coconut water), and then... I let it sit. I drink most of it. That much I get. But then I can keep the rest to culture further? Do I let it sit out some more to culture it more...? I guess I would right, once mixed with the new batch? Sounds... too awesome to be true.

frugalhsmom said...

Milk kefir feeds on lactose. While you could put some grains in coconut milk, I don't think they can grow in that and you would need to strain them from the coconut milk and keep them in regular milk. You could try water kefir grains. You may have better success with that. They are a completely different type of kefir and feed on sugar.

Kate {The Parchment Girl} said...

I have a couple of questions...

Can you use cow milk kefir grains with goat's milk? And when you let the kefir ferment what temperature should it be kept at?

You said you make kefir with raw milk... is that safe? How does that work exactly?

Also, how much kefir grains would you recommend someone just starting out buy?

frugalhsmom said...

Hi Kate,
From what I have heard, kefir grains will grow in any mammal milk, so they should do fine in goat milk.

The great thing about kefir is it can be made on the counter at room temperature.

As I pointed out in the post, you only need a 1/4 cup to inoculate a quart of milk. Put the grains in a clean quart jar. Add fresh milk and put the lid on loosely. Let it set for 12-24 hours.

We no longer have access to a cow for raw milk, but drink non-homogenized, low temp pasteurized milk right now. Raw milk is completely safe. You can read more about raw milk at www.realmilk.com or the WAPF site.