Not too long ago I attended a day long workshop teaching familes how to prepare wholesome foods that nourish your body such as lacto-fermented veggies, sourdough bread, homemade yogurt and kefir. It was an amazing day led by Maureen Diaz, a chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation. That day I tried kefir for the first time and realized that I’ve been missing out!
What is Kefir?
The little bacteria in your gut are like your own small army that helps your body fight off illness, bad bacteria, viruses and pathogens that try to take over, and sometimes do in cases such as candidiasis. Did you know that a healthy gut has 4 pounds of ”good” bacteria? Probiotics are a great way to help strengthen those beneficial little critters in your gut.
Kefir is a creamy fermented milk (or water) drink that is kind of like a cross between yogurt and buttermilk, but it has up to 10 times more beneficial probiotics than yogurt! Kefir is full of vitamins, essential amino acids, minerals and easy to digest protein. According to Dom’s Kefir, even those who are lactose intolerant are able to drink kefir, because the yeast and bacteria in the kefir consume the lactose during the fermentation process.
Kefir is made with kefir grains that have a mixture of yeast and bacteria, along with milk protein and complex sugars. The beneficial bacteria and yeasts from kefir inhabit the intestinal tract to help it fight disease causing bacteria, something that the cultures in yogurt do not do. Plus, kefir also has several strains of bacteria that are not found in yogurt.
Kefir has been used to help patients suffering with AIDS, cancer, sleep disorders and ADHD. It is said to help promote tranquility in the nervous system, encourage healthy bowel movements and reduce gas.
How to Make Kefir
You can make kefir with a variety of kinds of milk including pasteurized milk, raw milk, coconut milk and even almond milk. One can use cow, sheep or goat’s milk. Although the grains will not grow in the non-dairy milks and they will eventually die off in these alternative milks (nut, coconut and almond milks). It is best to ferment kefir in whole milk, although a lower fat variety will work as well.
Kefir is made by adding kefir grains to milk and allowing it to ferment at room temperature from 8 hours anywhere up to 48 hours, but the norm is to ferment overnight. Simply add a tablespoon of grains per 1 cup of milk to a glass container such asa mason jar and cover with a breathable cover. I like to use a coffee filter attached with a rubber band. At the end of fermentation, after 8-48 hours, simply strain the kefir through a plastic colander and now you are ready to drink your kefir or use it in smoothies. You may wish to take a small spoonful of kefir to taste as it ferments to determine the ideal fermentation time to reach the taste you enjoy. The grains can be rinsed and used to make more kefir, or stored in the fridge until you are ready to use them again.
You cannot grow grains from scratch, but must acquire them from other growers. As your kefir ferments your grains will grow in size and eventually split, yielding more grains that you can share with friends.
Uses for kefir:
- drink it plain
- drink sweetened with natural sweeteners
- add to soups
- blend in smoothies
- serve with granola
- use on cereal or oatmeal in place of milk
- serve over ice cream with fresh berries
- as a substitute for buttermilk
- for making sourdough bread
How to Care for Kefir Grains
- Don’t fill your kefir jar more than 2/3 full.
- Use plastic utensils to handle your kefir and a plastic strainer or strainer with stainless steel mesh to filter and rinse your grains.
- Ferment at room temperature, covered with a breathable lid, such as a coffee filter attached using a mason jar ring or rubber band.
- You can rest your kefir grains if you want to take a break from making kefir. Simply place them in a jar with the amount of milk used for normal fermentation and strain after one week. Read more about resting your grains and much, much more on Dom’s Kefir site.
Do you drink kefir? What’s your favorite way to use kefir?
Note: I am not a doctor. Please do your own research to determine what is best for you!