I’ve been a fermentation enthusiast for years. You name it I’ve pickled it! And after all my ferments, vegetables ginger beer, kombucha, and kimchi, kefir remains my all time favorite.
For those of you not aware of the wonderful tradition and art of fermentation… Fermentation is a traditional way to process food (and some herbs) to preserve or create new foods, like alcohol or sour pickles. During the fermentation process bacteria, yeast, and other microrganisms break down foods, through this producing acids and alcohols which also help to prevent food spoilage. So for example, yogurt is a way of preventing the spoilage of milk and sour pickles are a way to enjoy crispy local cucumbers in the middle of the winter.
When you eat many of these foods, you are also ingesting probiotic bacteria which helps to educate and diversity your own microbiota.
Kefir is super healthy with loads of probiotic bacteria and yeasts as well as antioxidants. Its no secret these days that a healthy relationship with out microbiota is important for your health. It’s good for your digestion and healthy skin. The good news is that the way we cultivate a healthy microbiota is no big secret. First, through old fashion healthy eating including many fruits and vegetables. It’s also helpful to eat fermented foods including, you guessed, kefir.
What is kefir?
Kefir is a fermented dairy drink similar to yogurt but thinner which originally comes out of the Caucasus mountains in Central Asia. The microbial cultures in kefir are much more diverse than regular yogurt adding greater benefit to your microbiome. Health wise, kefir is a superfood. Personally, I find it’s the best thing for my digestion and immunity. Not only is it full of probiotic goodness, kefir also creates antioxidants as it ferments And is loaded with B12 vitamins as well as others. Kefir also creates super healthy by products as it does it’s job. Kefiran, a product of the kefir grains in the kefir, may have anti-allergic and anti-tumor effects[2,3]. It’s also lower in lactose, because that’s what the kefir bugs eat. So many people who are lactose intolerance can actually eat kefir.
How to make Kefir?
Kefir is super easy to make and maintain, so no stress when your on vacation. First thing you will need to to get some kefir grains. Kefir grains are the mother or starter of the fermentation process. They are not actually grains, but look like white sticky and slimy rice or fennel seeds. They can be purchase from a number of online shops or if you can find some enthusiasts I’m sure they will share. As you make kefir, the grains reproduce and supply you with endless amounts of excess kefir grains. Place the grains in a jar of milk for about 12-24 (up to 48) hours depending on taste (how sour and thick) and temperature. Cover with a cloth that lets air in but will keep out bugs and dust. Kefir is fermented in aerobic conditions, that is with oxygen. And leave on your counter. When it is done, strain out the kefir milk and enjoy! The kefir is thicker than milk but thinner than yogurt so you may need to shake the kefir through the strainer. Place the kefir grains in a clean jar and refill. This process will go on forever! It is the gift that keeps on giving.
Kefir Grains in Strainer
I generally do 24 hours. Kefir is a room temperature ferment, so the time can vary with the season. In the summer it goes faster in the summer and slower in the winter. You can use cows milk or goat milk. I find organic cows milk the easiest to find and use. Kefir produces CO2 as a byproduct as well, so if you put a lid on, the kefir will carbonate.
Fermentation is often like keeping a pet. The great thing about kefir is that they are resilient little bugs. So when you’re out of town, put the lid on that jar and store in the refrigerator. When you’re back, discard the milk (which will be too sour) and start fermenting. I have done this successful up to 5 weeks. You may need a few rounds to get them growing again but the kefir still tastes great. I like to eat my kefir in many ways. I love to drinking it straight or often I’ll have it with fruit in the morning. There are tons of fund ways of thickening it, but usually I just keep it in the fridge and drink in a few days. References: 1. Cenesiz S, Devrim AK, Kamber U, et al. The effect of kefir on glutathione (GSH), malondialdehyde (MDA) and nitric oxide (NO) levels in mice with colonic abnormal crypt formation (ACF) induced by azoxymethane (AOM). Dtsch Tierarztl Wochenschr.2008;115(1):15-19; PMID: 18265753. 2. Furuno T, Nakanishi M. Kefiran suppresses antigen-induced mast cell activation. Biol Pharm Bull.2012;35(2):178-183; PMID: 22293347. 3. Liu JR, Wang SY, Lin YY, et al. Antitumor activity of milk kefir and soy milk kefir in tumor-bearing mice. Nutr Cancer.2002;44(2):183-187; PMID: 12734066.