Kefir is one of my all time favourites. It’s easy to make and very beneficial to the gut flora, and it only take 24 hours to ferment! Kefir is not dissimilar to yogurt but has approximately 20 to 30 different strains of beneficial bacteria, whereas live yogurt only has 6 to 7. It is a little runnier than yogurt and can be used as you would us yogurt. It's great on breakfast cereal, with fruit, in smoothy drinks, to make kefir cheeses and the whey is useful for other fermentations.
For the following information, I am assuming you have purchased kefir grains from a reputable source (Happy Kombucha is great) or are thinking about trying kefir. One thing to remember is kefir grains are living organisms and need to be feed! The grains feed on the lactose in milk and need a constant supply of fresh milk.
The main purported health benefits of kefir
Reduce allergies if not eliminate them altogether
Enhances digestion – eliminating constipation or diarrhoea
Supports the immune system
Replenishes good bacteria following antibiotic use
Treats yeast infections
Improves mood and sleep
Helps lower blood pressure
Helps symptoms of acne
The milk can be whole, reduced fat, or goats milk. I do use organic milk so that there are no antibiotics or pesticides in the milk. Full fat milk makes a thicker kefir.
It is also possible to use coconut milk but more about that in a later post.
This is really very simple! Place the grains in a glass jar with a secure lid and pour in the milk.
You will need 1 teaspoon of kefir grains to ferment 250 millilitres (¼ pint) of milk. The grains will grow quite quickly and you can increase the amount fermented. (2 teaspoons of kefir grains to 500 millilitres (½ pint) milk and so on.
Place the jar in a warm place, out of direct sunlight, for 24 hours. Stir, or gently shake the jar from time to time. It will depend on the room temperature as to how quickly it ferments. I like to start my kefir in the afternoon then you can keep you eye on it the following afternoon.
Once fermented, remove the grains by pouring it through a plastic strainer. Decant the kefir into a storage jar and pop it in the fridge or drink it! You can, at this stage, do what is called a second ferment. It can make the kefir a little less sour tasting and can be flavoured using fruit or flavouring like vanilla or spices. To do this place a little of your desired flavour in the kefir and leave it on the kitchen workspace for another hour before placing it in the fridge. Personally I like it as it is and don’t bother with a second ferment. Having said this, I do sometimes put the innards of a fresh vanilla pod in my kefir. That is really lovely!
The grains can be used again to start a new batch, or stored in the fridge until you need to make another batch.
When it is ready it will thicken but it is personal taste as to when to stop the fermentation. The longer it is left the sourer the taste. It can look as if it is beginning to separate but when shaken it becomes creamy and about the thickness of double cream. It tastes slightly sour and has almost a frothy texture. If left to ferment for too long it can separate but a shake usually remedies this.
Storing kefir grains
Kefir grains are living organisms, so they need to be fed. When storing kefir grains, place them in a glass jar with the same quantities of milk to grains as for brewing. (1 teaspoon of grain per 250 millilitres if milk). They will be fine for several days. The kefir grains will multiply quite quickly, and I would suggest only keep the amount you need. Otherwise, you will need so much milk to store them. I found when I had too many kefir grains, the storage milk went sour too quickly and consequently the grain where not being fed. I then had to throw them away and buy some more! One way to judge the health of your grains is whether they are fermenting the milk in the correct time span (24 hours), or if the milk isn’t thickening properly. If cared for well the grains will last indefinitely.
A Little of The History of Kefir
It is said that Kefir grains originated in the Northern area of the Caucasus Mountains, between Russia and Georgia. It was there that the Ossetians, descended from the nomadic Scythians who settled in the area, first harnessed kefir grains to ferment milk in simple leather bags. The kefir was made of cows or goats milk in sacks made from the hides of animals. Occasionally it was also made in clay pots, wooden buckets, or oak vats. In some areas sheep's milk was also used. Usually the kefir sacks were hung out in the sun during the day and brought back into the house at night, where they were hung near the door. Everyone who entered or left the house was expected to prod the sack with their foot or hand to mix the contents.
For many centuries the people of the northern Caucasus enjoyed this food without sharing it with anyone. It was preciously guarded secret and known as 'Grains of the Prophet'. Strange tales spread of the unusual beverage which was said to have 'magical' properties; Marco Polo even mentioned kefir in the chronicles of his travels in the East.
Nowadays, kefir is being manufactured on a commercial scale in Czechoslovakia, Finland, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, Russia and various of the former soviet union states, Denmark, the United States, France, West Germany, Canada and parts of southeast Asia. You may even be familiar with some brands such as Lifeway's Kefir.
Through of the world there are many different names for Kefir:-
• Snow lotus
• Tibetan mushroom
• Mudu Kekiya
• The Grains of The Prophet Mohamed
• The Drink of the Prophet
• Tibetan Mushrooms
• Yogurt Plant
• Yogurt Mushroom
• Yogoot-tane-oko (Japanese)
• Tibetanischer Pilz (German)
• Galodium (Romanian and/or Polish)
• Kefyras (Lithuanian)
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