Kefir is a fermented drink that originated in the Caucasus Mountains of western Russia near the Black Sea. It has a rich creamy texture and sour effervescent quality that is cool and refreshing. The symbiotic mix of bacteria and yeast that ferment this milk product produces a beverage that is both delicious and therapeutic.
Kefir restores balance to unhealthy digestive systems, reduces gas, normalizes bowel movements and enhances the immune system. Additional benefits include balanced blood sugar, reduced sugar craving, better energy and overall improvement of one’s happiness quotient.
Kefir has more potent health benefits than yogurt due to the complexity of the kefir grain matrix. Kefir has beneficial bacteria not found in yogurt such as Lactobacillus caucasus, Leuconostoc, and Acetobacter. Kefir also contains beneficial yeasts, such as Saccharomyces, known to hunt out and destroy pathogenic yeasts such as candida and harmful bacteria such as clostridium. The more sour the kefir, the more folic acid it contains, a good thing because almost all of us are deficient in this B vitamin.
Kefiran is a type of polysaccharide (starch) found in kefir and has been shown in one study to suppress elevated blood pressure and reduce serum cholesterol. Other compounds found in Kefir have antioxidant and anti-cancer properties, although more investigation needs to be done to evaluate their true potential.
Kefir is easy to make
Traditionally all you need is cow, goat or sheep milk and kefir grains: white, soft, rice-like cauliflower shaped clumps of bacteria and yeast colonies that ferment the milk, making it a so- called ‘super food’, even for those with lactose intolerance. Raw organic milk yields the most nutritional kefir. Coconut water added to kefir is a wonderful vegan alternative to animal milk and has additional benefits including electrolytes and an anti-aging effect on human cells and tissues. Because of the yeast in kefir you can also make sourdough bread or buttermilk.
The Basic Recipe
Supplies: wide mouthed Mason jar, strainer (an approximately 4” wide one, metal is ok for straining but don’t let the kefir stay in contact with metal for long or it will short circuit), milk (raw is best, otherwise organic), kefir grains
- Put 1 tablespoon of the grains in the jar
- Add about 3 -4 cups of milk
- Let sit at room temperature for about 24 hours. You can give it a little shake a couple of times for more thorough fermenting.
- You will see some separation occur; this is normal and upon stirring & straining it will become homogenous again.
- After 24 hours, plus or minus, strain out the grains and start a new batch. Enjoy the kefir as is or add a little coconut water, perhaps some cinnamon or other spice, or add to a smoothie with fruit, hemp oil and such.
Kefir will keep in the refrigerator for many days. Grains can be stored for a couple of months in the freezer, or in a little milk in the refrigerator for weeks. If you don’t want to use milk, aside from the coconut mentioned above, you can use rice milk, nut milk or honey sweetened water. Be creative. The grains can be rinsed and soaked in water then switched to ferment other nutritive liquids. Kefir will ferment most any liquid that has a little sweetness to it, but seems to really thrive in milk products.
Kefir grains are best for making kefir and will last forever, while kefir starter products are only good for a few batches before they lose their oomph. You can get kefir grains from my wife, Lisa, just send me an email. Or you can go online to find them. The kefirlady.com has a good looking website, although I haven’t actually used her product.
In brief summary: kefir is a wonderful product, don’t leave home without it, have fun with it and let me know if questions. Hope you’re having a great summer.
Jon Dunn, ND