Kefir is all the hype in the uNreFiNed world of natural health practices. It is bursting with probiotics, vitamins and minerals. It is a creamy beverage that has a tangy and slightly sweet and sour flavor. Kefir is also naturally a wee bit bubbly. This drink is refreshing and pleasant, but for those who don’t enjoy the flavor of this probiotic rich beverage, there are plenty of ways to mix it into smoothies. It is so delicious that it can be snuck into even the pickiest child’s drink. I love using smoothies as a way to get probiotics into my kids every day. It is superior to store-bought yogurt since these cultures are still alive and flourishing. Yogurt does have live cultures in it, but they are dormant so they don’t continue to grow and ferment in the packaging. In addition to the nutrient density this beverage has to offer, it also helps with a host of health problems.
7 Pivotal Kefir Health Benefits
Heals Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Improves Lactose Intolerance
Builds Bone Density
Helps with Allergies and Asthma
Because kefir is fermented, it more digestible and the uptake of nutrients into the body is increased. Vitamin and mineral content is actually increased through the process of lacto-fermentation. In particular, the “B” vitamins increase at the largest rate.
The key component to making kefir is the kefir “Grain.” The word grain simply describes the symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, otherwise known as a SCOBY. The kefir “Grain” is not really a grain at all, it is a spongy iridescent culture of beneficial bacteria and yeast that resembles a piece of cauliflower. This “Grain” is what makes the magic happen. Raw cow’s milk or goats milk is the preferred growing medium for your kefir. Raw grass-fed milk is the healthiest, most nutrient dense way to make your kefir. Raw milk is uNreFiNed and in its purest and most nutritious state. It also has all of its enzymatic activity preserved since it has not gone through the pasteurization process. Grass-fed, of course, is preferred because a cow’s natural diet is grass. This is in comparison to, commercially grain fed milking cows. The more natural and healthy the cow, the healthier the fruits of its labor will be. Starting with quality milk will help ensure excellent quality kefir. Before I talk more about making the kefir I would like to boast a bit more about this little treasure we call the kefir grain. In 1982 there was an animal study done involving mice and kefir grains. I am certainly not here to discuss the morality of animal studies; however, I do find the results fascinating and worthy to at least talk about for a moment. Mice were injected with a carcinoma, at the same time as the injection, half of the mice were given kefir-grain spiked water. In each of the cases, the tumors were inhibited by 40-59%. The core take-away of this study for me, is to EAT my extra kefir grains!! I pop them like a pill once every 2 weeks. I simply put some water in my mouth, pop a grain in there, and down the hatch it goes. You don’t feel it or taste it, you just reap all of the amazing benefits. When you first get into making kefir, the idea of consuming the grain, might seem downright creepy. Trust me, your body will thank you! It’s as easy as taking a pill. You don’t taste it, you just swallow it.
Now let’s get to the nitty-gritty on how to make this tangy fermented beverage. It’s super easy! No fancy equipment necessary. You just need a glass jar, quality milk and kefir grains. It truly is as easy as it sounds. The basic recipe is 1 teaspoon of grains, to 1 cup of milk. This is a very small batch, the recipe can be multiplied to meet your family’s needs. I recommend starting with 3 cups of milk to 1 tablespoon of grains, considering that is the typically amount of grains you will get to start with. Obtain a glass jar and simply put the grains into your milk and cover it with cheese cloth. Fasten a rubber band around the neck of the jar to keep your cloth in place. Place your jar on the counter out of direct sunlight. It is best kept somewhere that won’t get too warm. Summer weather will affect your fermentation time. If your kitchen isn’t air conditioned and gets too warm fermentation will happen faster. The typical fermentation time to soak your grains is between 12-48 hours, depending on your desired flavor. Soaking longer than this will cause an over-fermentation. This will produce a more harsh separation of the curds and whey. The thick, white part of your kefir is referred to as curds and the thin, pale-yellow liquid is whey. Stir up your beverage and strain with a non-metallic strainer. Take care, not to use metal spoons to stir or any metal containers or strainers. Small remnants of metal can slowly work its way into your kefir grains and kill it over time. After you strain your grains off, give them a gentle shake in the strainer. Your kefir is now ready to enjoy! I prefer mine cold, so at this point, I transfer to the fridge until it’s cold and mix it into a smoothie. Soak, Strain, Sip and Repeat!!
As I previously encouraged, you can eat your extra grains. With that said, does anyone have any idea why we will have extra grains? It is because our ‘Grains’ are alive, and anything that is alive will grow. The kefir your make at home is not semi-dormant like store bought yogurt and kefir. These products do have live cultures in it, however, they have no ability to propagate into new cultures. This culture of bacteria and yeast, we call a “grain” is a mass of beneficial living organisms. This “grain” consumes yeast and sugar; thus, if it is thriving, it will also be growing and dividing. It will multiply without you ever noticing. One day, you will be wondering why your kefir is souring too quickly. The best way to ensure this doesn’t happen, is to always measure your grains before you put them into your milk. If you always measure them, then you will quickly recognize when they have grown. Use your extra grains to make even more kefir, or if you have as many as you need then it’s time to start consuming them. Some people prefer to blend theirs into a smoothie. Others yet, may take some time before they feel courageous enough to swallow this little gem. Whatever the case may be, don’t throw them away. You can feed it to your pet if you aren’t brave enough quite yet. A good rule of thumb when introducing all lacto-fermented foods and beverages; is to start slow. Start with just one cup every other day and increase your consumption from there on. As your body adjusts to the extra probiotics you will really start to notice a positive change to your gut health. I am so happy to have been able to help you learn how to make this fun beverage and gain confidence in getting consistently delicious results. Delicious, nutritious, highly sustainable KEFIR!