Kefir (pronounced keh-FEAR) is a probiotic-rich drink—similar to yogurt, but thinner in consistency. Kefir is made from gelatinous white or yellow particles called grains. This makes kefir unique, as no other milk culture forms grains. These grains contain the bacteria-yeast mixture clumped together with casein (milk proteins) and complex sugars. They look like pieces of coral or small clumps of cauliflower and range from the size of a grain of wheat to that of a hazelnut. The grains ferment the milk, incorporating their friendly organisms to create the cultured product.
Kefir is full of healthy bacteria and yeasts that offer crazy-good probiotic power. The particular combination of bacteria in kefir is much more powerful than that found in yogurt. Homemade kefir made with milk kefir grains usually contains around 50 strains of live bacteria and yeast. Compare that with regular store-bought yogurt, which usually contains only about two major strains.
Kefir’s Health Benefits:
- Improves digestive health
- Increases the population of desirable bacteria and eliminates some of the harmful bacteria in the gut
- Helps with gastrointestinal problems such as constipation, diarrhea, and bloating
- Has been used in the treatment of candidiasis (a fungal infection caused by candida), allergies, metabolic disorders, and many more conditions
- Contains important minerals (calcium and magnesium) for a healthy nervous system
- Contains the essential amino acid tryptophan, which has a relaxing effect on the nervous system and can be beneficial for people with sleep disorders, ADHD, or even depression
In addition to all these possible benefits, many individuals who are lactose intolerant can handle kefir because the bacteria pre-digests the lactose (milk sugars) in the milk.
How to Make Kefir:
Kefir is the easiest cultured food/beverage to make. You simply mix the kefir grains with milk in a jar or crock, cover with cheese cloth and let the sit on your kitchen counter over night, the next day you strain the kefir from the grains.. healthy grains can be reused indefinitely to make kefir!
Kefir grains can be purchased (click HERE to purchase Kefir Grains), but most often they are shared between friends when the grains multiply with each batch.
Finished kefir will taste a bit tart and tangy. some may describe it as sour, but it should not taste like spoiled milk. The tartness depends on how long it’s allowed to ferment. Your kefir might even be bubbly or effervescent. Temperature and the amount of time the kefir is left to culture will affect not only the taste, but also the thickness. Kefir will ferment slowly in cooler temperatures and more quickly if your home is warmer. A thicker kefir is achieved by allowing your mixture to culture for longer periods of time.
You can drink it kefir plain, although many people sweeten it with a bit of maple syrup or honey or blend it with fresh fruit. Kefir can also be used in a variety of delicious recipes that can be found in my book; Fermented Foods at Every Meal – get your copy HERE!
How to Store & Care for Kefir Grains:
Combine kefir grains with fresh milk for a new batch, or store them in the refrigerator covered with a little milk if you’re not ready to make another batch. Refrigerated grains will become semi-dormant, so this is a good option if you’re going away or don’t want to make kefir for a few days. (Keep in mind it will take cold grains longer to ferment, so only refrigerate them if you’re not planning to make a new batch right away.)
When making a new batch of kefir, there is no need to rinse the grains. In fact, when a little bit of the previous kefir is allowed to remain with the grains, it will keep them stron- ger. Rinsing grains is only necessary if they have been dropped or contaminated. (For example, if you accidentally pour in coconut milk instead of cow’s milk, or your strainer goes sideways in the sink.) When you rinse, use only fresh distilled or spring water, never water from the tap because it can contain fluoride, chlorine, or other contaminants.