Kefir! It’s the superfood you need to know about, a rich, creamy probiotic beverage with the consistency of drinkable yogurt but with many times more nutrients. If you haven’t discovered it yet, then read on. You’re in for a treat!
Kefir is an easy, affordable and delicious way of boosting your immune system. Besides being packed with nutrients, it’s a powerhouse of probiotics. These are the good organisms that are essential to our health, the ones that help us fight off dangerous infections. They proliferate everywhere inside our bodies and in the world around us. But with the widespread use of antibiotics, hand sanitizers and a multitude of other practices meant to keep us healthy by reducing harmful bacteria, we’ve actually been removing many of the body’s own best defenses and have created a widespread health problem. Because antibiotics and disinfectants work against both the good and the bad bacteria, the natural balance of our microscopic universe is disrupted and we become vulnerable to resistant strains, commonly known as “superbugs.”
We can help our systems restore this balance by including any probiotic rich foods in our diet, but kefir is an A+ source, containing multiple strains of live cultures and substantial amounts of protein, calcium and magnesium as well. Although it’s been around for a long time, thought to have originated in the Caucasus Mountains many centuries ago, kefir has recently attracted scientific interest for its potential as a beneficial probiotic food. A article from Frontiers in Microbiology published earlier this year states…
Kefir is a complex fermented dairy product created through the symbiotic fermentation of milk by lactic acid bacteria and yeasts …As with other fermented dairy products, kefir has been associated with a range of health benefits such as cholesterol metabolism and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibition, antimicrobial activity, tumor suppression, increased speed of wound healing, and modulation of the immune system including the alleviation of allergy and asthma…One of the features that distinguish kefir from many other fermented dairy products is the requirement for the presence of a kefir grain in fermentation and the presence and importance of a large population of yeasts.
It is in the traditional method of making kefir, the use of the “grains” as a culture, that the diversity and abundance of probiotics can proliferate, which the article goes on to explain is not the same as the widely distributed commercial product.
Commercial, industrial-scale production rarely utilizes kefir grains for fermentation, but rather uses starter cultures of microbes that have been isolated from kefir or kefir grains in order to provide more consistent products (Assadi et al., 2000). While this industrially produced kefir may have health benefits of its own, research examining such benefits has either not been performed or is not published.
In other words, the scientific community is looking at the traditionally prepared version of kefir as opposed to what you’d buy in the store. Even the store-bought brands have more live cultures than yogurt, but the probiotics really increase when you make your kefir at home. It’s simple and quick. Anyone can do it! Here’s the process;
1) Obtain your kefir grains. The best way is to get them fresh from someone who is making it, but there are also multiple online sources.
Grains should be stored (while not being used) in cow’s milk – in between uses or when you have extra. When you go to make a new batch, you’ll scoop the grains out of the milk as shown. You’ll also want to refresh this milk (about weekly) to keep the grains fed and happy* Grains!
2) Place a generous tablespoon of live kefir culture grains in ½ gallon of cow or goat milk.
3) Cover and place in a warm spot out of direct sunlight for at least 24 hours, or until it is the consistency of liquid yogurt.
We used a cloth here to cover our grains, which is usually ideal, but a regular lid will work well too. Fermentation times will differ based on a multitude of variables, such as temperature. Our kitchen can get pretty chilly in the winter, so we’ll use a warming plate to speed up the process. If you want to slow down the process, place in the refrigerator.
4) Strain the grains from the kefir using a plastic strainer. Place the grains in a jar of fresh milk and store in the refrigerator for future use.*
5) At this point you can flavor the kefir any number of ways. For starters, try ½ cup of fruit, a tablespoon of vanilla or almond extract, sweeten with sugar, honey, maple syrup or stevia. Your imagination is the limit here. Experiment and have fun with it.
6) Use a hand blender to smooth it out, leave at room temperature for another 4-6 hours for its “second ferment” (this step is optional) then chill. I think the flavors are optimal when it’s cold.
7) Now drink and enjoy and know you are doing yourself and your health a huge favor!
This is Pumpkin Spice – Cinnamon, a seasonal favorite – just add a can of pumpkin, 2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spices (cinnamon, nutmeg), and sweeten to taste using sugar, stevia, or maple syrup
*The kefir grains must be “fed” by being immersed in cow’s milk at all times between uses. Change the milk out when it gets thick. Take care of your grains, they are living things that provide you with a great gift. Thank you!
PS – We’ll continue posting about Kefir and other important probiotics you need to know about! Recipes, articles, and more…how to get through the winter healthy and happy! Subscribe here to make sure you don’t miss anything, and to become a part of this incredible community.