So what exactly is Kefir? Have you seen it in your local health food store?
Because kefir is a balanced and nourishing food, it has been used to help patients suffering from AIDS, chronic fatigue syndrome, herpes, and cancer. It has a tranquilizing effect on the nervous system and is beneficial for people with sleep disorders, depression and ADHD. Kefir promotes healthy bowel movements when used regularly, and helps reduce flatulence. It also helps reduce food cravings by allowing the body to feel more nourished and balanced.
Kefir has many other nutritive features in addition to bacteria and yeast. It is loaded with minerals and essential amino acids. Because its protein is partially digested in the fermentation process, it is easily utilized by the body, and can, in most circumstances be consumed by people with lactose intolerance. Kefir contains significant amounts of tryptophan, the amino acid that promotes relaxation and sleep, making it a good choice for a nightcap. Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a naturally occurring fatty acid found in kefir and other ruminant products that has been shown to possess anti-cancer activities in in-vivo animal models and in vitro cell culture systems. It is also rich in vitamin B-12, vitamin K and biotin.
So are you convinced yet? Here's what you have to do to get started! Find some kefir grains. They can be adopted online or find a friend locally who has some extra. All you need is milk (at least 2%), preferably from a caring local farmer you look in the eye and shake hands with on a regular basis. Read here about the benefitsof raw milk and the dangers of homogenization. If you need to find a reliable source for raw milk check this out.
Now, brace yourself this is complicated! Put the grains in the milk and set the milk on the counter. Wait. And wait. Depending on the temperature in your kitchen and the proportion of milk to the chunk of grains you start with it could be anywhere from 24-48 hours.
|Here's my current chunk of grains. You need about half this much to get started.|
Check your kefir periodically. This will not hurt it. Turn it on its side. If it looks like milk, give it a good shake and leave it longer. When it is done it will pull away from the side and look like yogurt. These are the basic instructions I give people who adopt my little grains from me. There is no “science” to it, so relax!! When it’s all done try it in a smoothie, use it as buttermilk, or strain it to make some kefir cheese.
|This is done! See how it pulls away like yogurt.|
I've had a lot of worrisome folks ask a lot of questions during the process of incorporating kefir into their family diet. The hardest is knowing when it is "done" and also to get over the expectation of uniformity. We have been so ingrained by the industrial food systems to expect that if a then b. But in the home kitchen sometimes you do a and you get c...it just is. Here are some pictures of different batches of my kefir to show the variance in the finished product.
|This one has separation toward the bottom.|
|This one is separated right under the cream line.|
|This batch was really thick.|
|This one really thin.|
|And this one is somewhere in the middle.|
All a little different, all good kefir. After you make kefir for a while, you will probably find a rhythm to get a pretty consistent product. Do remember that just a change in season can affect the fermentation process. And again, remember it isn't science and have fun!!
Love and Butter,