Fermenting Series: Kefir

by Lianne Phillipson October 03, 2017

Fermenting Series: Kefir

Kefir (proununced ke-fear) is a new-ish product found in the supermarket chiller cabinet near yogurt and other dairy products. It has been tucked in with butter and yogurt at most health food stores for years and actually dates to 1885 in Russia, way before refrigeration.

Adding kefir grains to milk is what produces kefir. The grains are composed of lactic acid bacteria, yeast and polysaccharides. The grains culture the milk, infusing it with healthy organisms or probiotics. The result is a tangy, slightly effervescent drink similar to yogurt. Kefir “grains” have nothing to do with grain, and typically look like small pieces of cauliflower and vary in size from a grain of rice to an almond.

Kefir has many benefits over and above drinking a glass of the white stuff (and eating yogurt):

  • Keeps longer than fresh milk
  • Offers beneficial bacteria that boosts the immune system
  • Helps to fight off bad bacteria like E. coli, campylobacter, listeria and parasites
  • Restores beneficial bacteria in the gut after antibiotic use
  • Excellent source of protein
  • Tolerated by those who are lactose intolerant as the culture uses up the lactose in the milk
  • Good source of B vitamins
  • Contains certain healthy bacteria not available in yogurt that prevent growth of harmful bacteria in the intestines
  • Vitamin K and B12 production are aided by the beneficial bacteria found in kefir

I’ve been making kefir ever since a fellow nutritionist passed me some of her extra grains. As with kombucha, every time I make it, my grains replicate and grow. I’m quite proud of my largest grain and how it has grown!

Most store-bought kefir yields the same benefits as above, but may ferment for shorter periods of time, leaving it slightly less potent in the good guys. Even if you are lactose intolerant, trying store-bought may still have similar effects as drinking milk. I ferment mine for 24 hours and then use it in my smoothies. My daughters aren’t up for drinking a glass, but I know people that do. I need to find new ways to give it to them.

How to Make Your Own:

2 cups fresh milk (I use full fat)
1 tbsp kefir grains or 1 package kefir powder*

Put milk in a large mouth glass jar. If cold let sit until it reaches room temperature (or put in a saucepan with simmering water as with yogurt).

Add grains or powder, stir well and cover with a cloth. Leave in a warm area for about 24 hours, stirring every six hours or so. Taste occasionally over the 24 hours and strain when the taste is to your liking.

Pour kefir through a strainer into another jar to gather the grains before storing in the fridge for up to a week. Rinse the grains gently and store in a jar with 1/2 cup milk or water.

What have you used kefir for?

*available at health food stores.

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