Kefir has been my saving grace if ever there were such a thing when it comes to food. Basically, it’s a probiotic powerhouse and I discovered it during a grave time of need. Isn’t that how it usually happens?
What I mean by that is, I had just completed a cycle of antibiotics (I’ll save that story for another day!) and with the knowledge I had accumulated, knew full well that I was in a fragile state. This was a decision I had deliberated on for a long time (that is, taking the antibiotics). Sadly, time and circumstances were not on my side. Not for a second do I regret my decision because I had equipped myself with knowledge, knowing full well what I was getting myself into. I made an educated decision and the steps I took subsequent to the antibiotic use was crucial. Now I can confidently say that my health is in a very happy state but only due to much care and deliberate intervention.
You see, antibiotics don’t just kill of the bad bugs floating around in your system, they kill of the good ones too. Huston, my gut health had been compromised. I will never look down upon someone who makes a decision to take antibiotics but I do wish for people to do their research and heavily consider whether it’s truly necessary. Some conditions that are seriously health threatening may require you to do so. I do not, however, advocate taking them willy-nilly for every sniff and cough under the sun. This is far from being beneficial to your health. When you constantly drag your body through cycle after cycle of antibiotics, you simply set yourself back from rebounding and regaining a healthy balance of gut microbes.
I’m no doctor though and as always, you’ll have to have this discussion with them. Please do your own research though, empowering yourself with this same, freely accessible information so you too can acknowledge and understand why these antibiotics are not magical pills from Puff the Magic Dragon that come with no consequences. Like most things, there’s a time and place.
No doubt, prevention is the most effective medicine going around. Ensuring that you are adequately eating a highly nutritious and probiotic rich diet, will help give your body the best chance at maintaining homeostasis. Without a gut full off beneficial bacteria, you may experience digestive issues and a weakened immune system that can leave you experiencing a range of health problems such as malabsorption of nutrients, skin issues and food intolerances.
So to the topic at hand. Enter the wonderful and ever so humble, Kefir.
What is Kefir?
Pronounced “ka-feer”, it’s a fermented dairy product (as I’m referring to milk kefir in this case), that you can easily make at home with the assistance of ‘kefir grains’. These are not in fact grains at all, but rather, little cauliflower-like shaped clusters of yeast and bacteria. They sit in your milk of choice, that being, cow, goat or sheep, and ‘eat’ the natural sugars (lactose) which instigates a natural ferment. The end product is a slightly sour and carbonated, but highly delicious and nutritious, thickened milk (half way between milk and yoghurt).
What are the benefits of Kefir?
By adding these cultures to milk, you are introducing other beneficial organisms, over 30 different strains of beneficial bacteria to be precise! Other awesome health benefits include:
- High in Calcium (that the body can actually absorb)
- Full of beneficial bacteria making it one of the most potent sources of probiotics
- High in protein and B Vitamins (B12, B1 and Biotin)
- Plenty of Phosphorus which helps your body process carbohydrates and proteins
- Low in sugar and carbohydrates (as the cultures eat this up)
- Many with a lactose intolerance may find they can even drink kefir because the lactose has largely been removed
What milk can you use?
My preference is to use full fat raw milk, that hasn’t been denatured through pastuerisation. Whilst raw milk naturally sours rather than spoils, pastuerised milk simply spoils, hence my preference towards using the former. This is not to say you can’t use pastuerised milk though if raw is unavailable. The kefir grains will support the milk to ferment in a more pleasant and beneficial way. When buying raw milk, be sure to know your source as it’s illegal in many countries (including Australia) and States to sell raw milk for human consumption. You may see it being sold as ‘bath milk’ in these areas. In Australia, you will find Cleopatra’s Bath Milk readily available at health food stores or by asking around at local, organic produce markets. If you are using goat or sheep milk, there may be an adjustment period for your kefir grains. They are homely little guys so they adapt to the milk that they are exposed to and may need time to adapt if being switched between different kinds of milk. I only ever suggest full fat milk because not only is this the natural whole state of the food, the culture requires the natural milk sugars to live off.
How to make Kefir?
Making kefir is a very easy, and a relatively foolproof process. Warmer climates will see to a quicker ferment, whilst in cooler climates, this process may be prolonged. In a hotter temperature you may even notice that that the curds and whey have separated in the jar with the kefir grains quite often, floating to the top. If this happens, when you strain the milk, you can simple shake the container or stir to remix the kefir milk. Don’t worry too much about measurements. A rough guide to go by is 1 tablespoon to 1 cup of milk. I rarely measure though and simple dump it all in a jar (I’m not a complicated girl, ok). Over time, you’ll be able to adjust according to taste and experience. When you aren’t using your kefir grains, simply store in a container in the fridge with some milk and replace the milk every week or so.
What you will need:
- A glass jar (with no lid)
- Cheesecloth, coffee filter or paper towel
- An elastic band
- A strainer/plastic colander
- A wooden spoon
- 1 tablespoon of Kefir Grains
- 1 cup of Milk (Raw is possible)
- Place a tablespoon of kefir in the glass jar
- Fill with 1 cup of milk (can adjust accordingly based on how many grains you have)
- Cover with the papertowl or cheesecloth and secure with the elastic band
- Leave to ferment for 24 hours on a bench out of direct sunlight
- After the ferment, strain into a storage container. You will need the wooden spoon to help press the kefir milk through the strainer as the thickened parts will ‘stick’ to the cultures.
- Once you’ve seperated the kefir grains, place in the mason jar again to start the process over.
- The kefir milk you’ve obtained from the previous ferment can then be stored in the fridge.
How to use Kefir?
If you are new to the wild and wonderful world of Kefir, ease your way onto it slowly, as it’s very potent. Start with a tablespoon a day and work your way up. Too much at one time may overwhelm your body as it’s flooded with new and beneficial bacteria. Allow some time for adjustment. Once you have though, you can freely experiment with using it in all sorts of recipes.
- Add to smoothies in place of other milks
- Use on Mexican food or those that call for sour cream
- Garnish curries and stews
- Use as an ingredient in salad dressings
- Drink as is!
What’s been your experience with Kefir? How do you like to enjoy it?
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