Monday, December 20, 2010

Getting Cultured: Kefir

Many of you probably have no idea what Kefir is or why in the world you would want this in your diet. The idea of taking on something new in the kitchen can be overwhelming until you understand why it is so important in our diet. I am fairly new to the "kefir" scene, maybe a year into the process and I will share all I know so you may also catch the "kefir bug" at your house.


What is kefir? The word "Kefir" actually comes from a Turkish word "Keif" which means "good feeling". Already sound good? Kefir is a cultured product meaning it is left to ferment to create the healthy organisms in the drink. It can be created from milk or water or even coconut water. It is an enyzme-rich food that contains an overabundance of friendly bacteria to help balance out our inner vessels. 


Kefir is better than yogurt for our bodies. It contains complete proteins, essential minerals and the much needed B vitamins.  We lack so much of this in our diets and with the overuse of antibiotics destroying our friendly bacteria in our systems, kefir will help restore that balance.


When our system is out of balance, meaning the bad bacteria overtakes the good bacteria, we become sick. Our bowels are irregular in most cases, we have yeast problems, allergies, skin issues, auto immune diseases and much more. The daily intake of kefir will help to heal our bodies.


In our house, we use water kefir and milk kefir daily. Although drinking milk kefir is very beneficial, we don't drink milk around here due to some allergies. The process of culturing milk kefir breaks down the lactose in the milk which is a main source of allergy but it still contains many other proteins as well and I am not ready to challenge that in a daily drink, yet. But, I know it is great in smoothies and many drink it daily without issue. For me , I use my milk kefir in any recipe calling for buttermilk, milk or sour cream. It makes the fluffiest and lightest baked goods around. I used it in my buttermilk syrup recipe, for my coleslaw and just about everything else I could think of. Since the kefir is cultured, it is so much easier to use by the body. This is true especially if you are using goats milk although a little stronger of a flavor. Milk kefir is so easy to do. It takes very little work. If you love using buttermilk than this would be a much better option for you. Finding buttermilk in the store that is free from additives is near impossible. This is just the straight milk but loaded with the good things. Of course, by cooking it you are killing much of the good bacteria but you are still getting the benefits of a cultured food for better digestion.


The water kefir is my favorite to drink. My friend Kara has me hooked. It becomes fizzy like a soda pop and when you add juice, it tastes like a sparkling juice. I always have some brewing on the counter and drink it daily as do my children. I have been experimenting with flavors; grape, lemon, cranberry lemon, apple, etc. Some have been better than others. 


How do you make kefir? It begins with kefir grains. You put them in the bottom of a glass container like a mason jar. I use the quart size for the milk kefir and the half gallon size for the water kefir. For the milk, you just add the milk (I prefer the raw milk) and give a little stir with a plastic or wood utensil. You then lightly cover and put it in a dark cupboard or closet. Usually within 24 hours or less you will have some thick and creamy kefir. The longer it sits, the thicker and more sour it gets so it is your choice. It is good to stir it a few times while culturing. You then strain the grains in a plastic colander and store the kefir in the fridge. You rinse the grains and begin again.


The water kefir feeds off of sugar. The sugar is broken down in the process so no need to worry about that. You want to use a sugar that is not processed. I use Sucanat  but you can use whatever you like. Coconut sugar won't work but you can use honey or any of the raw sugars. You cover the grains in water, add some sugar and let it sit for 24-48 hours. After that time period, you strain off the grains and then add juice to the kefir. I then let it sit for another 24 hour period to get good and fizzy. I then put it in the fridge to chill. The longer it sits out, the more alcohol you are making so just beware. Any food fermented has some alcohol, even a piece of ripe fruit. There is such a minimum amount in Kefir unless you let the fruit juice step to go beyond the 24 hours. 


If you are interested in becoming "cultured" around your house, I have lots and lots of water kefir grains and some of the milk kefir grains. I won't ship them but if you live around here, you can shoot me an email to come get some. They are $8 per tablespoon to get you started. They grow like crazy so you can share them as well. I will also give you complete instructions at that time. 


Seek knowledge. Don't be content where you are. The more I learn I realize the more I don't know. Isn't that exciting? 

29 comments:

sara said...

I was just looking at Kefir at Meijer this morning-$4 a bottle! I really need to learn how to make this.

Aspiring Earth Mama said...

Any idea if you could turn water kefir grains into dairy grains? My dairy grains got dumped on accident and I have such a surplus of water grains. Maybe I'll try it...can't hurt I guess.

Anonymous said...

I love milk kefir and have wanted to try water kefir. My only question is why are you selling the grains for $8 per tablespoon when they grow and multiply freely? If someone isn't lucky enough to have a friend to get grains from, I don't think they should have to pay $8 to take advantage of the wonderful benefits of kefir. Some people, me included, as silly as it sounds, cannot afford to spend $8 during this Christmas season on grains. I think it would be kind of you to simply give them away to those who are interested in them, as I have done with my milk kefir grains. Just my two cents.

Aspiring Earth Mama said...

$8 isn't a bad deal, you pay $20 with shipping if you buy them online. Nothing wrong with trying to make a little extra $$$... The grains just don't sit there and multiply all by themselves. You have to add organic sugar, dehydrated fruit, etc., to get them to multiply. Time and effort cost $$$ in my opinion.

Shari Goodman said...

FYI, I don't get paid to blog. To date, I have not made once cent on advertising since I give everyone a deal! I am often in the red on my supplements since I give so many a break. It does cost at least $20 to order Kefir online so the fact that I am trying to make any money on this blog at all is not a crime! I also give them to my friends and family for free. Why I am not supposed to earn any money off the hours upon hours of time I give weekly is crazy. I answer many emails a day which I am never paid for and do because I want to try to help others. I need money also. If I can't afford something, I don't get something either. I don't get things for free. I buy my supplements and most of my cultures. $8 is a deal. Sorry you feel that way.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous- give me a break! If you can't spend $8 on something that may save you medical bills in the future is ridiculous. It's all about priorities. I bet you've spent that much on something frivolous this month already. Don't be a hater. Shari is wonderful enough to share her ideas and knowledge with us and there are plenty of us out here that are greatful for her hard work.

Lisa

Aspiring Earth Mama said...

Shari - I've got milk kefir! Yay! My water grains did the job in about 24 hours.

Annabeth said...

Hi Shari,
This is a new area to me. When you say the grains 'grow', does that mean in size? Would I use all the 1 Tablespoon at once? Once you soak the grains are they tossed out or can you use them again?
I'm interested....
Thanks!

learning pizza maker said...

I really like milk kefir grains and do use them to leaven pizza, breads and bagels. The milk kefir works well to leaven baked goods.

Kara said...

I am so glad to hear that you are lovin' the kefir. I have some apple going right now, how did that flavor go for you, I have never tried it?

Shari Goodman said...

The apple is great. I am doing grapefruit right now. Yum. My favorite so far is cranberry lemon.

Shea said...

I know very little about Kefir, but I knew enough to know it's super good for you. We are casein free in this house so I thought Kefir would not be an option. I had no idea that you could make water Kefir! I am so excited! I am going to email you. I live in Ahwatukee and would love to buy some grains. How many times can you use the grains?

Shari Goodman said...

Shea,

You can use them indefinitely unless you weaken them by not using them properly. You can also do coconut milk. I will be in Ahwatukee on Jan. 11th.

Bungalow Mama said...

Hi Shari,
I Love your blog, thanks for all your info! I've been reading about kefir lately and I was excited to hear that you would sell some! I would be interested in trying both kinds! I live in Mesa. Thanksa

Shari Goodman said...

Bungalow Mama,

Just email me so I can talk to you directly about the kefir.

goodman-7@cox.net

PS, is that your kitchen on your Bungalow Mama design blog? I want to cook in that!

Melinda said...

I have been buying milk Kefir at Fry's. I had no idea it was so easy to make.Thank you so much for this post.

As for Anonymous, its the Little Red Hen story all over again!

Shari Goodman said...

Melinda,

I don't have your email. Can you send it to me?

Shari

Shari Goodman said...

Melinda,

I don't have your email. Can you send it to me?

Shari

tricia said...

Thank you for all you do. I did not get the chance to speak with you but my son and your son played football together this past fall. Vanessa told me a little bit about you and I am glad not that I have access to your blog. I am always on the constant Journey to turn my family into a whole foods family. It is an ever ending battle over here and to get your ideas and wisdom is really re-assuring.

Thank you and God Bless you and your family!

Tricia Hageman

April said...

I've been making water kefir for several months now and love it!

I just wanted to mention a couple of things I've found out through trial and error:

Honey will eventually kill water kefir grains. It has antibacterial properties which cause that to happen. I've tried several different kinds of sugar (white, brown, Sucanat & agave) and Sucanat works the very best. Agave doesn't work at all.

Also, I found out through trial and error that water from a reverse-osmosis system will kill the water kefir grains eventually, but they love soft water. It's important to use chlorine-free water.

Shari Goodman said...

April,

I use RO water and so far they keep growing like crazy. How long did it take before yours died? I don't have soft water so what water would you recommend?

Shari Goodman said...

April,

Forgot to add, what about if you put in an egg shell or other calcium medium to the RO water?

Aspiring Earth Mama said...

We use RO water too and my grains have grown from 1 tbsp to about 3 cups in about 2 months.

Shari Goodman said...

Earth Mama,

Do you add in calcium or boromite or just the water and sugar?

Aspiring Earth Mama said...

Here's how I do mine... http://aspiringearthmama.blogspot.com/2011/01/water-kefir-revamped.html

April said...

I used RO water for about 6 months before I noticed that they were getting smaller and smaller and then stopped growing altogether. Luckily I saved them before they died. I tried tap water that I let sit for 24 hours so that the chlorine would dissipate, but that didn't help either. As a last resort before I started buying water at the store I tried soft water and the grains immediately responded. Now they are back to growing like crazy again.

From what I've read it's the ph of the RO water and also the mineral content which kills the grains. I was using Sucanat which is high in minerals.

I found this website all about kefir grains:

http://www.yemoos.com/faqwamain.html

It has the answer for almost any question you can think of.

Anonymous said...

Milk kefir grains I got from you on Saturday are going very well- thank you Shari!

Carole

Jacob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jacob said...

Since this page is still popular I just wanted to add that you can order milk or water kefir grains at http://simplykefir.com if you're not able to find them locally. Kefir really is as great as Shari says in this article!