KEFIR - My DIY Happy Drink

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

I first stumbled upon the wonders of milk kefir because I was desperate to find a remedy for my doggie Elvis' noisy (and I imagine painful) tummy. It's been many years now so I don't recall where I found the story but it was about a woman who helped her dog's digestive issues using milk kefir. The more I read about it the more I was convinced that I needed to make my own for him, and as it turned out, myself and family members too!

So What Is Kefir Anyway?

Milk kefir is a slightly sour and very creamy fermented milk drink. Sometimes people describe it as a drinkable yogurt but it has much more in the way of gut-friendly pre and pro-biotics than yogurt does. Needless to say, I fell in love with kefir and have shared grains with many others.

Grains? What The Heck Are Kefir Grains?

Kefir grains are a symbiotic culture of beneficial bacteria and yeasts that reside on the surface of complex polysaccharides. They are quite unique in appearance from other cultures used in fermentation and resemble miniature bits of cauliflower. They are rubbery in texture and will often clump together. In my house I simply call them my kefir babies (pictured) 😀. You will need kefir grains to make your own kefir at home. If you don’t have a friend who can get you started with some you can often purchase them from your local health food store. If that’s a no-go try my favorite on-line source here.

Have Kefir Every Day

My primary reason for having kefir every day is because it makes my digestive system happy. Fewer tummy aches and mad dashes to the potty room, less reflux and heartburn are good by me. The beneficial yeasts and bacteria that my digestion enjoys is also a tremendous boost to my immune system!

Donna Schwenk of Cultured Food Life is one of my favorite resources for kefir and she lists several reasons she stays on board with it. She says that kefir lowers blood pressure and blood sugar, aids in acid reflux, improves allergies, helps in detoxification (yay!), lowers cholesterol and has a calming effect on the nervous system. These are her own top reasons but there are many more. You can find her article and links here.

Do It Yourself!

You will need:

A tablespoon of kefir grains. This is a good starting amount but I have successfully made kefir with just ONE grain before.

Milk. I use raw fresh milk from a local dairy (jersey cows) with the cream skimmed off. To me, the next best option would be A2 milk that is NOT ultra-pasteurized. A2 milk’s protein is easier on digestion. Ultra-pasteurized milk has been heated to 280 degrees Fahrenheit.

A glass jar with a plastic lid. I just use a quart canning jar and lid. Some folks see no problem using a metal lid and some just use a cloth or coffee filter to cover. I’ve tried all these methods but it’s my preference to use a plastic lid.

A plastic strainer. You will need to separate the grains from the kefir for your next batch. Again, some will use a metal strainer. I was taught to use plastic and I prefer it.

Okay so here’s the hard part. Place your kefir grains in the jar. Pour milk over the top to at least half-way up the jar. Put the lid on. Set it out of the way on your kitchen counter for 24 hours. There you go… too easy!! Yes, that is all there is to it. The milk has fermented and your kefir is made.

All you need to do now is put your strainer in a bowl and pour your kefir through it to separate the grains. You can pour it from there into a glass to drink immediately but I like to put it in the fridge to get cold first.

Don’t forget to put your separated grains in a nice clean jar and pour fresh milk over them to start a new batch. You are well on your way to kefir heaven now!
  
A Few Tips

I often like to flavor my kefir before I drink it. I like it plain too but mixing it up with some blueberries, mango, or peaches, a bit of honey and cinnamon is the bomb for sure. There are so many tasty combinations, just be creative.

There are lots and lots of recipes that use kefir. Just search the web and you’ll get plenty of ideas. My favorites are salad dressings, cheese and ice cream. You are definitely not stuck with just drinking it every day. Find fun ways to use it up.

Already made kefir will last in the fridge quite some time, it just gets thicker and more sour the longer it sits.

You can put your kefir grains in “vacation mode” by just putting them in fresh milk and placing them in the fridge instead of on the counter. They will stay fine that way for a couple weeks or longer. If they stay that way too long they might seem to be dead the first time out on the counter but often if you will just give them a second round of fresh milk and set on the counter again they will perk up. Kefir grains are pretty forgiving. I even accidentally fridge-froze my kefir grains once and after about 4 jump starts on the counter they sprang back!

In the winter time I put a sock over my kefir while it ferments because my house is cold at night. It will eventually thicken up without it but I like to keep it cozy and clipping along. I would never set it on a seedling mat however... no, too warm. 

Caution: If you are allergic or sensitive to milk please avoid ingesting milk kefir. You might want to look into water kefir instead. Yep, that's a thing... 


References:

Donna Schwenk’s Cultured Food Life: 7 Reason I Have Kefir Every Day. Retrieved from https://www.culturedfoodlife.com/7-reasons-i-have-kefir-every-day/

Cultures for Health. Composition of Milk Kefir Grains: Bacteria & Yeasts. Retrieved from https://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/milk-kefir/milk-kefir-grains-composition-bacteria-yeast/

Healthline. A1 vs A2 milk – Does It Matter? By Atli Arnarson, PhD March 14, 2019. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/a1-vs-a2-milk#a1-concerns

  

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