It is a rare day that I don’t start with a cup of milk kefir. I love the sour taste, the slight effervescence and the energy it seems to give me for the morning. Not to mention it is easy. With two little ones to feed first thing, often my breakfast comes last. Thankfully, the kefir buys me time!
Kefir is a cultured dairy product, much like yogurt, but super-powered! Unlike yogurt, which contains beneficial bacteria that are transient in nature, kefir contains beneficial bacteria and yeasts that can actually re-colonize your gut. Drinking kefir is a ‘must-do’ after a round of antibiotics. Not only do these beneficial yeasts and bacteria boost your immune system, they also help you digest proteins and carbs and help keep the colon clean and healthy.
In addition to its good housekeeping properties, kefir is loaded with essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals all in an easy to digest form. One of the key amino acids in kefir is tryptophan, particularly known for its calming effect on the nervous system. Kefir is also loaded with calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and B vitamins such as B1, B6, folate and B12.
But, when it comes down to why I really like kefir, it’s because of all the probiotic foods you can ferment at home kefir is by far the e-a-s-i-e-s-t. To make kefir, you need to acquire some grains. They look something like this:
Grains are the little gelatinous colonies of bacteria and yeast. Either find someone you know who is already making kefir (you can ask me, I have plenty!) or you can order them online through Cultures for Health. If you receive dried grains you will need to rehydrate them as shown here.
Below is my how-to video for goat milk kefir. It is REALLY easy:
For cow milk, the timing and ratio is a little different. Begin with about 1 tablespoon of grains and put them into a quart-sized jar and fill with ideally, fresh raw milk (or the highest-quality store-bought). Let the jar sit on the counter, covered (you can use a lid or coffee filter with rubber band.) until the milk gels. The kefir is done once the milk has gelled (typically 12-18 hours, but it depends on your house temperature), which can be seen by tipping the jar and the kefir will pull away from the sides. Once the kefir has gelled, stir it with a wooden spoon and then strain through a fine mesh strainer. Pour the kefir back into the jar and cap with a tight fitting lid. Now, here is my trick to making the kefir thick, more nutritious and milder in taste. Put that jar back on the counter for another 6-8 hours for a ‘2nd’ ferment or ‘ripening’. This makes a huge difference to the end result and actually helps mellow the taste. (You can even add flavorings to the kefir at this point, a cinnamon stick, blueberries, etc.) Once it is complete, pop it in the fridge and enjoy! How easy is that?
Today, I love to drink kefir straight. But, it is an acquired taste (although you may be surprised at how quickly you not only acquire but crave the taste). Here is one of my smoothie standbys to use as you start incorporating it into your daily routine.
1/3 cup kefir
1/3 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup frozen blueberries
1-2 raw egg yolks (from your favorite pastured happy hens)
Coconut water to thin
Blend and enjoy!
One note of caution on kefir, if you are just starting out, kefir is very powerful. It is recommended that you start with just a teaspoon or two and work your way up. It has been said that you just need 1/3 cup of kefir a day to recolonize your gut, but many drink far more than that, quite happily.