I heard of Kefir from an unlikely source: a dog foodie group that I belong to. Yes, they exist and are thriving. When I got my first puppy a decade back (seems like yesterday!), I was all into finding the best nutrition, the best training methodology, the best lawn and home products that would inflict the least adverse effect on him. Nothing but the best. Crazy (I’d prefer the term “committed”) pet parents will relate to this. Others, feel free to raise your eyebrows and shake your heads.
Anyway, this pet raw feeders group was big into home-made kefir. They made kefir to feed their pets to keep their digestive systems in top shape. Of course, I had to jump on the bandwagon! I visited one of the members to pick up kefir grains and to get a crash course on how to make it. After the first 2 weeks, all of us – humans and dog – were hooked onto this. Fast-forward 9 years, and here I am writing the recipe for a drink that has become a main-stay in our home.
It’s a cruel fact: Many of the foods that are potentially good for us also have names seemingly designed to flummox us. Who, amongst us, did not have the red-in-
This wonderful fermented milk drink, originated in the Caucasus Mountains and is made with kefir “grains”, a yeast/bacterial fermentation starter. It is prepared by inoculating cow, goat, or sheep milk with kefir grains. Traditional kefir was made in goatskin bags that were hung near a doorway; the bag would be knocked by anyone passing through to help keep the milk and kefir grains well mixed. The word is rooted in the Turkish word kief, meaning “good feeling”. So much for history.
Kefir grains will also ferment milk substitutes such as soy milk, rice milk, and coconut milk, as well as other sugary liquids including fruit juice, coconut water, beer wort, and ginger beer. However, the kefir grains may cease growing if the medium used does not contain all the growth factors required by the bacteria. Because of the fermentation, very little lactose remains in kefir. Most people with lactose intolerance are said to tolerate kefir, provided the fermentation has proceeded for adequate time. It has also been shown that fermented milk products have a slower transit time than milk, which may further improve lactose digestion.
One big draw to kefir is the probiotics, live microorganisms such as bacteria and yeast that aid digestion. Also, like yogurt, kefir is packed with protein. If you are into cocktails, check this one out – I read this while at my dentist:
Where to procure kefir grains?
A Few Tips:
- These grains are ALIVE, so treat them like you’d treat a living creature. Ha! Did I scare you off? What this means is that the kefir grains need to feed regularly – on milk. If you have enough kefir to last you for a while, you can place the grains in milk and immediately refrigerate it. This will slow down the fermentation process and your grains will be happy for a couple of weeks.
- Never use a corrosive metal to handle the grains. I guarantee you that they will perish! Use a plastic or wooden spoon (or even your fingers) to handle them.
- Always use a glass bottle to ferment the milk and grains. It is cleaner for one. For another, you can SEE how the fermentation is progressing.
- When you have too many grains, you can eat them (they are quite tasty) or rinse them in filtered water and freeze them. To do this, place them in a small glass or plastic container, fill with filtered water to cover to the top, close the lid tight and freeze. You can wake up the grains later by thawing them out in half a cup of milk.
- If the milk ferments too much, and is too sour, don’t throw it out. Feed it to your pets, or add it to any dish that needs sour buttermilk. Look up the Recipe Notes below for creative ideas to use kefir.
- Unlike home-made yogurt, there is no need to heat the milk to make kefir. You can use the milk straight out of the fridge. Now, I call that easy!
This nutrient- and probiotic-packed drink holds the key to helping improve many immune and digestive linked health issues. Tabbed as an “it” health food of the 21st century, kefir is a probiotic food that contains many bioactive compounds, including as many as 30 strains of good bacteria that help fight against tumors, bacteria, carcinogens and more. Add this to your diet along with other gut supporting foods like yogurt, kimchi, miso, and saurkraut.
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Easy Home-made Kefir
- 2 Cups Whole Milk Preferably raw milk; grass-fed pasteurized will work too. Avoid using ultra-pasteurized or UHT milk.
- 1 Tablespoon Kefir Grains Read blog article on where to procure kefir grains
- Add kefir grains to a clean pint sized glass jar. Make sure you do not use metal jars. Glass works best
- Pour 2 cups of milk into the jar. Make sure you have about 1 inch room left on top since fermentation will increase the volume. Mix kefir grains into the milk using a non-metal spoon. This is important - use only wooden or plastic spoons. Wooden chopsticks work too!
- Cover the bottle with a breathable fabric or paper towel, secure it with a tie or a rubber-band, and let it sit in a warm, dark corner for 24 hours. If you can remember, give the mixture a gentle stir (using non-metal only), although it is not necessary. Ready yourself with the following: a glass or stainless container to gather the fermented kefir, a plastic colander, a plastic or wooden spoon to stir.
- Check taste after 24 hours and decide if the time is right to harvest the kefir. The grains should look puffy and the milk may separate from the water content. You can leave the milk outside for as long as 72 hours. If the fermentation is happening too rapidly, you can refrigerate the bottle to slow down the process, especially if you don't have time to filter it right away
- When ready, place a non-metal colander (I use a plastic one from Walmart) over a dish, and pour the contents of the bottle steadily into the colander while gently coaxing the grains to release the kefir
- Add the strained kefir grains to another clean glass bottle, add 2 cups of milk and the next batch of kefir is on its way!
- Drink it plain or flavored (with honey, saffron strands, few drops of pure vanilla, cinnamon or nutmeg powder sprinkles), make a smoothie out of it, or use it anywhere you'd use buttermilk or yogurt like raita