Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My Friend, Kefir

Not to be confused with this guy.

This is the pal I'm meaning:
Cute little fella'

Why you should get one (of his zillions of siblings) for a friend of yours:
1. Kefir is a natural. As in, a natural probiotic.
2. He's super easy to have around. I have left him forgotten, sitting in my fridge for months at a time only to put him in a new bottle with fresh milk and voila! He's good as new.
3. He is versatile. Add the kefir milk to fresh oatmeal or make a fruit smoothie. You can even use the milk to make a cool and creamy salad dressing. Not bad.
4. Kefir will beat up the bad guys for you.
5. And, he is good for you. Enough said.

Link over here to find more reasons why.

More information about Kefir
Kefir is fermented milk that ends up taking the consistency of runny yogurt. You can find it in the stores in a smoothie type bottle, but these do not have the live culture for you to grow on your own.
A kefir grain (that's what the cultures are called) looks like a small cauliflower floret (see my picture above). The grains are a combination of bacteria and yeast, as well as small amounts of sugars and proteins. Because kefir is a culture, it will grow in size.

You can make your own kefir by adding the grain to milk (about 7 or 8 TBS milk to 1 TBS kefir). I do this in a glass jar (with lid). Be sure to keep the jar out of direct sunlight. Allow the milk to sit at room temperature for 12+ hours  to ferment. If it is warm in your house the kefir will ferment quicker than in a cold atmosphere. If this kind of creeps you out, you can leave the jar in the fridge, but it will take MUCH MUCH longer to thicken. When the liquid is thick like runny yogurt, it is done. Strain the kefir to find the grain and repeat the process. Use the milk mixture as kefir. (Kefir will keep in the refrigerator for months!)

Kefir tastes similar to plain yogurt, but it is an acquired taste. And of course, you can add fresh fruit to it to sweeten it up!

If you linked over earlier in the post, you will know that kefir has many health benefits. Kefir is full of probiotics and vitamins. The coolest thing, in my opinion, is that it actually restructures the bacteria in your intestines (unlike yogurt). And will help digest your food. A lot of people that have IBS or something similar really just need good kefir and then their tummies would be more settled. Kefir also helps with gas and bloating. You could almost just plan on eating some kefir before/after/during every meal and it would help your digestive system tremendously! Additionally, if you have a lactose intolerance, you can still eat kefir because kefir digests the sugars in the milk.

Kefir can also be used as a substitute for buttermilk, sour cream, or yogurt in various recipes. This can depend on the recipe and how long you've cultured the batch of kefir, since the kefir gets more tangy the longer it cultures. And since homemade kefir is cheaper than yogurt, sour cream, or buttermilk, there are endless ways to use it if you want to get creative!

Where can you get a kefir?
The easiest way to obtain some kefir culture is to get some from a friend who is making kefir.
Here is a list of people who either sell or give away (sometimes free to local pick-up, or just for the cost of shipping) kefir grains. (You have to email the individuals through that webpage for details.)

You can also find them online or at some health food stores.

Be sure to get kefir grains, not just a "starter", which is sometimes sold. Kefir grains can be used "forever", whereas "starters" can only be used 7 times.

*Many types of milk may be used to culture kefir, but kefir grains that are cultured in non-animal milk will stop growing. Consider using your excess grains to culture soy milk, rice milk, coconut milk, etc.

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