Why You Shouldn’t Bother Making Yogurt and Make Kefir Instead.
Have you ever heard of this weird drink called kefir?
And no, it has nothing to do with Jack Bauer.
Though I bet he drinks it, because it’s awesome and he’s awesome.
No, actually kefir is something many haven’t heard of… but believe it or not, you don’t have to join any secret societies to get your hands on the stuff.
Oh yeah… you probably want to know…
What Kefir is and Why You Should be Drinking it
In a nutshell -
- It’s better than yogurt or soda (depending on the type of kefir)
- It takes a whopping 5 seconds to make
- Kefir is ridiculously healthy for you
- It tastes good
- It’s multipurpose
Oh and one more thing – while yogurt helps you digest while it is in your system, apparently it doesn’t actually colonize your gut, but kefir colonizes your gut so drinking it is a cumulative effect of bacterial awesomeness.
Two types of kefir – Milk Kefir, and Water Kefir (A.K.A. Tibicos).
Milk Kefir is basically like drinkable yogurt (except it’s WAY easier to make than regular yogurt).
It has a tart and refreshing flavor, and contains up to 35 different strains of healthy probiotic bacteria and yeasts.
(Yogurt generally has one or two different strains.)
It is made from milk, and once finished, it tastes like a liquidy yogurt with the texture of cultured buttermilk.
You can also do much more with it than drink it – it helps rise baked goods, you can drain it for a thicker greek-style yogurt.
I’ve even heard unconfirmed reports of people using kefir in place of rennet and starter cultures in making hard cheeses. You can also make it with non-dairy milks if you don’t do the Moo Juice thing.
Water Kefir is a fizzy fermented drink made from water, sugar, and often fruit juice or other flavorings.
It’s a very versatile drink, and the nice thing is it gets carbonated like soda so it is a great option for those who are looking to wean themselves off soda.
Water kefir (also known as tibicos) contains nearly as many probiotic cultures as milk kefir, but different types, so they complement each other well.
It is a great drink for a hot summer day – think effervescent lemonades, cream sodas, fruity sodas, and my favorite – lemon, ginger and cranberry.
One Benefit of Kefir – You Might Turn Into Chuck Norris
Well… okay actually probably not BUT, you will gain powerful Chuck Norris-esque gut
bacteria beasties which is almost equally as awesome as being, well Chuck.
So – I used to just know offhand that probiotics were good for you, but I never really knew why.
In a nutshell, probiotic bacteria and yeasts are necessary because much of the food processed in our digestive tract is actually indigestible to us alone.
Our digestive systems are hosts to millions of beneficial bacteria and organisms. These organisms are actually what make the vitamins & minerals in the food we consume bioavailable and easily absorbed by our bodies.
An example I was given is of a termite. Termites eat wood, right? Except their digestive systems alone are not actually capable of processing the wood they eat. They happen to be a host for numerous different kinds of bacteria that work within their digestive systems to process the wood into a byproduct which the termite’s digestive system can then use and absorb.
Ours works in a very similar way.
Unfortunately, much of the processed foods we eat these days can actually destroy our beneficial bacteria and allow “bad” bacteria to take over.
Modern food is over-processed, over-sterilized, pasteurized, and pretty much void of any kind of beneficial micro-flora. (click here to Tweet this)
That causes all sorts of problems, especially the yucky IBS kinds.
Taking probiotics on a regular basis can be hugely beneficial in that they “crowd” out any bad bacteria in your system, and something like kefir is much better than a probiotic pill.
Kefir is a very concentrated source of these beneficial organisms, and so it really can help re-colonize your digestive tract with the beneficial flora that you need for good digestion and absorption of your food.
And once again, water kefir and milk kefir actually contain different strains of bacteria and yeast, so it’s very beneficial to have both types. I drink milk kefir and water kefir every day and have been seeing marked improvements in my digestion since I began.
*(Oh, and this doesn’t constitute any kind of medical advice… but both my mom and I noticed a regrowth of new hair in thinning spots on our heads when we started drinking this.)
Milk Kefir is so Easy to Make, my 5-Year Old Does it For Me
No, not joking, either.
You need to obtain what are called “grains” first.
Kefir grains look a lot like little tapioca pearls that are clumped together, but in fact they are little gelatinous colonies of the probiotic bacteria and yeasts.
You simply mix the kefir grains with milk, let it sit, maybe shake it once or twice, and in 12-24 hours you will see it thicken and ferment into creamy delicious kefir.
Then you strain out the grains from the finished kefir, add new milk, and start again. The grains multiply, so you end up with lots extra to give away, sell or even feed to the chickens (or yourself!).
Really – that’s it!
No worrying about keeping it at the proper temp, or pasteurizing ahead of time… just pour, wait, and strain.
I even pour the replacement milk cold out of the fridge, put the cap on, and leave it. The longer you let it ferment, the thicker and more tart it gets (and often it can get effervescent).
I love to mix mine with fresh crushed berries right now while they are in season – I could easily drink it by the quart like that!
Having made regular yogurt, and then making kefir, I can honestly say I have stopped making regular yogurt at all. Kefir is so much easier, and just as versatile… and if I want it to be thick and not drinkable, I just strain the finished kefir using a yogurt strainer.
It makes a fantastic base for smoothies, or you can add in a little sweetener and vanilla for a creamy vanilla drink. Kefir also acts as a great booster for leavening breads and anything that needs soaking like wheat or dry beans – it is soured like buttermilk, but also contains yeast cultures which help with rising.
I’ve also been experimenting a little with using it in place of a sourdough starter with very promising results, which is nice because milk kefir is MUCH easier to maintain than a sourdough starter.
Water Kefir – Even Easier To Make
Water kefir / tibicos is very similarly made, except you ferment the grains with water, sugar, and often a source of minerals like a washed eggshell, dried fruit, or even mineral drops.
Because water kefir thrives in a mineral-rich environment, it is particularly well suited for anyone who has hard water or gets well water.
I myself have soft water, so I use a lemon slice, some thin sliced fresh ginger, and part of an egg shell in mine and my grains multiply verrrry quickly.
When I measured, they were doubling every three days, in fact.
Once fermented, it gets a little bit effervescent but you can really pump up the fizzies by bottling the strained tibicos in bail-wire top beer bottles (like Grolsch bottles) and allowing it to ferment an extra day or two.
The tight seal forces the carbon dioxide back into the liquid and forms natural carbonation. At this stage, you can also add fruit juices and other ingredients for a nice refreshing alternative to commercial soda.
You can make it as sweet as you like, though I’ve really enjoyed having it barely sweet. While I’m not much of a big drinker, I do enjoy a beer after dinner many evenings and I’ve noticed that my nightly bottle of water kefir gives me that same relaxing feel… and it’s much better for me!
P.S. I have an interesting story about my water kefir that I’ll be telling here soon!
So Where Might You Find These Mysterious Little Kefir Grain-Beasties?
Kefir has been known to some people for a long time but I think the majority of folks have never even heard of it. Because of this, the starter grains can be kind of difficult to find.
They multiply like crazy once you get them, but you gotta get them somewhere. I think most people will end up getting theirs online.
I recommend Cultures of Health since this is something they specialize in (plus they’ll give you a free ebook w/ purchase), but you can also check your local Craigslist and of course check around to see if any of your friends have any beasties to share.
If there was enough interest, I might be willing to sell some as well
(P.S. – Don’t even bother with the powdered cultures – they aren’t the same, don’t have as many cultures, and you can only reculture them a few times. True kefir grains last forever!)
Here’s Where I Tell You How I Really Feel
So, really to sum it up, I have only one thing to say…
♥♥ Kefir, where have you BEEN all my life? ♥♥
This post has been shared at Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways.
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