I love fermenting. I love the amazing health benefits and also the process of making it! I make milk kefir almost daily. It's super healthy for many reasons but it just makes you feel good too. Milk kefir is a probiotic cultured milk drink that originated in the northern Caucasus Mountains hundreds of years ago. It is noted that shepherds fermented milk in leather pouches creating grains that could be used for future fermenting. In labs and in tried replication, no one has been able to re-create kefir grains without the use of existing grains.
Kefir means "feel good" in Turkish. It has a thick creamy sticky consistency, tastes a bit like yogurt, and has a milky, yeasty smell. After a few days in the same container, the smell can become pungent but is NOT bad or rancid. Kefir has a slight natural carbonated effervescence. Kefir is not like other dairy products since it is easily digestible and contains little sugar (lactose), especially if you let it ferment for a long periods. The proteins in the milk also break down, and are virtually in a pre-digested state. Many people who are lactose intolerant can drink milk kefir made from unaltered raw cows milk. I love drinking it with honey or a combination of honey and fruit. Makes an excellent and nutritious breakfast smoothie or snack during the day.
If you let milk kefir ferment more than 24 hours you will see a separation of kefir and whey. The whey makes a great starter for sourdough breads, cakes, and other forms of baking. Starting other fermented foods like sauerkraut or fermented apricots, whey is needed so keeping it in the fridge on hand is always handy. Kefir can heal digestive systems, and make your stomach feel better, more stable and settled, within minutes of drinking.
You make milk kefir by adding 1 tablespoon kefir grains to 1 cup milk and letting it ferment on the counter for 12 to 24 hours between 68 and 74 degrees F. Some people like to ferment it to its strongest for 48 hours, but I like mine at about 24.
Strain out the grains and start a new batch or cover with milk and store in the fridge. Try not to go longer than two weeks without adding milk or starting a new batch.
After straining, add any fruit your heart desires or honey or even cane sugar if you like. Agave syrup works great too. Though kefir resembles a runny yogurt, it contains around 30 strains of bacteria and yeast, including lactobacillus bacteria. The culture comes in 'grains,' though more specifically they are a complex bio-matrix structure of soluble gel-polysaccharide, organic acids, yeasts and bacteria. This polysaccharide called Kefiran is made from two mono-saccharides, glucose and galactose in almost equal proportions. Kefiran has anti-tumor properties, preventing the development of metastasis. It is an anti-inflammatory and is an excellent stimulant for your immune system. The grains produce their own antibiotics. Kefir is rich in minerals and vitamins, particularly the B group, and vitamin K2. Kefir has been known to have many healing properties therefore slows the aging process. It also is beneficial in helping with heart and artery disease, lowering cholesterol levels and regulating hypertension / blood pressure. It assists your digestive system, healing the liver, kidneys, spleen, pancreas, gall bladder, stomach ulcers, and soothing your digestive and urinary tracts. That's amazing!
I have been drinking milk kefir for some time now and love that it makes my hair grow faster and thicker. I could really do without the thicker part but hadn't noticed as much until Mr. Hunky asked me if I had been cleaning out the shower drain. Gross, he knows that's his job ... even though it's my hair. But of course, no I hadn't. He said, "You've been losing lots less hair." I just have the normal shedding that most women do mind you, but once he said it I thought ... 'milk kefir!' I had read that it is super great for healthy skin and hair, as most naturally fermented products are, but I can actually see and feel a difference in my overall body health. And what's going on behind the scenes that I can't see is great as well (ie digestive, heart, blood pressure, all the nutrients/vitamins me and my family are getting).
You can purchase kefir, flavored or unflavored, at most grocery stores now but it will never be sold as raw (unless in CA?) milk kefir. The best in my opinion because the grains produce the best kefir from full unpasteurized fat just as they were created. You can also use the kefir grains to make a coconut kefir. You should only do this with the extra grains that you produce because it will eventually kill the grains because they are not getting the proteins they need to multiply from the coconut milk proteins.
Going to be in the Buffalo, Minnesota, area in April? Learn how to make fermented kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut from 3 to 5 p.m. on April 12, 2014. See the Buffalo Community Ed booklet for Spring 2014 and get signed up!!