I've always been a fan of (wild) fermentation. There's something exciting about taking a food and culturing it and watching it become something different. While some might turn their noses up and say that I am simply letting perfectly food rot (now that would lead me to the topic of compost, but I'll save that for a future post), more often the result is a more nutritious product that is filled with living, beneficial cultures. In fact, many of the foods you already eat have been fermented (think bread, cheese, chocolate, tea, beer, wine, soy sauce), although many of these have also been pasteurized, a process that kills the beneficial bacteria.
For those who don't know, kefir is a fermented milk product somewhat similar to a drinkable yogurt that originates from the Caucasus Mountains. Although powdered kefir starters are widely available from grocery and health food stores, to make authentic kefir one must acquire the living kefir "grains", which are a dynamic symbiosis of Lactic acid bacteria, vinegar producing bacteria, and yeast strains. The grains are comprised of a mixture of protein, amino acids, fats, and polysaccharides which, unlike yogurt, ferment milk readily at room temperature. [Note: The powdered starters contain only a few strains of bacteria isolated from the authentic kefir and are NOT capable of creating nor sustaining this symbiosis, and therefore cannot be used to culture on going batches of kefir.]
I had been buying Lifeway Kefir regularly for some time when(ironically, just a couple days after stocking up on store bought kefir at a recent sales event) a friend asked me if I might be interested in making kefir. She proceeded to scoop a couple spoonfuls of these gelatinous, translucent white globs into a small container of milk, and sent me on my way. I hurried home to start my first batch, dumped the grains into a jar, added milk, and eagerly waited.
I must admit that I was, at first, a little disappointed by the texture of my homemade kefir. After only a week, I discovered that I had developed a preference to my slightly tangy and effervescent kefir over the mild tasting Lifeway. After two weeks, I found that I was pretty much hooked.
The nice thing about kefir is that not only do the "grains" last forever and produce batch after batch if kefir with minimal care, they also grow, which allows people to share the wealth of these "probiotic gems" with others! Kefir can be consumed as a drink, as is or seasoned, used in smoothies, and substituted in any recipe that calls for buttermilk. It can be made into cheese. It also has numerous external applications as well (it is excellent for the skin and I have heard that it can remove warts).
I hope you enjoyed this little introduction to kefir! If you are interested in finding out more, or maybe culturing kefir yourself, feel free to contact me!
In the meantime, please leave a comment! What is your favorite fermented food or drink?
To your Health,