Have you heard of kefir? Think yoghurt on steroids. If live yoghurt is good for you, this is like super yoghurt. It comes packed with an amazingly wide variety of live bacteria that makes yoghurt look like a whimp in comparison. One of my 2017 New Years resolutions was to get to grips with making and using this super but slightly weird drink.
So, early this year, I bought some kefir grains. To be honest, this was the stage which had previously put me off making kefir. Yoghurt can be a little bit of a faff to make, but at least I could buy yoghurt to use as a culture from my local Morrisons. Buying grains sent me spiralling into panic as this was a new and unfamiliar world to me….. I had no idea who best to buy them from/ what I was looking for. In the end I went for a safe option, ie Happy Kombucha. (However, it turns out that it is most common just to split your grains with a friend so there doesn’t necessarily need to be any cost.)
If you’re wondering what on earth I’m talking about, let me explain. Kefir grains are strange clumps. Many people describe them as looking like cauliflowers. They feel almost plasticy. Put these in milk and the grains will grow, and your milk will turn into kefir. Apparently kefir is the only cultured milk product which forms grains and there is actually a lot of scientific mystery around how they were first formed and even how their internal structure works. They originate from the Caucasus Mountains. Think Armenia, Ajerbaijan and if that rings no bells at all, think Russia. A closely guarded secret for generations, it appears they slipped out in the early 20th century. There are some fascinating and entertaining stories about the history of the grains, have a look at this site here.
Grains + milk = kefir
Seriously, grains plus milk makes kefir. This has got to be one of the easiest foods to make. You can use raw milk, standard milk, milk plus cream, skimmed milk. You can even kefir coconut milk or water (with fewer but still significant health benefits). I tend to leave it out for a very approximate 24 hours, but you can leave it for up to 48 hours if you like a stronger taste.
Talking of taste….
Do I like it?
Hmm, I actually can’t bring myself to try it on its own. I’m actually quite squeamish about dairy products which don’t fit into the very limited categories that I grew up with. One day I will become a grown up and I will try it on its own. Until then, I have been making a lot more smoothies than I have ever made before in my life! My kids like them, I like them, so apart from the extra washing up, life is good. One day I may develop a taste for sour milk, but until then, I’ll keep adding the raspberries and honey!
Is there anything else I need to know to get going?
- Once the kefir is made you need to sieve it to catch the grains. This is a bit of a pain, but otherwise you will loose your grains for making the next batch. Sad times. Use the grains straight away in a new batch or pop in a bit of milk or water in a jar in the fridge.
- If you don’t want to use your kefir straight away that’s fine, just keep it in the fridge without the grains in it.
- It is advisable not to use metal with the grains so I use a plastic serve and a wooden spoon.
- Be careful introducing kefir into your family’s diet. I have come across a few people saying how their bodies had a really strong response to suddenly drinking a pint a day. Start small and work up. For kids, only give them a tablespoon a day to begin with.
Can I save myself the hassle and buy it?
Look for unpasteurised kefir. Apparently most on the market is pasteurised then the bacteria are added in again. So there are still some benefits, but it’s not quite the real deal.
So how about you? Have you tried it? Do you love it/ hate it/ make it/ buy it? Do you have any creative ways to use it?