Until a couple of weeks ago I didn’t know much about kefir other than that it was a culture used to ferment milk.
I always intended to try my hand at making kefir products, but it was on the ‘one day’ list as I needed to research whether I could use dairy-free ingredients.
So, when a colleague offered me some water kefir grains, I eagerly accepted.
Apparently there are two kinds of kefir grain, one which grows in water, the other in milk.
These grains were happily fermenting in a blend of sugar, water, raisins and lemon.
Kefir isn’t just a way to make yoghurt and smoothies at home; it’s full of probiotics and said to be very good for intestinal and consequently your overall health.
Life is pretty busy and initially I was concerned – how long would taking care of kefir grains take each day and what if I forgot?
Did I really want to go into work and have to say I’d killed my gift?
I was reassured by another colleague that kefir grains are actually pretty hardy.
After a few days I was also reassured as to the time of the process; it only takes a few minutes a day.
I’m not an expert and there are plenty of sites online giving instructions, but basically you ferment kefir grains with a water/sugar mix (or milk, depending on the type of grains you have).
Once primary fermentation is complete – mine took one to two days in the warm weather we’ve had – you strain off the liquid and put it in a jar for a secondary ferment; it’s then ready to use.
The grains are rinsed and added to another mix.
The grains multiply as they ferment; already I have twice as many as I did.
I’ve found I am quite protective of them; throwing out excess just doesn’t seem like a good option and I suspect eventually I’ll run out of friends to donate them to.
Fortunately, there are some informative websites devoted to the topic of kefir.
Kefir grains can be consumed; so if you’re making a smoothie you can add some of your excess grains to it.
I’m not sure why eating them alive seems nicer than throwing them out; perhaps it’s the thought that they’re not wasted.
And kefir grains can be used with non dairy ingredients other than water. Coconut milk kefir seems to be popular so it’s on my list of things to try. I’ll also try a soy milk kefir.
In the meantime, I’ve discovered that adding the liquid that has finished its secondary fermentation to soy milk instantly thickens the soy milk.
After experimenting to get the proportions to my taste, I can now mix up an instant smoothie – adding a small pinch of salt gives me a drink that reminds me very much of ayran – a drink made of yoghurt, water and a touch of salt that I drank a lot when in Turkey, back before my diet was completely dairy free.
Those who drink ayran may not agree that my smoothie tastes the same but it’s so many years since I tasted ayran that all I have is the memory of a slightly sour and very thirst-quenching drink and this one certainly fits the bill.
Kefir water can be added to fruit juices and smoothies; initially I thought it tasted uninspiring on its own but the taste has grown on me.
While I haven’t tried this myself yet, apparently you can also add juice to the secondary ferment and if you tighten the lid on your jar, you’ll end up with a naturally carbonated drink.
While it’s early days and I haven’t seen any dramatic improvements in my health yet (which, admittedly, there was nothing wrong with in the first place), the addition of kefir to the household seems a good thing. It’s not just that it’s good for me.
I’m also having fun experimenting.