There are these magic little colonies of micro-orginisims called kefir grains. They are literally teaming with life, and have the ability to transform milk into a thick yogurt-like substance, chock full of probiotics. I have always enjoyed the tart quality of kefir, but only until recently did I consider making it in house.
Somehow in passing, I learned that my friend Paul was quietly becoming a master of kefir making. He graciously offered to show me how it's done, and send me home with some of his grains. I was amazed how easy the process is. After our short lesson, and sampling a few different batches, I went away with a little bag filled with about two tablespoons of "grains." The grains are actually a combination of bacteria and yeasts suspended in lipids, proteins, and sugars. They look like fresh cheese curds and pack a serious punch when given food (milk).
After adding them to a jar of slightly warmed raw goat milk, and placing them in a draft free, dark space for 24 hours, I had my first batch. Perfectly tart and refreshing. I blended some with a handful of frozen blueberries and left the rest to enjoy plain.
There are a few very exciting things about kefir. One: it contains a highly impressive list of microflora, essential for maintaining a healthy ecosystem in the digestive tract. Second: the beverage has linage leading it back to the early shepherds of the Caucasus mountains. Traditionally, milk containing kefir grains was placed in a skin bag and hung in a doorway to be knocked by through traffic, keeping the grains properly mixed. Lastly: the grains do all the work, it's easy.
As I have discussed before on my kraut making post, fermented foods were once a common and integral part of most all culture's culinary history. From kimchi and miso to sauerkraut, kombucha, pickles and yogurt, the cultivation of friendly bacteria has long since kept large populations thriving.
If you are like me, and consider high-quality, traditional foods the best form of health insurance, think of fermented foods as keystone players in this science based philosophy. Their balancing ability may be unseen by the naked eye, but like so many other friendly microscopic organisms, keep our world breaking down, rebuilding, and harmonious.
Kefir- (Recommended reading prior to making):
*3 cups raw goat milk or jersey milk
*about 2 Tbsp. active kefir grains
*frozen berries for flavoring (optional)
Place fresh raw milk in a glass bowl. Fill a larger glass bowl with hot water. Submerge the smaller bowl in the larger, creating a water bath, and allow milk to warm to room temp.
Place the kefir grains in a glass pitcher or ball jar. Pour in the milk. Cover mouth of vessel with cheese cloth secured with a rubber band.
Place in a draft free, dark place for about 24 hours. Occasionally swirl liquid to keep grains well distributed.
When kefir is ripe, strain and enjoy. Reserve strained grains for next batch. Blend kefir with frozen or fresh fruit, and sweeten with a touch of honey if you like. Or, enjoy plain.
A toast to your health!
*List of live kefir microflora: From the Encyclopedia of Food Science and the official kefir making website: