As Christmas approaches stress and sickness often tag along. It doesn’t matter how hard we try, we are so busy this time of year-family reunions, work parties, and church festivities. Just last weekend, we had three Christmas parties in 1 day! OH MY!!
I’ve found that stress is one of the main cause of sickness, and I’m learning to take a moment to sit down and breathe-and say a prayer that God helps me through. But we all know that stress is unavoidable, so we need to make sure we put as much good stuff in our bodies as possible. Then we can deal with stress-and all those germs lurking around parties and get-togethers waiting to attack us-AUGH!
One of the best, easiest, and cheapest ways to boost our immune system is through cultured dairy. I know some of you are probably saying “Oh I already eat yogurt!” But if your buying those cute little plastic cups filled with some exotic dessert flavored “yogurt” from a grocery store-well you’re more than likely getting more bad stuff in you than good. (Sorry but I do want you to be healthy :)) I’ll explain more about that in a later post, but for now I will give you a better alternative-KEFIR.
So what is Kefir? Well, it originated several thousand years ago in Russia where it is consumed as a beverage still today. It could be considered a cousin of yogurt. Like yogurt it is made from fermented milk, but it is more tart, slightly effervescent, and is much thinner so it is usually considered a drink. Kefir is made from a symbiotic colony of bacteria (good guys-probiotics) and yeast (more good guys) called kefir grains. They are not at all a grain but when dehydrated do appear like grains. But once hydrated and doing their work they look more like wet popcorn or small cauliflower pieces.
The kefir grains are placed in milk and begin breaking down the milk protein (casein) and consuming the milk sugar (lactose). They also provide lactase a very beneficial enzyme destroyed during pasteurization. Lactase will continue breaking down the lactose making kefir very easy to digest even for people who are sensitive to dairy. Kefir also has higher levels of vitamins B and C than non-cultured milk. And don’t let the yeast part fool you. This is beneficial yeast that will not feed Candida, the bad yeast. Wow-a dairy product that has little to no lactose or casein, is high in lactase and other beneficial enzymes, is vitamin rich and has probiotics! Can it get any better? How about this-because of the good bacteria and yeast it acts as a natural antibiotic. Do you see why we are loving our kefir?
Making kefir at home is much easier and quicker than making yogurt (although that is not difficult). You will only need a few things.
1. Good quality whole milk-raw is best, but low heat pasteurized is also a good choice. Any kind will work except ultra-pasteurized.
3. HIC Nylon Mesh Strainer, 7-Inch (You don’t want to use reactive metal)
4.Light My Fire Original BPA-Free Tritan Sport, Multi-Color 4-Pack (This is optional-it is the one I use in the video. Main thing is no reactive metal)
5. Two glass containers (I use mason jars) and a lid for one.
6. Coffee filter, paper towel, or cheesecloth and rubber band.
Pour kefir grains into clean jar (don’t use antibacterial soap to clean supplies) and add about 1 cup milk. Cover with cloth or coffee filter using rubber band to keep cloth on. (The grains need air to activate and grow, but we want flies out.) The next day it should look a little thicker at the top, but not all the way through. Using your plastic spoon, stir well then strain this to collect grains and pour out milk. (Although this milk is not bad, it is not cultured yet.) Clean out the jar and repeat all steps. Again it should be starting to thicken but not all the way through so strain off grains and pour out milk. Repeat again. When you strain off the grains they may be starting to “fluff out” which is good. If not that is okay, just keep repeating. This could take up to a week, but may be only a few days. Keep repeating until the milk has thickened throughout and looks like jello. You now have kefir. At this point you will have to stir it well to strain out the grains and they will look like small pieces of popcorn. You can now enjoy the kefir plain, in a smoothie, or use it when baking (recipes coming). To keep your grains alive you will want to continue culturing kefir each day, just make as little or as much (up to 4 cups) as your family will consume before the next batch is ready. If you have extra, keep it in the fridge in the second jar with a lid. It will keep for at least a week. After several weeks you will notice more grains as they begin to grow. Feel free to share them with others! Right now my grains are growing like crazy-I can’t share mine fast enough!
Just a note-if your kitchen is cool it may take a little longer than 24 hrs to culture and if your kitchen is warm it may culture quicker. Over cultured kefir is okay it will just be thicker and harder to pour. Until you get an idea of how long yours will take to culture, just check it earlier or often. And if you are fortunate enough to get grains that are already activated you can skip the pouring out the milk-yours will be ready the first time-hug your friend who did all the hard work!
If your like me and want to see all this being done because I said it was easy, but it sounds hard! Here’s a video of us making kefir.
So give it a try and see just how easy it really is. Do you have a favorite recipe with kefir? I would love to hear how you use your kefir.
Happy Herbing It UP