April 11, 2011

Kefir




Probiotics benefits become more and more popular in regards to human health today. But it is not completely understood how these probiotics exist in some of the most unusual live grain symbiotic mass - kefir grain, and they reproduce and multiply in a liquid. Kefir grain in contact with milk or sweetened water makes one of the heathiest drinks around and some say that is the main reason why people from Caucasus live so long.

Today, kefir can be found on-line, offered by a big kefir community, perhaps even "cult". For free.. Kefir, pronounced kuh-feer (alternate pronunciations being kee-fur or kef-fur), is a tart drink originally from the Caucasus, made from cow milk or sometimes goat milk. The name kefir is believed to have originated from the Turkish word “kef.” The word is still used in Middle Eastern languages to refer to “pleasure” or “good feeling.” Kefir is sometimes called the Champagne of Milk. The people of the northern slopes of the Caucasian Mountains have a legend that Mohammed gave kefir grains to the Orthodox Christian people and taught them how to make kefir. Kefir grains were considered part of the family's wealth and the tribe's wealth and they were passed on from generation to generation. For centuries the people of the northern Caucasus enjoyed this food without sharing it with anyone else. Kefir was unknown for centuries outside the Caucasus until news spread of its use for the treatment of tuberculosis and for its use in intestinal and stomach diseases. Russian doctors believed that kefir was beneficial for health and first scientific studies on kefir were published at the end of the nineteenth century.

If you, like me, decide to have it and make it at home, do little research first, and try to get your grains from a friend or a nice community that offers it for free. It is considered a good omen to give the kefir grain and care for it, and also very bad to destroy it. Than, you have to know few things about caring for your kefir grains. I had mine for over ten years and I am not very consistent in making my kefir drinks, but even after several "forgeting periods", they still make good kefir drinks.

How to make kefir at home:

-put your grains into the clean glass jar or plastic container
-pour about one cup of milk over the grains
-place it on a cupboard out of direct sunlight (mild temperature)
-close the container jar or cover it with a clean cloth
-let it sit for about 24 hours, until gets dense and sour

When kefir drink is completed (ready to drink), take out the grains and reuse them for the other batch. Or store them with a milk in the fridge. Do not use metal utensils with kefir! To strain the grains you can use a plastic strainer, or take your grains with a plastic or wooden spoon. Don’t keep the brewing kefir in the direct sun or expose to the heat.

First time users: After the first batch or two, kefir will start developing nice and smooth texture. If that doesn't happen, kefir is still fine to drink, but you will have to wait for the grains to get stronger and adjust to the new enviroment. It is important to develop a sense of ratio quantity of milk vs quantity of kefir grains. That means if you have only one kefir grain, try first making a drink in one small cup, and develop further.. To make grains stronger, some suggest to rinse them with filtered water (non-chlorinated), put them in a glass container, cover with filtered water and store in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

If you want to take a break from your kefir making for a while, put the grains in a jar with milk cover with a tight fitting lid and store in the refrigerator. Kefir grains last long and are almost undestructable, so if you do neglect them for a time, don't wory, it will only take longer to produce a kefir drink. Instead of 24 hours, it might take two days, but eventualy the grains will start producing kefir again. Kefir milk is best to drink in the morning without any additional food, but you can make great sparkling smoothy with adding some fruits. I have also found some interesting drinks made with kefir grains in the water. Apparently they are also full of probiotich and antioxidants, and taste like natural sodas. It is worth a try.

Kefir soda with dry fruit

In a cup of hot water dissolve 1/3 cup of sugar and add grains when water has cooled. Then add 1-3 pieces of dried fruit (e.g., pineapple, apricot, papaya, mango). Ferment for 24 hours or until it reaches desired sweetness. (A longer fermentation process will reduce the sugar content and raise the alcohol content which is stil very low).

Fruit juice kefir soda

In a cup of hot water dissolve 1/3 cup of sugar and add grains when water has cooled. Ferment for 24 hours. Take out kefir grains. Add 1-2 cups of fruit juice to kefir water. Ferment for another 24 hours or until desired sweetness. If you mix juice when the grains are in the water, the grains will take on the color of the juice. It may also be difficult to remove all of the fruit pulp when straining the grains.

Lemonade

Use the same process as previous but instead of 1-2 cups of fruit juice, add the juice of one lemon with a grains out of drink. Let the drink ferment to your desired sweetness. Left another day or two to ferment, this is a very low-sugar, great summer drink.


Beet, fennel and kefir soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped fennel bulb
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 large (2 1/2-to 3-inch-diameter) beets, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 cup unflavored kefir + more to add at the end
fennel fronds (for garnish)

Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped onion, chopped fennel, and fennel seeds. Sauté until vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add cubed beets and stir to coat. Add chicken broth and bring to boil. Cover; reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until beets are tender, 18 to 20 minutes. Puree soup in batches in blender. Return to same saucepan. Whisk in 1 cup unflavored kefir and season soup with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Rewarm soup. Ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle with additional unflavoured kefir; garnish with fennel fronds.

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