As a mother of 2, I like to find healthy options for my family that isn’t too time consuming to prepare and can be purchased within a reasonable budget. Earlier this past summer I stumbled across the drink ‘Kefir’ at a local health food store. I purchased a small milk size bottle of some blueberry kefir, brought it home and went to my computer to look up all of the benefits this drink had to offer.
Kefir (pronounced kee-fer) first originated in the Caucasus Mountains in Eastern Europe centuries ago and is one of the oldest cultured milks. History has it that the name comes from the Turkish word “keif” whose meaning falls along the lines of ‘good feeling’. Some say that God fed Moses and the Israelites with some kind of kefir in the form of manna. The Bible describes manna as white, fluffy and very nutritious.
Kefir has about 3 times more of a probiotic count than yogurt, flushing bad bacteria from your digestive tract and intestines. As it cleans your digestive tract, it ensures that no toxins enter your bloodstream. If you have stomach or colon problems, kefir regulates digestion and metabolism and boosts your immune system. Since kefir grows by eating lactose and sugar, this is a huge benefit for lactose intolerant people as the kefir continues to do its job as all forms of sugar and lactose pass through your digestive tract. The list of benefits goes on including possessing several B vitamins and minerals; treating ulcers, eczema, anxiety, smoother skin and hair. I was in!
Much like a yogurt drink, kefir is creamy, tangy and has a mild bubbly taste. The longer it ferments the tangier and bubblier to gets. Most buy Kefir in their local grocery store, but if your family drinks it every day, it can become pricey. After all of my research, I now know that store bought kefir drinks are commercially processed and do not have any of the health benefits ‘live’ kefir does.
After reading several articles on the web, I found that many avid Kefir drinkers make their own. Sounds easy if you purchase a non-authentic Kefir starter kit but true kefir can only be made through kefir ‘grains’. As the ‘grains’ are really a live growth of bacteria and yeast, purchasing from a good supplier is key as your culture must be ‘alive’ to turn your milk (or coconut milk, goat’s milk or water” into delicious kefir gold. The part I think I found most intriguing is that you cannot buy ‘live’ kefir grains in a store. You have to purchase or get them from someone who is currently using the grain and willing to give you some of theirs.
I bought mine on eBay and after 5 days of waiting for my delivery in the mail I have to say what first arrived made me wonder if what I was doing wasn’t crazy. The package contained some slightly dried out looking cottage cheese that reeked of sour milk. I was told this was normal as my ‘grains’ were dehydrated for shipping and the milk on the grain was in fact sour. It would take a week or two to get them back up to par.
Each day I had to add a cup of fresh milk to my strained grains, loosely cover and give the batch 24 hours to go through the process of fermenting again. When the batch had a slightly sweet and sour smell to it and began to thicken, the product was ready to consume. I set an alarm on my phone to begin the process of reviving my kefir. By day 10 I felt that my product no longer smelt sour in a bad way but in a way that buttermilk would smell. I strained my grains and put the bottle of my kefir drink in the fridge to chill. Later that day I added a touch of sugar and vanilla to my batch and handed out for my family to drink. And it was amazing!
It resembled the creamy yogurt drinks I pay a fortune for in the stores for my kids and knowing that this little jar of fermented milk was made by me somehow made it magical! The more I read about my kefir the more I understood what it did and how it grew. As it ate the lactose in my milk, it would slowly grow and these grains could be eaten alone for huge health benefits or could be given to my pets to assist in their health as well.
I now store my kefir milk and grain mixture in the fridge which slows down the fermenting process and gives me 5 glasses of goodness every second day. We blend them in smoothies, make ranch salad dressings, add a teaspoon of homemade jam for added flavor and add crushed berries overnight for additional taste.
I happily tell my story to friends interested in preparing their family for cold and flu season and tell them I have a grain that will change their lives. Ok maybe not their lives, but the kids will get sick less for sure. My daughter woke up one morning with a fever and began throwing up. Once her stomach settled, I began spoon feeding her kefir until I got a quarter cup in her. She went to sleep and when she woke she had another half glass. No more vomiting and by the next morning she rejoined her swim team for practice. It was the fastest recovery I have ever seen.
So if you are ready for an easy to prepare, healthy and nutritious drink that is natural, unprocessed and full of numerous health benefits, look no further than kefir and it’s century old history. Just go to eBay or Google kefir to find someone near you that is willing to share!