Kefir, which is pronounced either ke FEAR or KEY fer (depending I think on where you live and how the person who introduces you to it says the word) is “a cultured, enzyme-rich food filled with friendly micro-organisms that help balance your ‘inner ecosystem’” according to www.kefir.net, one the premier web sites devoted to educating people about this wonder food. Made from kefir grains (more about those later), kefir is not unlike yogurt, although they contain different types of good bacteria. While yogurt can help keep the digestive tract clean, kefir can go further.
Kefir contains a lot of friendly bacteria which is very good for us, but more importantly, it also has beneficial yeasts that combat the “bad” yeasts in the body and help the body to resist E. coli and intestinal parasites. It’s easier to digest than is yogurt and is great for all ages—especially for people who are immuno-compromised.
When Lee brought me my first batch of kefir grain, I was more than little intimidated. It all seemed so complicated. And what exactly were these squiggly little things that resembled rice pudding?
I followed the directions carefully: I poured two cups of milk and a half cup cream over the grains, which were in a small mason jar. I covered the jar with a paper towel and secured it with a rubber band, left it on my counter. . and waited.
Two days later, I used a strainer over a glass bowl to “harvest” my first batch of kefir. The grains stayed in the strainer, and what fell into the bowl beneath was kefir. Later I learned that if I strained the kefir again, this time using cheese cloth, what stayed above would be kefir cheese and the thin liquid in the bowl would be whey.
But for the time being, I was simply elated to have a small jar of kefir to put into the refrigerator. I poured more milk and cream over the grains, and we began the cycle again.
As I went on, I learned that shortening the initial culture time makes the kefir less tart. The minimum culture time is 12 hours, and it shouldn’t go longer than every other day. I also learned that the grains can be put into temporary suspended animation by covering them with a little milk and putting them into the refrigerator.
So once I had mastered the art of culturing kefir, the big question was. . what do I do with this stuff? It was smooth and white, and it looked like either thin sour cream or yogurt. I knew from my friends that I could use it to make smoothies, and those were definitely a hit with my kids. But I still wasn’t using all of the kefir I made.
I was relieved when I found out that kefir stays good in the refrigerator for weeks on end. I was even happier when the first few attempts at new recipes with kefir turned out well. I used kefir in place of sour cream in my mother-in-law’s famous chocolate chip cake. Yum! I used it in pancakes, pasta dishes and in a Mexican cheese sauce.
I also followed Lee’s recipe for soaked brown rice, using a water and kefir mix. It was without a doubt the best rice I had ever eaten in my life, full of flavor and richness—and really good for us to boot.
If you’re wondering how my family reacted to this strange new part of our diet. . well, that’s a good question. They were skeptical at first. The younger kids loved the smoothies right away and so were my first converts. And everyone loved the rice. Slowly, everyone is jumping on the kefir bandwagon and coming up with ideas for using it in different recipes. I’m proud of them!
If you want to learn more about the benefits of kefir and how to make your own from kefir grains, go to www.kefir.net. For lots of recipes using kefir, you might try http://dairygoatinfo.com/index.php?topic=50.0;wap2 If you need more hands-on instruction, go to www.youtube.com and search milk kefir.
Tawdra Kandle is stay-at-home, homeschooling mom of four children who range in age from 9 years to almost 21 years. She and her husband of over 22 years live in central Florida, where he is in seminary. Tawdra spends most of her precious free time writing and reading, and she loves to travel. She is also a resident writer for Taking Time for Mommy. View more of her Articles HERE