Kefir is a grain that you ferment in either milk or water (that’s why people talk about milk kefir or water kefir). We regularly have a jar of milk kefir on the go in the gréatfood kitchen. It helps to maintain a healthy microbiome in your gut so that healthy bacteria can thrive. We swear by it because it gives you a flat wobbly tummy without having to diet. (Eat a few spoons of milk kefir after eating a pizza and the next day you won’t feel that your waist has tripled in size.)
How to make milk kefir
1. Buy a packet of milk kefir grains at the health shop or online or ask someone who makes kefir to give you a few spoons of grains from their kefir.
2. Add milk every day or every other day to feed the kefir grains. Leave the bowl or jar of kefir out of the fridge (cold stops it fermenting) at room temperature. It will become more acidic and sour as it ferments and you will smell that in the kitchen and know that your kefir is alive.
3. Strain off enough kefir to make dressings, to drink, to add to smoothies and cakes. Always use a sterile spoon to decant kefir.We top up our milk kefir with buttermilk or yogurt or the liquid that is left over when we strain yogurt to make labneh. It tastes sour at the start and as you keep ‘growing’ it, it becomes even more sour. This is part of its charm. Add honey or whizz it with fruit and you won’t notice it.
WHY IS KEFIR GOOD FOR YOU?
Kefir contains a world of good probiotics, many of them not present in yogurt or other fermented foods. Its composition will depend on where you ferment it as it picks up bacteria from its environment. Kefir contains ‘more than 23 different yeast species… However, the predominant species are Saccharomyces cerevisiae, S. unisporus, Candida kefyr, and Kluyveromyces marxianus ssp. marxianus.” (Further reading if you want to get nerdy about it here: ‘Dissecting the Microbial Diversity of Kefir‘ and ‘Milk kefir: composition, microbial cultures, biological activities, and related products‘).
A May 2016 study on The Microbiota and Health Promoting Characteristics of the Fermented Beverage Kefir says that ‘one unique characteristic of traditionally produced kefir relative to many other commercially produced fermented dairy products is the presence of a large population of yeast in both the kefir grain and in the fermented milk (Marsh et al., 2013). Although the majority of commercialized probiotic microbes are bacteria such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, there are some yeast species and strains that have been recognized to have probiotic properties, such as Saccharomyces boulardii (Corthier et al., 1986; Czerucka et al., 2007). S. boulardii has been shown to improve the symptoms of Clostridium difficile associated diarrhea as well as reduce inflammation and alter the immune state and reactions in the gut, leading to its adoption as a treatment for C. difficile diarrhea (Buts et al., 1994; Castagliuolo et al., 1999; Kotowska et al., 2005; Villarruel et al., 2007).’
WHERE TO BUY KEFIR GRAINS AND READY-MADE KEFIR MILK
– Buy the grains at Amazon or online health shops (you only need a small supply) or ask a friend who makes it to give you some of theirs to ‘start’ your batch. If you are in Dublin ask at the Hopsack Health Shop in Rathmines, Dublin 6 – they have a lady who shares her kefir stash and they will call you when she leaves in a little pot of her live kefir grains for you. It’s an excellent service – kind acts follow kefir around and when you ferment yours, you will find yourself offering other people blobs of kefir in clean jam jars before you know it.
– When we run out of kefir starter (that’s what we call the grains growing in milk) or if it dies or gets too strong we buy a litre of kefir milk at the Polish or Moldovan shop, pour some into a bowl, cover it lightly with muslin or paper towel and leave it to sit for a few days at room temperature and top it up as normal. It makes a milder version but it is equally good to eat and it means that if you go on holiday or forget to feed an original batch grown from kefir grains you needn’t worry. It’s easy to start another batch. If you can’t be bothered making kefir from scratch just buy the kefir milk. Home-made kefir is better for you as it contains more beneficial bacteria than commercially-made kefir but it’s better to drink some kefir than none.
Some people find that kefir is hard on their stomach so go easily. Start with a teaspoon the first day and work up adding a spoon a day until you see how to sits with you.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE
Try our Beetroot and Pomegranate Molasses Smoothie and use kefir (or part-kefir) instead of the buttermilk. Ditto with our Warm Potato Salad with Spicy Buttermilk Dressing. Add milk kefir to Overnight Oats or a Beetroot and Banana Smoothie.