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Kefir

Kefir is one of the oldest (and healthiest) milk ferments known to man. Kefir was thought to have been made about 2,000 years ago in the mountainous area of the Caucasus mountains right between Europe and Russia. While some people lump kefir with yogurt, they’re two totally different drinks. Kefir has a higher fat content than yogurt, higher protein content than yogurt, and typically has more probiotics than yogurt. Another thing that differentiates kefir from yogurt is that it has a slight fizz/carbonation to it from the fermentation process. As for the taste, it is a bit similar to yogurt but with the earthy level bumped up a notch, sort of like how dry-aged steaks have a stronger “fuller” flavor than regular steaks.

Kefir Trivia

  • Due to its slight fizz, Kefir is sometimes referred to as the Champagne of Milk.
  • Kefir starter grains aren’t actually grains, but a SCOBY or a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast.
  • The kefir’s fermentation process breaks down the lactose in the milk, making kefir tolerable for people with lactose intolerance.
  • Kefir comes from the Turkish word “keif”, which means “happy”.
  • You may come across water kefir, which is basically water and some fruit juice which is fermented using water kefir grains. Think of it as a natural soda with a fruit twist!

Kefir Buying Guide

Depending on the effort that you want to spend, you can get kefir in many forms. Here are some of the forms that kefir comes in and how you can enjoy this probiotic drink.

  • Ready-to-drink – Due to its high probiotic content, kefir demand is booming, much like in the early days of yogurt. Many large-scale producers are now making kefir available in ready-to-drink form. This is convenient and good for you, but just make sure to check if any artificial flavors are added to the drink.
  • Kefir Grains – Buying kefir grains is one of the best ways to get your own kefir for consumption. Just add the grains to your milk, ferment them for a couple of days at room temperature, strain the grains out, and enjoy your kefir. Don’t throw out the grains! Just store them in a glass jar and “feed” them every day with a bit of milk, just like yeast cultures for bread. As long as you keep them alive, you can have a perpetual supply of kefir using the same grains over and over again.
  • Dried Kefir Starter Culture – This is just like instant yeast for bread. They do the job, but they don’t last very long. This is a good choice as it stores very easily (just like instant yeast) and can make kefir in a pinch. This is an excellent choice for those who just want to have some homemade kefir every once in a while.
  • Locally-made Kefir – For us, this is the best choice if you want kefir. Locally-made kefir is usually produced by small kefir producers that raise their own livestock for milk production. On top of that, they also maintain their own kefir cultures for kefir production. No more effort of maintaining kefir cultures and you get to enjoy kefir made from milk that is as fresh as can be.
  • Non-dairy Kefir – Much like yogurt, kefir can be made with other “milk” products as well as fruit juices as well. Just make sure that your non-dairy kefir is flavored with real fruit juice and not filled with artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup which is very counterproductive to taking kefir for health benefits.

Kefir Production & Farming in Texas

Kefir production in Texas is a very young industry, but that doesn’t mean that it’s hard to find locally produced kefir. Much like kombucha and other fermented drinks, local producers are now making kefir and kefir grains available through specialty stores, online ordering, and farmers’ markets. Local farms that produce their own milk may also produce their own kefir, and if not, you can suggest it to them. You never know, a nice suggestion might be all that’s needed for your local milk producer to add kefir to their product lineup.

Near the Rio Grande Valley area, you can also find a few ranches that specialize in kefir production, and they also hold classes on how to produce your own kefir and basic homesteading.

Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:

Since kefir is naturally fermented, it doesn’t need any preservatives to keep it good on the shelves. The main thing you have to avoid when buying ready-to-drink kefir is the addition of artificial flavorings and sweeteners.

Another thing to consider with commercially produced kefir is the source of their milk. Commercially sourced milk can may be contaminated with antibiotics, chemicals, and other unwholesome stuff that’s given to the cows and passes down to the milk.

Packaging:

Kefir is packed in plastic jugs and glass bottles with non-reactive metal caps.

Enjoying Kefir

The simplest and most common way to consume kefir would be to drink it, like milk or yogurt! Kefir can also be used as a milk substitute so it can be used to add to cereals, smoothies, parfaits, and salad dressings.

While kefir can be used in cooking and baking applications, this is not generally recommended as the high heats can kill off the probiotics which make kefir an attractive health drink.

Storage:

Kefir, once the container is open, should be consumed within a week. It should also be stored in the fridge as opening the container may introduce other bacteria which may cause the kefir to spoil faster.

How to make your own Kefir:

Making Kefir is quite simple, as long as you can get your hands on some good kefir grains then it should be as easy as 1-2-3.

Ingredients:

Kefir Grain, 1 Tablespoon
Whole Cow’s Milk, 1 liter

Equipment:

Non-Metallic/non-reactive slotted spoon
Glass Jug or Jar
Cheesecloth or paper towels
String or rubber band
Non-metallic strainer
Jug to store finished kefir

Step 1:

Clean all of the equipment with plain soap and water, don’t use antimicrobial or antibacterial soaps as any residue might kill the kefir grains. Dry equipment thoroughly after washing.

Step 2:

Place one tablespoon of kefir grains in a glass jar and then add the milk. Cover the jar with cheesecloth or paper towels and secure with string or rubber bands.

Step 3:

Ferment in a cool and dark place for about 24 hours. Strain out the milk (which is now kefir) on to a jug for storage. Keep the strained kefir grains in a separate container or start a new batch!

You can now chill the kefir or drink it as is.

Nutrition:

  • Vitamins and minerals:
    • Kefir contains a lot of the major vitamin and mineral requirements that our bodies need to stay healthy.
      • Vitamin B12 – 50% of RDI
      • Vitamin B2 – 39% of RDI
      • Vitamin D – 17% of RDI
      • Vitamin A – 10% of RDI
      • Vitamin C – 6% of RDI
      • Phosphorus – 43% of RDI
      • Calcium – 40% of RDI
      • Potassium 16.5% of RDI
    • As you can see, kefir provides most of the vitamins and minerals that our body needs, and those figures are for 100ml of kefir! As a point of reference, a tall glass of milk/kefir is usually 250ml!
  • Probiotic Content:
    • Kefir has a lot more probiotics than kombucha or yogurt!
      • Probiotics can have many digestive benefits and can improve the balance of intestinal flora.
      • The probiotics in kefir can relieve symptoms of constipation by improving digestive health and performance.
      • Initial research has shown that the probiotics in kefir may help in alleviating allergy symptoms.

Nutrition

DV%

  • Serving Size: 1 Serving
  • Calories: 112
  • Carbs: 12g 4%
  • Sugar: 12g
  • Fiber: 0.1g 0%
  • Protein: 11g
  • Fat: 2.2g 3%
  • Saturated Fat: 1.4g 7%

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