There are a few things in our lives that we really can say CHANGED our lives. We don’t say that cheese changed our lives. Now, I love cheese, but it hasn’t made that much on an impact. The truth is though, there are some things that have and one of those things is kefir. I’m sure some of you are saying “Ke—what?” I was there, too. I was one of those people once upon a time who had no idea what is was but that didn’t stop me- I wanted to try it. My dear friend, Stacy, has an extra grain or two and sent them my way with instructions on how to use it and the results have been amazing. Emma had RSV last winter which strongly increases her chances of having asthma. It doesn’t help that I was diagnosed with asthma when I was 16 (I had exhaustion-based asthma before then) and that increases her chances, too. This fall, Emma’s cough returned with a runny nose and after bringing her to the doctor and hearing this was normal, I was not satisfied. I thought there had to be SOMETHING that could help and there it was—kefir. Since we’ve started a daily diet of kefir, Emma’s cough and runny nose haven’t returned and what a blessing that is! Here’s a little about it and how we use it.
Kefir, pronounced /kəˈfɪər/ , is basically fermented milk that is a GREAT source of probiotics. Simply as that. It has a similar consistency to yogurt or sour cream, depending on how thick you make it. The kefir comes from kefir grains, which are a culture made up of bacteria and yeast in a dairy substance. Kefir grains remind me of cauliflower which I hate. Sorry if I disappointed anyone. Back to kefir though. Something amazing about the kefir grain is they cannot be manufactured meaning they are a REAL FOOD. Can I get an amen? AMEN AMEN AMEN! Not too much is known about how kefir grains came to be but it seems they came from Russia. Thanks, Russia! I owe you one. Kefir has several strains of bacteria and yeast that feed good bacteria in our digestive tract and also contains many needed nutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, and more. Something I found interesting during my study on the benefits of kefir is that most people don’t understand how kefir really helps fight off illness when it primarily works in your intestines/digestive region. What we need to know is that the majority of our immune system lives in our digestive tract and almost all common illnesses come from something related to our digestive system. I’m glad kefir is smarter than I am.
The next big question I get is what in the world to do with it. This is a GREAT question. I would recommend looking into it after you read this post. Just because I do it a certain way doesn’t mean it needs to be your way. I will share with you how I make kefir from the grains and how we incorporate it into our diet.
First off, if you’re not making kefir be sure to keep your kefir grain(s) in a container in the fridge covered with milk. Baby food containers are great for this! You will need to empty and feed it every 7-10 days (do NOT rinse with chlorinated water- it will kill it). Once you decide to make kefir you will pull the grain(s) out of the fridge, put them in a container (preferably a mason jar), pour a cup of milk in with it (whole is best), put something over it (but do NOT tighten it or the gases will cause it to have a mini explosion), and let it sit. Some people wait 24 hours but I like to wait 48. Other people wait up to 72 but that’s too long for me. You just have to find the consistency you like. Remember while it’s growing to sit it in a place out of direct sunlight because that can kill it, too. My favorite part comes next. Get out another mason jar and find a funnel that fits in it. You also need a strainer and I’ll be honest- I went to the dollar tree and bought a sink strainer just for this. It fits PERFECTLY. After all the liquid has strained, you have kefir! It can be stored in the fridge for several months but be warned- it can get moldy if it’s in there too long. Be wise in how long you keep it. Also, the smell will be similar to sour cream but it won’t be so strong it knocks you over. You can continue making batches of kefir or you can put your grain(s) and milk back in the fridge. One more quick tip here: you can kill kefir grains. I’ve done it and the smell is awful and the texture of kefir it makes is even worse. You won’t be able to doubt that you’ve killed it.
Our favorite way to do kefir is in smoothie form. I make a base with yogurt and a fruit of some sort. Right now, we’ve been doing 1-2 cups organic vanilla yogurt with ½-1 cup organic pumpkin puree. I just put it in the blender and go to town. This stores in the fridge based on the expiration of the yogurt. When ready to eat, I mix 2/3 cup smoothie base with 1/3 cup kefir. This isn’t measured by a measuring cup but rather the size of the cup itself. Now I’m going to be honest here, too. Sometimes kefir can have a bitter taste and for picky eaters, it may take some time to find a mixture that works best for you. I promise you this though- once you find the mixture that works for you, you will LOVE it. Emma can drink kefir straight but I just don’t feel right about that when I can add in some yummy fruits to go with it. Some of our favorites are organic pumpkin puree, strawberries, blueberries, and peaches. Another way we use kefir is in the form of buttermilk or sour cream. If a recipe calls for either of these, we pull out the kefir. It is usually a little thinner but not enough that we notice and it tastes great. What a great way to get some extra probiotics! I’ve read recently about making cream cheese with kefir but we haven’t done that yet. I have made homemade cream cheese out of milk before and that’s great, too.
Another benefit to it is that you can up your amount based on illnesses. We always go up when Emma gets bad diaper rash (fights off yeast infections), we’re around someone with the flu, or are just feeling plain yucky.
Kefir has changed our lives- is it changing yours?