What’s that going off on your kitchen counter? Kefir !!

Have you ever heard of Kefir??  You may have seen it in health food stores, in supermarkets next to the milks and yoghurts, or you may have seen it ‘fermenting’ on someone’s kitchen bench!

                                           

I thought I should put together some of the research that I’ve done on kefir… for a few reasons….

  1. I give my kids a ‘kefir’ shake (milkshake) every day
  2. I have 2 jars sitting on my kitchen counter, full of kefir,
  3. Dealing with kefir is part of my daily routine,
  4. I drink it
  5. I give away the kefir grains knowing that they are an amazing source of ‘free’ probiotics, but I need to start giving an information sheet with my grains so people understand how to care for them and just how beneficial they are!

So, how do you say it??

It is pronounced “kef” as in deaf and “ear” as in fear.

WHAT IS KEFIR?

I describe kefir  as a yoghurt-like drink.  It’s ‘stronger’ than yoghurt, hence why I usually make a smoothie with the kefir + banana + vanilla extract + honey for the kids.   I can’t drink it ‘straight’ yet, and my husband can’t face it at all!!!  It has HUGE health benefits because it has a very high level of live and active probiotic cultures that are good for your immune system and gut health.

The following information is from Dom’s Kefir Website … (Dom, that’s his name, is the Australian guru on all things kefir!)

  • Kefir is a cultured-milk beverage which originated in the northern slopes of the Caucasus Mountains (which are in Europe) believed to date back over 1,000 years.
  • The tribes-folk of this particular region consumed the nutritious beverage in large quantities, and they were known for living long, healthy lives with little to no known disease. An active life span of over one hundred years was common for folks living in the region where kefir was cultured and liberally consumed as part of a staple diet.
  • Traditional, authentic kefir can only be prepared by culturing fresh milk with Kefir grains.
  • Kefir can be strained and consumed fresh (ie at room temperature… or I strain it straight into my Amazing Thermo Machine! (my Thermomix) and make a fresh fruit smoothie with crushed ice to make it cold… the kids aren’t too keen on warm kefir milkshakes!!)  OR it can be ‘ripened’ at room temperature over a few days (this reduces the lactose in your kefir, improves flavour??, increases Vitamin B1, B6 including B9 or folic acid, .. also increases the alcohol content I’ve found!!!… I don’t usually ‘ripen’ it)

What do kefir grains look like?

Kefir grains look like soggy cauliflower florets.       Here is a picture of mine….

 Straining kefir grains through a colander

This is my kefir grains after I’ve strained the milk kefir off in the morning.   I’m about to pop them back in the jar and pour some of our raw milk over the top of them (you can definitely use pasteurised milk, I did before we bought our cow!) and leave on the kitchen bench for around 24hours.

Health Benefits of Kefir

Kefir is the ‘original’ probiotic! – long before people even knew what probiotics were.

Probiotics…..

  • are friendly or ‘good’ bacteria that help strengthen your body
  • the word ‘probiotic’ means “beneficial to life”
  • are SO good for you
  • (research shows evidence that they ….)
  • help boost immunity
  • promote better digestion
  • lower cholesterol levels
  • help to restore gut health after you take a course of antibiotics
  • …..  research on the above and more potential effects   (list found here)
    • 2.1  decreases diarrhea 2.2 decreases lactose intolerance 2.3 helps to prevent colon cancer 2.4 decreasing cholesterol 2.5 noromalising blood pressure 2.6 increases immune function and infections ……… 2.10 aids in prevention and treatment of irritable bowel syndrome and colitis 
  • Studies (see here)  have also shown that giving probiotics to children preventatively can reduce the incidence of respiratory tract infections, diarrhoea, reduces the number of sick days from daycare, helps to prevent allergies such as exzema and hayfever, and it may decrease the incidence of ear infections.

The Kefir Association  state on their website that kefir contains 10 probiotic strains and is an excellent source of protein, calcium and fiber (VERY nutritious for children and women!)

Your body contains about 100 trillion bacteria — more than 10 TIMES the number of cells you have in your entire body. Ideally, you should have 85 percent “good” bacteria in your gut, and 15 percent “bad” bacteria in your gut.     If you have an excess of unhealthy bacteria in your gut, it can manifest in many ways, such as gas and bloating, fatigue, sugar cravings, nausea, headaches, constipation or diarrhea. You may also find that, despite a healthy diet and exercise, you have difficulty shedding weight.   (See more detail on Dr Mercola’s website)

By adding things like yoghurt and kefir to your daily life,  it helps you to get the good bacteria in your digestive system.  Dr Mercola explains that this is important because an estimated 80 percent of your immune system is located there (in your digestive system!).   So supporting your digestive health is essential to also supporting your immune system, which is your number one defense system against ALL disease.

Things that interfere with your keeping your gut healthy –

  • eating a lot of processed foods (as they tend to destroy healthy bacteria and ‘feed’ the back bacteria and yeast)
  • taking antibiotics (of course, you sometimes HAVE to take antibiotics, so just ensure that you have adequate probiotics in your diet to replace the good bacteria that’s been wiped out!)
  • drinking chlorinated water
  • using antibacterial soap all the time
  • chemicals used in growing food and food production
  • pollution (need some of this fresh hills air!)

All of us are exposed to some or all of the above on occasions, so it’s a good idea to keep up the numbers of good bacteria in your gut by eating/drinking probiotics (e.g eating fermented foods/drinking kefir).

(Note: pasteurization kills the naturally occurring probiotics in milk, so pour your pasteurized milk over some kefir grains!!  OR even better, access some raw milk!)

In order to be considered probiotic, the bacteria must be present in sufficient numbers of live and active cultures, resistant to acid and bile, able to attach to the intestinal wall and colonize the intestinal tract and beneficial to health. Probiotics can be taken in tablet form, but most experts agree that it is better to get any nutrient through food consumption. Often the processing of tablets causes cultures to become inactive. With kefir, that’s not an issue since it’s ‘living’ on your bench, plus you’ll get the added benefits of calcium, Vitamins A, C and D, lactic acid and potassium.

Also, Kefir is so much CHEAPER than a tablet.  I’ve had a mum from school take home some of my kefir grains and now makes milkshakes/smoothies with the kefir each day for her children.  She previously had to purchase probiotics in tablet form for her children but can now ‘make her own’ probiotics.  The Microgenics Probiotic tablets cost $27.95 for 60 tablets – that’s nearly 50 cents EACH tablet – that all adds up if you have a few adults and a couple of children taking them every day!  Alive Probiotics (they are meant to have 25 billion friendly bacteria in each tablet!) cost $41.95 (on special) for 60 tablets – that’s 70 cents each tablet.  Yes, kefir on my bench, using milk that I have in my fridge anyway, is cheaper.

So why not try some kefir … look for some in the grocery store or health food shop (so you know I’m not making this up!), or see here (Dom’s Website) or here (source in Queensland) for Australian sources of kefir grains, OR if you know me, contact me and I’ll give you some grains (mine are thriving and I have SO many) so that you can easily make traditional kefir in your own home (and you never have to buy them again!).

 

For more information regarding Kefir – and sources of the grains – please visit Dom’s Website.  He’s the ‘King of Kefir’, from Australia, and has pages on the origin of kefir grains, benefits, and uses.

For more information on Raw Milk – see this series of blog posts from Kelly the Kitchen Kop on Raw Milk Benefits, Raw Milk Safety, and Farming Practices

Mmmm, I’m thinking of getting the kids to video the daily practice of making real kefir…. THEN you’d be impressed and request some grains from me immediately… or not….

 

Addit….

On another topic… if you have a Thermomix, check out this site for amazing, SIMPLE, additive free lemon tarts… and I LOVE the French accent.

I’m an OT – Occupational Therapist – it’s a GREAT profession, I LOVE my job, but NOBODY knows what it is!!!    Thanks Danielle for the link, here is a 3 minute, easy to watch,  YouTube clip describing OT very well!!

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23 thoughts on “What’s that going off on your kitchen counter? Kefir !!”

  1. Hi Hayley,
    I have some grains I have been growing for over a week now. I am enjoying the kefir for breakfast with cereal. Can you use it anywhere you use yoghurt eg in curries or is there a problem if you heat it? I find I am get more per 24 hours than I am eating. Any suggestions? Can it all go into one container. So far I have kept each day separate.

    1. Hi Jeanette, WOW, you’ve only had milk kefir a week and you’re eating it with cereal? Not many people get used to the taste that quickly!!
      Re your questions – yes, you can use it in any of your cooking (or baking) where you would usually use yoghurt or milk. For example, I’ve used it instead of milk in pancakes, and it makes them light and very fluffy!!
      However, heating your kefir will decrease the probiotic goodness of your kefir (just as heating milk kills the beneficial bacteria). Because the heating kills off the probiotics, it also decreases its antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties. See more information on heating kefir here – http://www.benefitsofkefir.com/cooking-and-eating-kefir/
      The good thing about it though is that there are other good things in kefir that don’t die in the heating process (ie fats, vitamins, minerals). Things like calcium, magnesium and Vitamins A, B2, B12, D, and K are still available for your body to use. Also, using kefir for cooking/baking is still a great way not to waste the lovely kefir you’ve made!
      PS You can pop it all into one container if you are making more each day than you need.

  2. Hi this is the first te I have heard of Kefir. How do I get some??? And how do I make it???

    1. Hi Lisa, you can buy it already made (or cultured) from grocery stores or health food shops… or you can buy the grains (if you are in Australia.. better still, Adelaide) from Dom () or you can get some grains from anyone you know who makes their own kefir. To make it? Just pop the grains in a clean glass jar, pour some milk over the grains, put the lid on, and in 24hours (depending on the temperature) you will have beautiful milk kefir to drink or use in recipes. I trust this helps.

    2. Wow that was odd. I just wrote an really long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up.
      Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
      Anyways, just wanted to say excellent blog!

      My web site – Cute Women Ideas and Pictures (Evelyn)

  3. Hi Hayley!

    Retired OT here. It is a wonderful profession.

    I make kefir, too. I never rinse my grains and rarely rinse the jar they go back into (under the theory that the residue helps culture the new kefir). Once a week I switch out for clean jars, but I never rinse the grains.

    Another way to use kefir is to strain it for a sour cream substitute or even a little more for a cream cheese substitute. Both are yummy. And I don’t like straight kefir, but it’s delicious mixed half and half with coconut milk.

    You can kefir coconut milk, too but it goes fast and is too sour for my taste. Return the grains to dairy milk every 2 or 3 batches to keep them healthy.

    1. Hi there, thanks for your kefir information! I do rinse my grains but only about once a week, I guess I could never rinse, I don’t really know why I do – it’s just part of my routine I guess. I do find that the grains grow quicker if I don’t rinse them. That’s a great idea, using kefir as a sour cream substitute! Bye for now, Hayley

      1. Lex is now 3.9 years old and his Milk Allergy is diminishing and is moltsy under control, we believe that, aside from naturally growing out of the allergy, his regular consumption of Milk Kefir is aiding his digestion of dairy greatly. Please read this article Milk Kefir for Children excellent Probiotics and a Milk Allergy Cure

        1. Thank you so much for sharing! Kefir should aid in the digestion of all sorts of food, as well as breaking down the lactose in milk to help that to digest. I am about to look at that article you mentioned.

        2. Hi Devan, I would avoid any Milk Kefir that you can buy in the store. That stuff has at best about 3 strains of potiboric. The real Milk Kefir is hand-crafted and has like 20+ powerful potiboric strains. If this is something you are up for I am sure my wife and I could send you some Kefir Grains so you can make your own.We slowly increased the amount of Milk Kefir cheese and put in so much fruit juice that he didn’t notice. If you dissolve it well most kids won’t notice. Shoot me an email at my email address on the contact page if you are interested. in the Kefir Grains, my wife’s Kefir Grains are , so you can trust them (of course, she will give them freely to a fellow parent like yourself).

  4. Hi Hayley,
    Thanks for sharing we have a baby kifer growing very slowly. At the moment we have between a desertspoon and a tablespoon of grains which is am putting in about a cup of milk each day. Do you think that is enough grains or should we look at getting more? AND do you think I could put in more milk than I am? Sorry to bombard you with questions its just I have been wondering these for a while with no-one to ask (until now :)).
    Cheers
    Jo

    1. Hi Jo, glad to hear you have kefir growing in your kitchen too! You’ll find that if you don’t rinse the grains, they will grow quicker, and you definitely don’t need to get more grains – the one’s you have will grow soon enough. 1/2 cup milk is fine for your 1 Tbsp of kefir grains, as they grow though, you will have to put more milk in. I had a cup full of kefir grains, now I’ve broken bits off to give to people, and I’m back to 1 tsp! of grains. The beauty of kefir grains is that they will grow and live forever really!!

  5. Hi Hayley,
    Love you site and your latest article has made me think my family could benefit from Kefir. I have a few lactose sensitive boys, one that often complains about a sore tummy after a party and I have high cholestrol. Sounds like Kefir could fix the lot! Will see if my local health shop has it!
    Thanks for sharing, Inge

    1. Hi Inge, yes, kefir is so beneficial and kids LOVE it especially when blended with fruit in a milkshake/smoothie! I’ll give you some … if you can get up here or if I look into how to dehydrate it and send the grains in the mail!!!!!

  6. Looks great Hayley – I’ll have to get some from you. I’ve been making yoghurt in the thermomix which I love (and the kids are coming around!). I’ve got the sourdough starter working!!

    1. Of course you can have some Sophie, and I’m so glad the yoghurt is happening in the Thermomix! and YEA the sourdough starter is working… I’ll swap some kefir grains for sourdough!

      1. Thanks for the enlightining aitcrle. My son who is 18 months now has also been diagonised with milk and egg whites allergy. Since then I have been reseaching on how to help him build his immunity to the various diary products. Reading your aitcrle on introducing Milk Keir has increased my confidence and I think I would also like to give this a try. I had bought a kefir smoothie last week from my regular grocers and tried giving him a few sips. Though, he loved the taste, I saw that he developed some small red rashes on his cheek ( which is his way of showing his milk allergy) and I was scared and immly stopped giving him. What are your thoughts on giving him kefir smoothie or do you think, I should try out some other way of introducing kefir. Did your son also react initially when you introduced the Milk-Keir cream cheese? Looking forward to your response,Thanks,Devan

        1. SO glad reading this has increased your confidence, I do hope that you can give kefir a try in all sorts of different ways. We have only had kefir ‘plain’ or in fruit smoothies. I have not tried to make milk kefir cream cheese nor tried it on my children. When making you own milk kefir (rather than buying it), you can leave it on your counter for longer (ie more than 24hours) to break down more of the lactose. When you purchase a kefir smoothie, they may have added some milk in another form ?yoghurt ?icecream ?? which your son may have reacted too. If you can access some of your own kefir grains, you can have homemade kefir forever! Do you know anyone with grains? Or you can access them via Dom’s Kefir Website here in Australia (http://users.sa.chariot.net.au/~dna/kefirpage.html#order )

          1. Thanks for the enlightining acirtle. My son who is 18 months now has also been diagonised with milk and egg whites allergy. Since then I have been reseaching on how to help him build his immunity to the various diary products. Reading your acirtle on introducing Milk Keir has increased my confidence and I think I would also like to give this a try. I had bought a kefir smoothie last week from my regular grocers and tried giving him a few sips. Though, he loved the taste, I saw that he developed some small red rashes on his cheek ( which is his way of showing his milk allergy) and I was scared and immly stopped giving him. What are your thoughts on giving him kefir smoothie or do you think, I should try out some other way of introducing kefir. Did your son also react initially when you introduced the Milk-Keir cream cheese? Looking forward to your response,Thanks,Devan

        2. Hi Devan, I can’t believe how busy I have been, I aopgolize for my delay.1) What you need to make Kefir Cheese:-> A cloth bag made of muslin with a cotton drawstring on the opening-> A pot or pitcher large enough to hold the cloth bag filled suspended with Kefir inside-> A long handled utensil or clean, thin board wide enough to hold the cloth bag suspended over the mouth of the pot/pitcher-> Milk Kefir2) Place the cloth bag in the pot/pitcher, hold the opening at the top of the pot/pitcher with the bottom hanging down inside the pot/pitcher3) Pour the milk Kefir inside the bag4) Pull the drawstring closed. Now wrap the top of the bag around the long-handled utensil as tightly as possible and hang the bag over the pot or large pitcher and place it gently in a refrigerator.5) For the next 24-48 hours pour off the whey until very little is produced. You can pour the whey on outside plants, they will love it.BTW, you can use store bought milk. I suggest organic milk,we use Whole and 2% milk with our Kefir Grains. Avoid ultra-pasteurized milk if possible.

      2. Hi Andrea! I was having kefir every day when I made this video if you don’t want to make it every day, you just have to make sure that the kefir granis have something to eat so keep them in the fridge in a bit of milk and they will stay good for a long time. The cold temperature in the fridge will slow fermentation right down.I can’t remember what happened to mine exactly I didn’t do this, or just left them too long without milk, and they died I guess :/Then I moved to Australia and I haven’t had any kefir in a long time, but I can tell my digestion could totally use it!!Anyway I’ve also been reading that you actually don’t even neeed the kefir granis . well, you do, sorta. You need something to start it with, so either the granis, or a starter culture that you can purchase. And then after that, you can just use a couple tablespoons of kefir from the previous batch, add it to your new batch, and it will fermented it! So even if your kefir granis die, if you just always keep a bit of kefir in the fridge, you can still make it. Kefir you make should last in the fridge for quite a while.

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