Friday, May 25, 2012

The Amazing Wonders of Kefir

I was first introduced to Kefir (pronouced as in keh, in kettle, and fear) by a dear friend, who not only shared with me the ways of making it, but also gave me a bottle with fresh kefir grains inside as the starter. This special friend has a way with home-made stuffs, and I can't stop feeling grateful for all the wonderful tips she has shared with me.

I don't plan to list down all the benefits of kefir here, or it'll fill up my whole post. You can easily google about it, and I can safely sum it up as - it has everything to make a person healthy. Its main players are the probiotics, which are five times more than yoghurt, so this beverage is certainly a good candidate to clean the intestines and boost the immune system. Apart from that, it is also claimed that kefir helps to relieve skin disorders and sinus problem. I was probably more intrigued with its ability to treat gastritis, ADHD, and those recovering from a serious illness like cancer, AIDS or being treated with antibiotics. And the best thing of all is that it's suitable for all ages.

What's more amazing is that, despite it being made with milk, it's also suitable for those who are lactose intolerant. Surprised? Yes, due to the fermentation process, it is already predigested, that's why.

Kefir has a pH of about 4.0 and due to its acidic nature, it tends to react with various metal, so try not to use metal or stainless steel products to strain, stir or store Kefir.

Making Kefir is really easy and does not require any machine whatsoever. Here is the Kefir kick start instruction provided by PS to me:

What is needed? 
- Glass bottles (1 bottle for brewing and 1 for storing the strained Kefir)
- Nylon or plastic strainer
- Plastic or wooden chopstick (for stirring)
- Handkerchief or cloth to cover the bottle, and a rubber band to secure the cloth
- Fresh milk and Kefir Grains (1 Tbs of milk kefir grains (which look like cauliflowers) is enough to brew 1 cup (0.25L) of fresh milk)

Brewing Instructions 
- Add the right amount of Kefir grains and fresh milk into a clean bottle.
- Cover with cloth or hanky and secure with rubber band to keep out the crawlies.
- Let the mixture sit on the counter top, away from the sunlight.
- After 24 hours or less (~15-18 hours), the milk will turn sour with curd and whey (clear yellowish liquid), indicating that it is ready for harvest.
- Stir to mix the curd and whey before straining. Strain the ready Kefir with the nylon strainer into a glass bottle and store in the fridge.
- It is ready for consumption.
- Measure the strained Kefir Grains to get the right amount and put it back into the glass bottle with fresh milk to make a new batch and keep repeating the process.

If you did not get curd and whey after 24 hours (meaning it is still water sour milk) strain it anyway, and throw away the milk and repeat the above process for another 24 hours or less until you get curd and whey. 

Caution: Kefir brewed less than 12 hours is known to have a milk laxative effect and kefir brewed more than 48 hours may cause constipation. 

My Kefir bottles - ready for consumption!

Initially, I noticed that after taking the Kefir for a few days, I experienced not-so-smooth bowel movement. Maybe I brewed it too long, so I shorten it to a 12-hour cycle (before this was normally 24-hours). Well, it didn't really improved, so I stopped for a few days, and even weeks. I recently started consuming it again, and I didn't have such problem anymore. Not too sure why myself :)

One good thing about this Kefir-making is that when we're bored, we can take a break. However, we still need to feed the Kefir grains, if we plan to make them again next time. I personally like the Kefir grains better than the liquid itself. The texture is rather nice to chew on, springy a little.

Taking a Break (Storage) 
To take a break from brewing, store the grains in the fridge as follows: 

Milk grains - cover grains with milk (50:50 ratio) and store in a glass bottle with lid. They can be kept in this manner for a week, then take them out for milk change. 
Brew as normal on counter top. You may drink the strained kefir. 

Please note that for prolonged cold storage of grains may weaken your grains eventually. So, be diligent and brew regularly if not daily. Brew only to the amount you need daily. That way, your grains get the food daily. 

For more information on Kefir, here are some good websites for your reading pleasure:

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