Kefir: The Champagne of Yogurts!
What is Kefir?
Kefir is a fermented milk product that is like a drinkable yogurt. I have heard it called the champagne of yogurts because it has a light effervescence and many more beneficial bacterias than yogurt. It’s also more expensive than yogurt to buy in the grocery store. Inversely, it is much easier to make at home than yogurt is.
History: Magic, love and kidnapping?
There is a legend that Mohammed gave kefir grains to the Orthodox people and taught them how to make kefir. The 'Grains of the Prophet’ were guarded jealously since it was believed that they would lose their strength if the grains were given away and the secret of how to use them became common knowledge. Kefir grains were regarded as part of the family's and tribe's wealth and they were passed on from generation to generation. Centuries past while the people of the Northern Caucasuses enjoyed this food without sharing it with anyone else they came into contact with. Other peoples occasionally heard strange tales of this unusual beverage which was said to have ‘magical’ properties. Marco Polo mentioned kefir in the chronicles of his travels in the East.
In the 1800’s, Russia began studying the health benefits of kefir and wanted to start producing it commercially. The legend goes as this: Nikolai Blandov sent a beautiful young employee, Irina Sakharova, to the court of a local prince, Bek-Mirza Barchorov. She was instructed to charm the prince and persuade him to give her some kefir grains. Unfortunately, everything did not go according to plan. The prince, fearing retribution for violating a religious law, had no intention of giving away any 'Grains of the Prophet’. However, he was very taken with the young Irina and didn't want to lose her either. Realising that they were not going to complete their mission, Irina and her party departed for Kislovodsk. However, they were stopped on the way home by mountain tribesmen who kidnapped Irina and took her back to the prince. Since it was a local custom to steal a bride, Irina was told that she was to marry Bek-Mirza Barchorov. Only a daring rescue mission mounted by agents of her employers saved Irina from the forced marriage. The unlucky prince was brought before the Tsar who ruled that the prince was to give Irina ten pounds of kefir grains, to recompense her for the insults she had endured.
The kefir grains were taken to the Moscow Dairy and in September, 1908, the first bottles of kefir drink were offered for sale in Moscow.
Why make and drink kefir?
Dr. Mercola describes kefir as a swat team that cleans and strengthens your intestines. A strong and healthy digestive system is directly linked to a strong and healthy immune, endocrine, circulatory, and central nervous system. It’s a true whole body tonic.
Kefir makes our food easier to digest and assimilate into our bodies. It is a perfect food for babies and the elderly.
Kefir helps your body create feel-good hormones such as serotonin.
Kefir strengthens your immune system.
Kefir literally helps you live a longer, happier and healthier life.
Where can I get kefir?
Ready-made kefir is widely available in grocery stores, usually in the natural food section under the Lifeway brand. It is delicious, but often full of excess sugar and highly priced. I have purchased the plain Lifeway kefir and mixed it with small amounts of pomagranate juice for sweetness and flavor. Lifeway kefir is made with 12 strains of beneficial bacteria.
Kefir starter powder can be purchased online here and here. The starter comes in convienant little packets that can be added to dairy milk, coconut milk or various other mediums. Kefir starter powders usually have 7-10 strains of beneficial bacteria.
Kefir grains are, in my opinion, the most beneficial way to make kefir with 20-30 strains of probiotics. They are also the most economical choice because of the ability to reuse the grains indefinitely to make innumerable batches of kefir. Kefir grains can also be purchased online here.
What if I am allergic to dairy?
Individuals that are lactose intolerant often have no problem digesting kefir as the bacterias eat most of the lactose during the fermentation process. I noticed in myself, years ago, that dairy aggravated my sinuses and caused excessive mucus. For years I cut out most dairy from my diet. I learned soon after that I can enjoy yogurt and kefir without feeling any repercussions.
If dairy is most certainly out of the question, then there are lots of other ways to add probiotics to your diet. Water kefir grains, fermented vegtables, such as saurkraut, and kombucha are all fun and delicious options. Watch for my up coming posts on these tasty foods. One expensive but effective option is a high quality probiotic supplement.
The kefir life.
Kefir has been the easiest cultured food to incorperate into my family's diet. My children love it blended up with fresh or frozen fruit and a little stevia or cane sugar and made into a smoothie. We have made kefir popsicles and kefir ice cream. I strain the whey out with a cotton bag and get kefir cheese which I then used to make a delicious onion dip. I use the whey to make lacto-fermeneted sauerkraut, kefir soda, and an amazingly delicious fermented salsa. Our lives are not only healthier, thanks to kefir, they are more pleasure-filled and joyous!
Learn how to make kefir by checking out this blog post: