Since retiring from teaching I have written 4 books to encourage children to love and accept themselves and develop emotional resilience. They are available as e-books from www.TheNewChildrenSeries.com
Published August 4th 2016
How To Encourage Friendly Gut Bacteria
Lately we are hearing a lot in the media about the importance of gut health. ABC's Catalyst program Tuesday 2 August 2016 (abc.net.au) highlighted the need for a balance of bacteria or microbes in the gut, to maintain optimum health.
They didn't mention kefir (Ke/FEER), but it is one of the oldest cultured (fermented) milk products in existence. It has lots of probiotics and helps the body raise its immunity.
It is like thin yoghurt and ranges in taste from mildly sour to cheese-like, depending how long the milk ferments. Kefir can be made with cow, goat or sheep milk. There are also claims it is anti-bacterial and when taken every day that it regulates blood pressure and blood sugar levels. As a result of the fermentation, very little lactose remains in the kefir and people with lactose intolerance are often able to tolerate it although anyone with a severe reaction should consult their health practitioner before trying it.
Healthy kefir grains are white and have a cauliflower shape
Kefir dates back many centuries to the shepherds in the Caucasus Mountains. They were forbidden to give it away and it was kept as a closely guarded secret although Marco Polo mentioned it in recounting his travels in the East.
Legend has it that Mohammed gave kefir grains to the Orthodox people and taught them how to make kefir. They became known as 'Grains of the Prophet' and were regarded as part of a family's and tribe's wealth as they were passed from generation to generation. Centuries later news spread to Russia about the health and healing benefits of Kefir and The All Russian Physician's Society decided to procure some.
There is a romantic story about Irena, a beautiful young Russian woman being dispatched to the court of a local prince to try to obtain some grains. Her request was denied but the prince desired her as his bride and had her kidnapped.
A daring raid saved her from a forced marriage and the unlucky prince was reprimanded by the Tsar and ordered to give Irena ten pounds of kefir grains for the insults she had endured.
Today we don't have to go to such lengths to obtain kefir grains. Most health food shops have them in stock and many people who make the product at home will happily gift the grains to others.
What are kefir grains? According to Wikipedia, kefir is a combination of "lactic acid bacteria and yeasts in a matrix of proteins, lipids and sugars and this symbiotic matrix of (SCOBY) forms 'grains' that resemble cauliflower. For this reason a complex and highly variable community of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts can be found in these grains."
The following photos will take you step by step through the easy process of making kefir at home.
Place kefir grains in a large jar and pour in milk.
It's important to use fresh organic milk, preferably with as little processing as possible, however I have occasionally made it with a good quality long-life milk when I didn't have fresh milk. I usually use 1 litre of milk each time.
Kefir fermenting on the kitchen bench.
Use muslin or linen to cover the jar and allow it to sit on the kitchen bench for 24 hours. In summer fermentation will occur faster so it may be ready sooner. If you want to slow it down place the jar in the fridge.
Kefir after fermenting for 24 hours.
The surface of the mixture may appear lumpy but that is quite normal. Next you will strain the kefir through a plastic strainer. It's preferable to use a rubber scraper to gently separate the kefir grains so they're not damaged.
Gently separate the grains from the liquid.
Pour the kefir liquid into a jug and store in the fridge.
To make your next batch of kefir repeat the same steps. If you are going on holidays or wish to have a break from making kefir, place the grains in a small jar, cover with milk and store in the fridge. They will be quite happy there for several weeks, maybe even longer.
Delicious strawberry smoothie.
Kefir is perfect for smoothies. My favourites are green smoothies but I also like making fruit varieties or a combination of both. After you have perfected making kefir you may feel adventurous and make your own cheese, simply by straining the kefir mixture (not the grains) through muslin to separate the whey. What remains in the muslin is the ricotta cheese. Don't discard the whey; it is full of healthy bacteria and can also be used in smoothies or used to help ferment sauerkraut or mixed vegetables.
It was only this morning Anaya that a chemist mentioned kefir to me and this was the first time I had ever heard of it. Your article is very interesting and terrific that you also show the steps to making it. I confess the fermenting product had very little appeal but the finished strawberry smoothy looks devine.
Wow Anaya! Who would have thought something so easy to make could be so good for you? I'll certainly look into making some. Thanks for the great information - I'm always looking for ways to improve my health.