A couple weeks ago my husband traveled up to Northern Virginia to coach one of our athletes at the mid-Atlantic regionals while I headed home to Virginia Beach. The first night he stayed with some friends at their house. A very cool couple we met while living in NC – because people from NC kinda rule the school!!! Ian and his wife are pretty awesome people, very into natural and healthy living, making homemade kraut, kefir and the sorts.
In the past I bought kefir from Whole Foods and at $9 per jar, it was heck-a expensive and something I splurged on only once a month or so. That Saturday while at the beach with my daughter, I received a text from my husband saying, “Ian gave me some kefir grains for you.” I was beyond excited! Homemade kefir baby!!!
Now, as a one who eats predominantly paleo (75-80%), kefir is not traditionally considered paleo as it is traditionally a dairy product. Although research suggests, “our genes have been infused with real dairy products for tens of thousands of years. Recent geologic and climatologic research reveals that between 100,000 to 10,000 years ago, the Sahara was a lush paradise of grassland” (Raw Milk. 2013). However, you can make kefir with coconut milk, almond milk or goats milk. If you prefer a non-cow milk version. To each their own :-)
If you choose to make kefir with milk, raw milk from grass-fed cows is the optimal choice. Here, in Georgia, you can purchase raw milk….it is always labeled as ‘pet-milk’ due to current regulations. If you are not in Georgia, check out this website – it is a great source for not only local, raw milk but also local produce, meats, and cheeses.
Now you may be asking, why raw milk? Well quite simply, raw milk is far superior to any store bought milk.
“Raw milk is an incredibly complex whole food, complete with digestive enzymes and its own antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-parasitic mechanisms conveniently built into a neat package. It is chock-full of both fat and water soluble vitamins, a wide range of minerals and trace elements, all eight essential amino acids, more than 60 enzymes, and CLA – an omega-6 fatty acid with impressive effects on everything from insulin resistance to cancer to cardiovascular disease.” (Gordon, D. 2013).
I can understand your hesitation with it being unpasteurized, however, currently only 1 in every 6 million people have reported some sort of illness after consuming raw milk. In fact, in the last 20 years no one has died from consuming raw milk. However , each day nine people die from asthma attacks (Gumpert, D. 2012). Are you still wondering about consuming raw milk??? Well, raw milk has shown to help with allergies, ear infections, asthma, and eczema. In addition, for all you guys out there concerned with getting your swole on, your body absorbs proteins and amino acids (for muscle repair/growth) from dairy better than any other protein source available!
Store bought milk, on the other hand, has to go through many processes (pasteurization and homogenization) because the cattle are raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFO’s). Cattle that are raised this way are highly susceptible to disease and infection. When the milking process occurs, the cattle are hooked up to electronic milking machines several times per day inflicting shock, lesions (blood and pus), as well as infections (Conventional Milk. 2012). Sounds yummy, doesn’t it?!?!
If you absolutely have no access to raw milk, make sure you are purchasing organic, whole fat milk. It is the best store bought option for making homemade kefir.
Now on to the KEFIR!
So kefir grains are not actually grains. They look similar to pieces of cauliflower.
Similar to kombucha, you can ‘chain’ make kefir. It is actually incredibly quick and easy to make as well. Once you have the kefir grains, each time you make a batch the grains grow/reproduce a wealth of probiotic awesomeness! And it usually only take 24-48 hours for the finished product.
Steps to Kefir.
1) Decide the type of kefir you plan on making. Milk kefir – dairy, goat, coconut, etc. Or water kefir – with water…obviously. If you are nervous to make traditional cow milk kefir, note that most people with lactose intollerance can tolerate kefir as the fermentation process breaks down the milk sugars. However, if you have a true milk protein allergy, I suggest you use coconut milk as it still has plenty of healthy fats.
2) Acquire kefir grains. If you find someone locally, great! If not, check out this website – they seem to be pretty reputable.
3) If using milk kefir grains. Obtain the type of milk you desire to use and for every 1 tbsp of kefir grains, add 1 cup of milk. Combine in a glass jar (mason jars work well), cover with a cloth and set to the side.
* As you can see the jar on the right is the kefir that is currently fermenting. I put cheese cloth on top and secure with a rubberband. The kefir on the left has been strained and will go in the fridge. As you start accumulating kefir (and it will happen quickly) write the date on the jar with a sharpie.
4) Once the grains have fermented in the milk – 24-48 hours on average. The warmer and more humid the climate, the faster the fermentation occurs. There will come a point when it ferments and separates into curds and whey. Don’t worry you can still use the kefir – it is not the end of the world. It will be a little more sour than usual, but I tend to use mine in a smoothie at that point. Put a lid on the jar and shake it well to mix the curds and whey back together. If you decide to stir it, use a wooden or plastic spoon, metal can react badly with the kefir.
5) Once the fermentation is complete. Strain the product (in a plastic strainer) the kefir grains will stay in the strainer and the actual kefir will drain into a bowl.
6) Place the kefir grains back into the same jar. There is no need to wash the jar, and add more milk. If you are making too much kefir, put milk in the jar and place the jar in the refrigerator until you are ready to make more. It should keep at least two weeks in the fridge. I have even read some people store theirs in the freezer for months, although I am not sure how well that would work.
*It may take a little longer for the fermentation process to complete once they have been stored in the fridge. But after the first batch they will be back to normal.
7) Pour the ready to drink kefir in a different mason jar and store in the fridge between uses.
Drink plain, use it as a base to a smoothie, or with paleo granola (although I’m not strict paleo, I am not a fan of GMO grains – what is used in most store bought cereals/granola)
* Here I used my kefir as a base to ‘granola’ aka hemp seeds with strawberries and blackberries. A great breakfast alternative to eggs.
Kefir is quickly becoming known as a superfood as it has many health benefits. Below are just a few I have seen.
– strongest natural remedy against any allergy
– improves digestion
– improves the immune system
– treats eczema and psoriasis
– helps with sleep disorders as it contains tryptophan
– treats asthma
For a full list – http://www.yourkefirsource.com/known-kefir-health-benefits/
If you have any doubts on kefir’s amazing benefits – look at Klokov, that guy loves kefir and drinks it everyday….and he’s pretty much stronger than anyone….so yeah, just drink it!
If you need any further info on kefir or have questions – do not hesitate to leave a comment :-)
Conventional milk: The everyday drink that may contain blood, pus and drugs. (2012). Mercola. Retrieved from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/04/15/inhumane-treatment-on-dairy-cows.aspx
Gordon, D. (2013). Health benefits of raw milk. Retrieved from http://www.drdeborahmd.com/health-benefits-raw-milk
Gumpert, D. (2013). NY Times explores huge raw milk benefits, but hesitates on that final leap. Retrieved from http://thecompletepatient.com/article/2013/november/10/ny-times-explores-huge-raw-milk-health-benefits-hesitates-final-leap
Shanahan, C. (2013). Raw milk: Why mess with udder perfection? Retrieved from http://primaldocs.com/opinion/raw-milk-why-mess-with-udder-perfection/