April 9, 2010

Another project from the fermenting kitchen

Water Kefir

Earlier in my adventures with raw milk, I mentioned milk kefir, a cultured dairy product that you can make at home that is supposed to be full of probiotics and nutrients providing many health benefits.  The cousin of this dairy wonder is water kefir.  The grains for water kefir arrive in a dried state looking much like course evaporated cane juice or kosher salt.  I've read that you can use the milk kefir grains to change over to water kefir but there are conflicting reports on the success of that idea. 
When I made my first batch of water kefir, I started with grains from a friend so I don't have experience with hydrating the grains from scratch.  She brought them to me in a jelly jar filled with maple syrup which I stored in the frig until I was ready to start.

Quick Tip - Placing the water kefir grains in a little muslin bag makes it so much easier to separate the grains from the fruit pieces for the next batch.

It's very easy to make.  Since heat kills the culture, you can start with room temp water (not cold).  Make sure the water is not chlorinated.  We have well water and I use it right from the tap but you can use purified or filtered water.  I use a half gallon canning jar filled about 3/4 full of water.  Do not use metal utensils or containers to stir or brew your kefir.   To this I add 1/3-1/2 cup of evaporated cane juice or rapadura, 1/2 lemon washed and squeezed, rind and all, into the jar, 3 slices of peeled ginger root, and a generous tablespoon of dried fruit (no sulfites or sugar).  Stir well to dissolve the sugar.  Add the bag of grains (approx. 2-3 Tbsp).  The jar is capped and put in the warm corner of my kitchen counter near the frigerator and always warm coffee maker.  After 48 hours, I strain off the solids (these can be composted, fed to my chickens or all but the lemon can be added to my worm bin).  I put the kefir in another bottle or jar and cap tightly.
What I'm left with is a slightly to very fizzy, fruity, somewhat tart, refreshing drink that is reported to be very beneficial for detoxing, probiotic supplementation and other health benefits.  Another day on the counter increases the fizz but you may want to put it in the frig after that so it doesn't turn too sour. 

Here's the link to a site that talks about the benefits, dosages and specifics of kefir.  http://www.weim.net/homeovet/Docs/water%20kefir.pdf 

You can be as complicated as you like with it.  I've found that just following a basic, simple recipe and routine allows me to keep up with it on a regular schedule.
You're probably wondering about the added sugar...as with all fermented foods and drinks, the culture feeds on the added sugar and by the time it's ready to drink, the sugar has been used up.  Keep in mind that this is a fermented beverage so it does contain the slightest bit of alcohol - reported to be less than 1% but can be as high as 3% depending on the amount of sugar, temp, length of time, etc.
Now you are ready to make your next batch.  Just drop the bag of grains into the jar and start over with a new batch of fruit.  Try a variety to find you favorite combo.  As you make more kefir, your bag of grains will multiply and you'll have enough for two batches or some to share.
Again, as I've mentioned before, these are things we do in our home.  They may or may not work for you in the same way.  Do your research.  Learn about what you're making and then go have fun with it and enjoy!

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