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Kefir is thick liquid dairy beverage containing carbonic acid (H2CO3) and ethyl alcohol (C2H5OH). This specific beverage originates from Kavkaz area. There are several types of kefir (e.g. milk and water kefir), but here we will look at the milk type of kefir with more details. Milk Kefir is produced from cow's, sheep's or goat's milk through the fermentation of milk with kefir 'grains' (or culture). Kefir culture is symbiotic mixture of lactic acid bacteria, streptococcus, micrococcus and yeasts.
During the fermentation process different aromatic substances and CO2 are produced. Kefir is rich in vitamin B, but also contains vitamin E. Optimum temperature for fermentation is 10°C to 25°C. This creamy beverage has a sour taste.
Kefir culture, which looks like small grains or like small cauliflower can grow up to the size of a walnut. It has rubber like consistency and contains proteins, fats and polysaccharides that different bacterium produce. This culture grows during the time and doubles its size within 14 days. Extra culture can be dried and kept frozen until next use.
Kefir produced in mass production (as in the dairy industry) doesn’t use kefir grains but hops and specially picked cultures of bacteria that don’t correspond to complex microflora of natural kefir. This is done in order to keep an original taste of the beverage. Second reason, why they don't use natural “grains”, is that during the storage created CO2 can cause an explosion of the original packing. Traditionally kefir contains microflora that adapts itself to its surrounding, e.g. it changes according to seasons.
For the ones that are on the macrobiotic or vegan diet, can use water instead of milk for the production of beverage. It takes a little bit more time for “grains” to transform into kefir crystals. During the preparation of the beverage, it is necessary to add sugar and lemon juice into the water.
Why use kefir in your diet?
- Kefir is simple and inexpensive to make at home
- Kefir is used to restore the inner eco-system after antibiotic therapy
- Kefir can be made into a delicious smoothie that kids love
- Kefir is excellent nourishment for pregnant and nursing women, the elderly, and those with compromised immunity
Composition of milk kefir
- Microorganisms: lactic acid bacteria and yeasts
- Compounds resulted by fermentation: carbonic acid and ethyl alcohol
- Nutrition: proteins and polysaccharides
- Vitamins: vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin D, niacin
- Minerals: calcium, iron, iodine
Favorable effect on health
Dairy kefir has, among others, following good effects on health:
- Regulates blood pressure
- Acts like antibiotic and alleviate inflammation
- Has a positive impact on malignant diseases (cancer)
- Has a positive influence on immune system
- Helps in achieving better circulation
- Lowers cholesterol level
- Keeps digestive tract healthy
Kefir can help the spread of undesirable micro-organisms (by altering the acidity of the region they inhabit and are producing specific antibiotic substances, as well as depriving rival unfriendly bacteria of their nutrients). The antibiotics that some of the friendly bacteria produce are effective against many harmful bacteria, viruses and fungi, not the least of which are the potentially harmful yeasts like Candida albicans. Candidacies have been implicated in many health problems world-wide, especially in people who are malnourished or whose immune systems are compromised or run down. Food poisoning and many bowel and urinary tract infections (diarrhea, cystitis etc.) can be prevented and treated using high doses of bacterial cultures like those that are found in kefir.
What if I'm lactose intolerant, don't do dairy or don't digest milk products well - is kefir right for me?
The beneficial yeasts and friendly bacteria in the kefir culture consume most of the lactose or milk sugar. Eat kefir on an empty stomach first thing in the morning before (or for) breakfast, and you'll be delighted to find it can be easily digested.
Differences between kefir and yogurt
Both kefir and yogurt are cultured milk products, but they contain different types of beneficial bacteria. Yogurt contains transient beneficial bacteria that keep the digestive system clean and provide food for the friendly bacteria that reside there. But kefir can colonize the intestinal tract, a feat that yogurt cannot match.
Kefir contains several major strains of friendly bacteria not commonly found in yogurt, Lactobacillus Caucasus, Leuconostoc, Acetobacter species, and Streptococcus species. It also contains beneficial yeasts, such as Saccharomyces kefir and Torula kefir which dominate, control and eliminate destructive pathogenic yeasts in the body. They do so by penetrating the mucosal lining where unhealthy yeast and bacteria reside and cleanse and strengthen the intestines. Hence, the body becomes more efficient in resisting such pathogens like E. coli and intestinal parasites.
Kefir's active yeast and bacteria provide more nutritive value than yogurt by helping digest the foods that you eat and by keeping the colon environment clean and the healthy.
Because the curd size of kefir is smaller than yogurt, it is also easier to digest. This makes it a particularly excellent, nutritious food for babies, the elderly and people experiencing chronic fatigue and digestive disorders.
In addition to beneficial bacteria and yeast, kefir contains minerals and essential amino acids that help the body with healing and maintenance functions. The complete proteins in kefir are partially digested and therefore more easily utilized by the body. Tryptophan, one of the essential amino acids abundant in kefir, is well known for its relaxing effect on the nervous system. Because kefir also offers an abundance of calcium and magnesium, which are also important minerals for a healthy nervous system, kefir in the diet can have a particularly profound calming effect on the nerves.
Kefir's ample supply of phosphorus, the second most abundant mineral in our bodies, helps utilize carbohydrates, fats, and proteins for cell growth, maintenance, and energy.
Kefir is rich in Vitamin B12, B1, and Vitamin K. It is an excellent source of biotin, a B vitamin. These vitamins aid the body's assimilation of other B Vitamins, such as folic acid, pantothenic acid, and B12. The numerous benefits of maintaining adequate B vitamin intake range from regulation of the kidneys, liver and nervous system to helping relieve skin disorders, boost energy and promote longevity.
How to produce your milk kefir?
During the whole process of preparation of milk kefir, the important thing, to stress out, is that you cannot use anything metal (not even a dish, spoon or strainer).
First on the bottom of plastic or glass dish or bottle put your kefir “grains” (and be careful not to use nothing metal, better use clean hands, wooden or plastic spoon). Metal can cause early degradation of culture which can be destroyed. Best milk, to use, is cooked fresh milk. But, in case you don’t have fresh milk, you can use any other type of milk accessible to you (pasteurized, noncooked etc.). One thing, that is important, is that milk contains higher amount of fat.
On the culture in the bottle, just add your milk. Cover the bottle with lint and leave it to stand at room temperature. The time for fermentation depends on the amount of kefir culture you added, amount of milk you put in the bottle and of course the taste of the beverage. From our experience, in case you are fermenting 1L of milk, and you added kefir culture to cover the bottom of the bottle (1L bottle). It will take 1 - 1,5 days for the culture to thicken the beverage. Product will be thicker than milk, but still pourable and sour.
After fermentation, filter your beverage through plastic strainer or lint (we use the lint). Take notice not to get “grains” in contact with any metal. Now you can filter your kefir in any other bottle. We use for fermentation glass bottle, and we filtrate it into a glass jug that can close. Jug goes into the refrigerator.
Kefir “grains” that are left in a plastic strainer or lint, wash in cold water and repeat procedure of kefir production.
Every time you make new beverage, number of “grains” will increase. After some time, their number will grow, and you will be able to share them with your friends, or you will just divide them and increase the volume of milk you will ferment.
In case you will not use them it is best to keep them in plastic or glass jar, add milk just enough to cover the culture and leave it in the refrigerator for 1 – 2 days. Even after that time “grains” will be ready to use.
- Personal experience
- Hufftington Post
- Redwood Hill Farm