Milk Kefir is a fermented milk beverage that is a powerhouse of probiotics that are good for your overall wellness. Fermented foods in general are a great way to support your gut.
More and more research has come to light over the past ten years showing that our gut is actually more like our 2nd brain. Most of us have poorly functioning digestive systems due to the toxins we're exposed to on a daily basis. This means nutrient assimilation isn't what it should be and many of us are existing in a malnourished state even though we get enough calories.
But, don't just take my word for it. We strongly recommend that you read the following books:
- Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain by Dr. Perlmutter
- Eat Fat, Get Thin by Dr. Mark Hyman
When we decided we would incorporate fermented foods into our daily routine, we decided we would start with milk kefir because it's extremely easy!
Basic Tools for Kefir Making:
- Mesh Strainer
- Preforated Plastic Spoon
- 6-12 Quart sized Mason Jars or other wide-mouth glass jars for fermenting
- Large glass bowl
We began by getting some live Kefir grains from a friend of my mom's. She was generous enough to share her knowledge of kefir making with me. I set out for home determined to master this simple fermenting process.
I picked up some Whole milk from Picket Fence Creamery on my way home from my mom's. Once I arrived home, I put the Kefir and milk in the fridge and not-so-patiently waited for my husband to get home so we could give this a try together.
Once he got home, I showed him what I'd learned and he quickly set about making it himself as I gathered things like coffee filters and a permanent marker! We marked the date on the filters and placed the kefir in our laundry room as this tends to be the warmest spot in the house. Admittedly, making kefir wasn't very "pretty", but we both had learned just how essential fermented food is for our gut bacteria microbiome.
Strawberry-Pineapple Kefir Smoothie
A week later, I made a simple smoothie for the kids and told them that we were going to be having Kefir smoothies every morning. The first smoothie was:
16 ounces Whole Milk Kefir
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 cup frozen pineapple
Pour into 3 glasses.
One of the three girls, told me it was too "tart" and we added a few drops of stevia to hers. The other two loved it just "as is".
Vanilla Kefir Drink
Peanut Butter Kefir Drink
Immersing myself in fermenting literature (I know...i'm such a geek!), I discovered that you could second ferment Kefir just as you would Kombucha. I started with using oranges. Once we turned over the next batch of Kefir, I put in about a half of an orange, sliced up into each quart of finished and strained kefir and let it sit on the counter 4 hours before putting it in the fridge.
Apparently, Second fermenting provides even more gut healthy bacteria. When we opened the kefir the next morning, there was a release of pressure and we knew it had been working! We enjoyed the subtle taste of orange when we tried it the next morning.
This week we're going to try strawberries for our second ferment. I read you can also use things like garlic... but I'm not sure why I'd want a garlic flavored kefir unless I were going to use it for a creamy salad dressing base.
Milk Notes: The following week, having run out of milk from Picket Fence and finding our local grocery store was out of stock, we switched to Anderson Erickson Whole Milk. This is another local dairy who is stringent on quality controls and has a very high quality product. The Kefir turned out ultra-creamy and delicious. So far we're using the Anderson Erickson milk for our Kefir making and drinking the Picket Fence milk in other things.
Putting Kefir "To Sleep"
We went on vacation at the beginning of June and put our Kefir "to sleep" in the fridge. We simply rotated it as usual and then put it in our fridge for the week. Once we arrived home 8 days later, we transferred it as usual and noticed that it hadn't fermented very much. We put it back into the jars and put it back in the fridge as we were leaving for an 8 day business trip!
The cool environment slows the fermentation process and our grains had really gone to sleep for us. I would recommend always checking your fermentation and deciding at that time what to do based on the flavor of the kefir. Had we been staying at home, we would have set the jars in a warm room overnight and then turned over the kefir like usual.