Ready to eat 9

Back to Basics 12/07/10

Who ever thought something as primal as making your own yoghurt could be so transformative? By Roberta Coci

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In March 2010 I moved into a new shared flat in Barcelona. After showing me around and making me lunch, my two roommates looked at each other with that unmistakable ‘it’s time’ look, and beckoned me into the kitchen.

“We’d like you to meet our little friend,” they said ominously, before opening a dark cupboard and pulling out a hermetically sealed jar.
Watching my face turn, they burst out laughing and consoled me. “Don’t worry, we’re not freaks. This is just our kefir. He’s a big part of the flat though, if you’re going to live here, you’re going to have to learn to love him.”

And so it was, that just short of a year ago, I began my journey into the world of fermented foods.

So what is kefir?

Kefir grains

Kefir is a cultured, enzyme-rich food that was originally found in the Caucasus region (supposedly the name derives from the Turkish word ‘keyif’, meaning joy). You don’t eat the kefir itself, but add milk to it and leave it to ferment, resulting in a health-boosting superfood not unlike yoghurt.

These days you can buy kefir starter kits, which are dehydrated versions of the grain that last for about seven uses, or you can buy the ready prepared yoghurt. However, to get your hands on the actual fresh grains, which last forever, is no small feat. Ours was passed onto us from a man who has had his for no less than 30 years. Once you have the grains, there’s no need to ever worry about finding kefir again. Properly cared for, they live forever, and in fact flourish. Ours has multiplied countless times and we’re running out of friends to pass it on to.

How does kefir work?

  1. Place the kefir grains in a hermetically sealed jar.
  2. Kefir stored in a sealed jar

  3. Cover with milk (vegans can use coconut water, but it’s interesting to note that even people with lactose intolerance can easily digest milk kefir).
  4. Place in a dark space for 24 hours.
  5. Remove from cupboard and sieve the kefir using a plastic colander and spoon to extract the liquid. Kefir grains cannot come into contact with wood or metal. [Ed’s note: Supposedly metal and wood can kill the healthy bacteria.]
  6. Pouring Kefir

  7. You can add fruit, sugar etc to your kefir to make a smoothie. Honey doesn’t mix well though, as the powerful properties of the two agents fight each other.
  8. Finishing the process

    Ready to eat

  9. Return to the jar and repeat steps 1-5.
  10. Once a week or so, clean your kefir grains using water, as with continuous use the kefir can become quite pungent.
  11. If you go away for a few days, leave the kefir in the fridge in a jar with water and sugar. If you’re away for longer you can freeze the grains.
  12. While this may sound like an arduous daily task, preparing your kefir doesn’t take more than five minutes, and I must say that there’s something extremely satisfying about committing to such an archaic routine.

Why kefir?
While yoghurt and kefir are both cultured products, and therefore both contain beneficial bacteria, kefir can actually colonise the intestinal tract, which means its benefits for your overall health are unbeatable.

It cleanses the intestines, and provides good bacteria, yeast, vitamins, minerals and proteins. This, plus its antibiotic and antifungal properties, boost your immune system and provide noticeable effects on your overall health, from lowered blood pressure, to increased bone density, stress and anxiety relief and even improved gums, skin and hair.
When my roommates first started waxing lyrical about kefir, I have to admit I was more than a little skeptical, but after including it in my daily diet, I can say without fail that it is a complete body booster. I myself have noticed it in my digestion, my energy levels and my skin, and I have no doubt that if I were to test for less obvious factors such as blood pressure and bone density, it would have worked its same magic.

If you can get your hands on real kefir grains, don’t be scared of the commitment. While many people shy away from the idea of an added daily routine, I’d say that five minutes a day is a small price to pay for overall wellbeing.

Images and Text by Roberta Coci.

Back to Basics , 10.0 out of 10 based on 4 ratings
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9 Responses to this article

Roline December 14, 2010 Reply

Wow. This looks amazing. This is first time I’ve heard about this. Thank you for the enlightenment… Now, when I can be added to the list of friends to give some grains to? 😉

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noga June 30, 2012 Reply

I’ve been making yogurt for the past few years using natugal yougurt as culture. where can I get kwfir in South Africa? (I stay in Nelspruit)

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Laura Cooke – Editor June 30, 2012 Reply

Hi there,

I am going to see what I can find out. There doesn’t seem to be anything obviously available, but I will let you know if I manage to find a local source.

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Jodi March 17, 2013 Reply

Hi noga, I too stay in nelspruit. Have you found kefir anywhere? I would also love to have some :-)

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noga March 19, 2013

Hi Jodi, I haven’t bought the keffir yet but would still be interested.Is it possible that we make contact by phone/whatsapp ot mail, Would be nice to get to know and chat a bit. Have a great day, Noga

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Jodi March 19, 2013 Reply

Yes, let’s do that. My email address is Will you please email me your telephone number and then I will invite you on watsapp :-y

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Natasha October 1, 2012 Reply

This sounds great. I found this site that offers it in South Africa, so I’m going to order some.

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Laura Cooke – Editor October 2, 2012 Reply

Thanks for sharing! Good to know that it is available. Let us know how it goes.

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Natasha March 19, 2013

It works perfectly with soy milk. I tried it with coconut milk and it didn’t thicken and tasted strange.

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