Po-tion – n; A liquid or liquid mixture, especially one that is medicinal, poisonous, or magical.
Milk kefir is a cultured milk product. While kefir is consumed worldwide, it is generally agreed to have originated in the Caucasus Mountains. The name kefir is believed to come from the Turkish language. With the growing interest in probiotic bacteria, there has been a surge in the popularity of this beverage in North America.
Kefir grains are live cultures of symbiotic bacteria and yeasts, living in a matrix of proteins, lipids and sugars. There are more than two dozen separate species of micro flora at work in the grains, which resemble cauliflower. Much research has been conducted on the health benefits of kefir, which has been found to contain beneficial bacteria and yeasts, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamins B2, B12, K, A and D.
Finished kefir is similar to thin yogurt, but slightly carbonated. It’s creamy, fizzy texture and thickness, make it ideal for smoothies, salad dressings, creamy dessert toppings and just about anything else you can dream up. It tastes somewhat like plain yogurt, and can be substituted in place of buttermilk in recipes.
Kefir is made by placing kefir grains in milk (cow, goat, coconut, soy etc) and leaving the mixture at room temperature until it ferments. Depending on the temperature of the room and the amount of milk and grains used, this can take 24-48 hours. When the milk thickens and just begins to separate, the mixture is poured through a strainer and the grains are placed into the next jar of milk to do their work. The strained kefir is placed in the fridge where it will thicken even further, or consumed right away. It may be left out on the counter if cold storage is not available, but it will continue to ferment.
Kefir grains grow as they work, and so I usually have to divide them and remove some after every couple of batches. These extra grains can be dried, repurposed for making water kefir, passed on to friends, or placed in a cup or two of milk and stored in the fridge, for a week or so. After a week, they have slowly turned the milk to kefir, and must be strained and placed in fresh milk.
Some people, who are lactose intolerant, or sensitive to milk, find that they are able to consume kefir with no difficulty. Experts say that the fermentation process reduces the lactose content, and the probiotic bacteria present in the finished kefir aid digestion.
I was introduced to kefir over a year ago, by a friend who makes her own at home. I managed to get my first grains from a lady who has been making and enjoying kefir for several years.
These days I am nearly overrun. I have two jars of “back up” grains waiting to find new homes or be preserved and stored, as well as a set of grains in constant production on my kitchen counter. Like many of the people I have met who also brew their own, I have become a tremendous fan, and kefir has become an important part of my daily routine.