How to make kefir, and why fermented beverages are your new best friend!

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Dear wonderful readers,

Today I want to share with your the second part of the fermenting series – fermented beverages! This is a subject close to my heart, and as some of you already know I have a book out that is all about the magic and fabulousness of these probiotic wonders. Very excited! I absolutely loved researching, writing and creating the recipes for it, and am so excited to share it with you all. I learned so much more about gut bacteria, and uncovered awesome research on fermented beverages, and their positive health benefits, so I really hope you love it. For now I’m sharing one of the recipes, or you can purchase online at The Book Depository , Amazon or Booktopia.gingerlemon kefir Now, onto some drinks! Fermented and cultured beverages are absolute powerhouses of nutrition. Not only are they loaded with their own vitamins, minerals and enzymes, they provide a plethora of health benefits. Most noted for their positive effects on the digestive system, they work to promote an optimal balance of bacteria in the gut.

Healthy gut bacteria is essential to the health of the whole body, and unfortunately many of our dietary and lifestyle habits such as sugar, caffeine, processed foods, toxins and stress are harmful to these precious bacteria. Fermented drinks work to maintain, protect and nourish our intestinal cells, and can also alleviate common digestive conditions.

Fermented beverages encourage a strong immune system and improved function of immune cells. They also help to regulate our allergic response and reduce susceptibility to allergies. Given that around 80% of our immune system is centred in our gut, it makes sense that the our level of gut health will have wide reaching effects. Enhanced detoxification, improved condition of skin and hair, and a balanced mind are some examples.

The greatest thing about fermenting for me, is that they are simple, cheap and easy to make at home, and they are a lot of fun! So what are they? Kefir and Kombucha are the most well recognised fermented beverages (other than wine and beer!), but others include kvass, mead, cultured grain beverages, and fermented sodas. They are all wonderful in their own way.

Fermented beverages are made with a starter culture. This is often a physical culture as in keifr ‘grains’, or a kombucha ‘scoby’, however you can also use whey, a powdered starter, or a small amount of brewed kefir or kombucha etc. The end result is a slightly sweet, slightly sour, highly nutritious drink that you can flavour to suit your liking. In the case of water kefir (or tibicos), the starter is a collection of gel-like ‘grains’. They are not actually grains at all, but a living collection of good bacteria, ready to work hard for you.

The other thing is, you need to use sugar. I have experimented with honey (which you can use for a few batches) and other sweeteners, but what consistently works best is sugar – I like using panela/rapadura or coconut sugar. Don’t worry too much though, as this is what the bacteria feed on to make your good bacteria, so much of it is ‘eaten up’ during the fermentation process.

Here’s how to make a basic water kefir.

Basic Water Kefir

You will need:

2 cups water, preferably filtered

2 tbs sugar (I like panela or coconut)

2 tbs water kefir grains

Equipment:

A glass jar with a lid, plus another jar

A small piece of cheesecloth or paper towel

A rubber band

Fine mesh strainer

Put the water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Allow to cool completely, otherwise you risk damaging some of the lovely bugs as they are heat sensitive.

Transfer the mix to a glass jar and add the grains. Cover with a cloth and secure with a rubber band.

Leave the jar at room temperature for around 48 hours. You should see some bubbles start to form, and the kefir will become cloudy and taste less sweet. Strain the kefir through the mesh strainer, and transfer the fermented liquid kefir to a glass jar with a lid, leaving about 2.5cm of space at the top of the jar. At this point you can just drink it as is, but I recommend following a second ferment and flavouring process as plain water kefir is pretty neutral in flavour.

For the second ferment, you can add any flavourings you like – fresh or dried fruit, herbs, spices, vegetable or fruit juice, etc. Once you have added your flavouring, pop the lid on and leave at room temperature for between 1-3 days. The longer you leave it, the more sour it becomes, so I suggest tasting your brew periodically to get an idea of how you like it, and stop when you are happy.

Also, this is where the brew will become carbonated, so keep check each day that too much pressure is not building up inside the jar, or you will have an exploding ferment. You can do this by just loosening the lid and ‘burbing’ your beverage, just like a baby! Once you are happy with it, strain out the flavouring and keep in the refrigerator in an airtight jar for up to a month.

Rose Water Kefir

1 cup brewed kefir

7-8 drops rose water

4 dried rose buds

Combine all ingredients in a glass jar leaving around 2.5cm at the top and put the lid on.

Leave a room temperature for 2 days. Enjoy. I also like to stir a few cacao nibs through this one for fun!
So where can you get these amazing collections of bacterial love?

The spirit of fermenting, is sharing, so if you are lucky enough to know someone with a supply of kefir grains or scobys, they will almost always be happy to share. If you don’t know anyone, you could try your luck here, or you can purchase them online from places such as Cultures for Health, Nourish Me Organics, and good old Ebay has a number of retailers, believe it or not.

If anyone else knows of other great places, or if you yourself have an abundance of kefir grains that you would love to share, I’d love you to leave details in the comments below!

This has been a long post, and we have really only just scratched the surface of the fermented beverage world! Thanks for sticking with it, and happy fermenting! x