How to Make Homemade Kefir

| 3/23/2015 2:45:00 PM

Renee-Lucie BenoitKefir is like buttermilk. That is to say, it tastes like buttermilk. It also has the consistency of buttermilk although the batch I made recently was a little thicker than ordinary cultured buttermilk you find in the grocery store. If you like buttermilk, you will love kefir!

The early beginnings of milk kefir are a bit of a mystery. Most all research points to kefir originating in the Northern area of the Caucasus Mountains, between Russia and Georgia. It was there that a tribe of people first figured out how to use kefir grains to ferment milk in simple leather bags. It's hard to say what these highlanders did with kefir or how they first came by it. Unfortunately, there were no written records, only a story passed down.

We do know that kefir grains were regarded as part of the family's wealth and they were passed on from generation to generation. The kefir was made from cows or goat's milk in sacks made from the hides of animals. Occasionally it was also made in clay pots, wooden buckets, or oak vats. In some areas sheep milk was also used. Usually the kefir sacks were hung out in the sun during the day and brought back into the house at night, where they were hung near the door. Everyone who entered or left the house was expected to prod the sack to mix the contents. As kefir was removed more fresh milk was added, making the fermentation process continuous. For many centuries the people of the northern Caucasus enjoyed this food without sharing it with anyone. Strange tales spread of the unusual beverage which was said to have 'magical' properties. Marco Polo even mentioned kefir in the chronicles of his travels in the East.

However, kefir was forgotten outside the Caucasus for centuries until news spread of its use for the treatment of tuberculosis and intestinal diseases. Russian doctors believed that kefir was beneficial for health and the first scientific studies for kefir were published at the end of the nineteenth century. At that time, kefir was difficult to obtain and commercial production was not possible. Traditional home-style method always produces the best kefir. And luckily for us, kefir grains are not hard to find. I found mine at the Chico California Natural Foods Store. If you look around you will find some, too.


Kefir is really good for you! I started looking into naturally fermented products when I heard that pro-biotic supplements could be contaminated and actually make you sick. And since I am a "natural is best" kind of gal I started the research into alternative sources. It is said that lacto-intolerant people who drink kefir will notice an improvement in their digestion. After a lifetime of taking antibiotics at one time of another I developed an inability to eat certain foods that I used to enjoy immensely. Beans, for example. However, I can now say that I am back to enjoying beans and everyone else is happy as well.

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