Kefir is a popular drink that is taking the world by storm. But what is kefir and what is it made of?
Popular in northern Europe, kefir is a fermented drink that is sometimes used in place of milk products in cereals, soups and other foods. In fact, kefir is the main ingredient in Lithuanian cold beet soup, or borscht, and the Russian summer soup known as okroshka. It is also used to make kefir cheese.
Kefir is a Caucasus region drink made from fermented milk. Traditionally in Caucasus, the original kefir recipe was made in bags made from animal skin. These bags were hung near a doorway so that the milk and kefir grains in the bag would be mixed as people passed through the doorway.
The resulting product looks something like yogurt. Finished kefir is carbonated, sour and alcoholic. The longer the kefir is left to sit, the higher its proof.
How Kefir is Made
Kefir is made by adding kefir grains (a combination of bacteria and yeasts) to goat, cow or sheep”s milk. The kefir is then fermented by leaving it at room temperature overnight. After it sits, the kefir is strained.
Although this is the basic way to make kefir, it can also be made with many kinds of liquid, such as juice, soymilk and water.
Water kefir, a popular variation on the traditional recipe, is made with water and sugar, instead of milk, and usually contains dried fruits, such as figs. Another popular variation is coconut water kefir.
Health Benefits of Kefir
Kefir has quite a few health benefits and is used in the Soviet Union as an inexpensive health drink. In 1908, Elie Metchnikoff, a Nobel-prize winning biologist, suggested that drinking kefir may be attributed to the long and healthy life of the people of the Caucasus Mountains.
Today, many health researchers have found that drinking kefir is a very good way to keep healthy.
The health benefits change with the amount of time the kefir drink is allowed to ferment. For example, if the kefir starter is left to ferment for a very long time, it will contain a significant amount of folic acid.
Some research has shown that kefir can:
- have antibiotic or antifungal properties
- help in lactose digestion
- prevent high blood pressure
- reduce cholesterol.
As a result of these possible health benefits, kefir has been used to treat:
- atherosclerosis (a condition that causes the arteries to narrow and harden)
- candidiasis (a fungal infection also known as thrush)
- heart disease
- metabolic disorders
Where to Get Kefir
Kefir can be bought at health food stores and on the Internet. Many have found that making kefir at home is easy to do, mainly because it is a regenerating food — after you buy the first kefir starter grains you never have to buy any more because more kefir grain is made with every batch.
A great way to drink kefir is by mixing it with fresh passion fruit. Some contend that this mix helps a person sleep better.
Here is another popular recipe that uses kefir:
- 1 1/4 cups carrot juice
- 1 1/4 cups kefir
- 1/4 cups tomato juice
- A few lemon slices
- salt, to taste
- garlic, to taste.
Mix carrot juice and kefir. Add tomato juice, lemon slices (without the peel), salt and garlic to taste. Blend the drink in a blender and serve chilled.