Saturday, March 17, 2012

Kefir - the feel good birds

Kefir, our small domestic pets since a month back are growing and doing well. I think it is time for me to dedicate a post on these as here in Finland they are surprisingly rare.

My friend Wikipedia tells me the following about  my small creatures:

"The term 'kefir' is of Turkish origin, meaning 'Feel Good' and has become the most commonly used name, although it is known in regional areas of the world by various names. Kefir grains are a combination of bacteria and yeasts in a matrix of proteins, lipids, and sugars, and this symbiotic matrix forms "grains" that resemble cauliflower. For this reason, a complex and highly variable community of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts can be found in these grains."

The origins of this fermenting grain appears to be the Caucasian region and the kefir yougurt is today accompanying breakfast, lunch and dinner across Eastern Europe from Russia all the way down to Croatia. Funny enough, when I mentioned to my mother-in-law that we were going to do kefir yogurt she suddenly became excited and started to talk about small little birds. I couldn't understand how this possible could be connected to my cauliflor-like growing grains. Well, Wikipedia gives me the explanation:

Kefir, known as "yogurt de pajaritos" (bird's yogurt), is also commonly consumed in Chile, where it may have been introduced by any of the various waves of migrants from the former Ottoman empire and migrants from Eastern Europe.

Its good to have in-laws with experience on something that was completely unknown to me before. It also comforts me that my husband has been served some very useful bacterias while growing up. Imagine kefir combined with the the Chilean traditional cazuela (skip the marraqueta though, or manjar for that matter, it'll destroy any efforts of building a healthy gut).

So what is so good with Kefir grains? Why go through the trouble of making your own kefir when you can buy ready made yougurt (or piimä in Finland)? Well first of all; you can choose what kind of yogurt you want to have as you chose the milk: Cow, goat, or even almond or coconut milk (homemade coconut milk kefir)! Second, kefir is a lot more powerful good bacteria booster than any of the ready made yogurts in the supermarket fortified with whatever bacillus ( these days I remain suspicious to most marketed health foods by food industry). Finnish traditionally cultured Piimä or Swedish Filmjölk have some of the same health benefits as kefir, but from what I have researched, kefir ir far better when it comes to healing the gut (Food as medicine).

How do you do kefir? Simple, you place your kefir grains (about 1 dl) in about half a liter of milk in room temperature for 24-48 hours (give a astir to it once in a while) depending on the texture you'd like to have. The bowl shouldn't be metalic - I use a glas bowl. I have a lid on mine but make sure air is left to circulate because the grains need oxygen. When the batch is ready you remove the grains and store the kefir in the refrigerator. The grains are then used in the next batch, make sure you do not let them grow too much in too little milk, it'll make the milk too yeasty and sour (happened to me). The grains can also be stored in the refigerator in a little bit of milk until you want to do your next batch, this weakens their efficiency though so the next batch might not be the optimal. For more detailed instructions check for example this page: How to make kefir culture.

And what about eating the stuff? Well, The instruction leaflet I got when starting this venture told me that kefir can be enjoyed as such, but can also be used in baking instead of sour milk or piimä. You can even make cheese buy removing the whey through a thing cloth. It can also me used with buckwheat porridge or in hot dishes instead of yogurt.

Where do you get kefir grains? What I did was a google search with "kefir siemenet" or "kefiiri siemenet" and I found myself a dealer in Helsinki. Now that I have my grains I make sure that they live well and grow. And so they have... Which means that I am now about to share some with friends, who hopefully will have a reserve if my own ever die on me (like if we go traveling for a longer period). So if you are interested, and live around here, I am more than happy to share, since sharing means caring!

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