Due to our heavily processed modern diet, it is often recommended that we take probiotic supplements to keep our intestinal flora in proper balance.....especially if a person has been taking antibiotics. The word probiotic means "for Life" and the word antibiotic means anti or "against" Life. Probiotics or "good bacteria" are an integral part of our body's immune system. The following benefits of probiotics are from The Body Ecology Diet: Recovering Your Health and Rebuilding Your Immunity . Referring to the good bacteria, the author Donna Gates tells us...."They help white blood cells fight disease, they control putrefactive bacteria in the intestines, they provide important nutrients for building the blood, they assist digestion, they protect the intestinal mucosa, they prevent diarrhea and constipation and they contribute to bowel elimination. They also manufacture important B vitamins and are the most abundant source of Vitamin B12."
The most economical and healthy way to get our probiotics is through fermented foods. Much of our commercial food supply has been sterilized (pasteurized) and as a result provides us with little enzymatic activity or helpful bacteria. A food that has been universally fermented, is milk. Civilizations , for thousands of years, have let milk ferment into soft cheeses, hard cheeses, buttermilk, yogurt and kefir. Often, if one has a difficult time digesting milk, the fermentation process will help to ameliorate this problem. The good bacteria help to digest the lactose in the milk, which is the component that some people have problems with.
The photo at the top shows the jar I ferment my kefir in. The bowl to the left gives you an idea of the consistency of kefir. If you look closely you can see the yellow butterfat interspersed within the kefir. Despite mainstream nutritional advice, butterfat from the milk of gassfed cows, is very healthy and helps us to assimilate certain nutrients in the milk. If possible it is highly desirable to buy certified raw milk that has not been homogenized. Every processing step we add, further destroys the natural food.To find unadulterated fresh milk near you , visit this link http://www.realmilk.com/where2.html . If you must buy commerical milk to make your kefir, probably the best choice is full fat organic milk. Organic milk is heated at even higher temperatures than regular store bought milk but at least it doesn't contain the hormones and antibiotics. When fermented, this milk gains back some of its beneficial properties.
The picture to the right is a closeup of kefir "grains" or culture. These grains are a living colony of beneficial bacteria. They look somewhat like cauliflower and have a rubbery texture. They can be kept alive ...just about forever...by storing them in milk...in the refridgerator, when not in use making kefir. Here is a place that specializes in fermentation equipment and cultures and you can buy real kefir grains here.
If you feel it is too much effort to buy the real thing, you can buy a powdered kefir culture here
OK.....making kefir is really a very simple process. If you use the live grains..all you have to do is find a 32 ounce jar.....or larger, fill it with cold or room temperature milk and then add the grains. Screw on the lid and gently shake it back and forth just a couple of times. The jar can be stored on the counter at room temperature during the fermenting process, which takes approximately 24 to 48 hours to set into one big gel like curd. The fermentation time depends on room temperature and the size or amount of the curds. Shake the jar gently a couple of times each day to make sure that the grains have contact with all of the milk.When the kefir is done, there should be no liquid milk left.....only one large softly coagulated mass. I think most people strain their kefir when it is finished setting. This is for the purpose of getting the grains back out of the kefir so you can save them for the next fermentation. I used to strain my kefir after fermentation but decided I like the texture better when not straining it and it was easier for me to just use a spoon to lift out the kefir grains, which float to the top of the jar. Then before pouring I would gently stir in the fat that rises to the top. I find the texture of the kefir to be smoother when I don't strain it.You may find that your kefir separates into whey(clear liquid) at the bottom of the jar and the solid mass above it. This can mean that the kefir has fermented a bit longer than it needs to. This is ok but you may find that the taste is a bit more tart or sour. When this happens to me...I like to make kefir cheese....which is even easier to make than the kefir itself. When you make kefir cheese, you get to save the whey, which can be used for fermenting vegetables.
I often drink my kefir plain but when I want a real special treat, I make a kefir smoothie. Yesterday I made this smoothie with a banana, a large handful of frozen strawberries, a raw egg and a glass of kefir. I mixed it all up in the blender and when I first poured it into the glass, it was so thick that it formed peaks. The frozen strawberries are what give the kefir smoothie this special quality. It's like a drinkable frozen ice cream! YUM!!!!....and it's so good for you too! Instead of strawberries I also like to use blueberries or rasberries...or even a combination.I usually add a whole or half of a banana for added sweetness.
If fermenting sounds like fun and if it makes sense to you, check out the article below concerning fermented veggies