I love making my own fermented foods. Even though most of the people around me aren’t so enthused (Why are you eating stinky cabbage? Why are you drinking off milk?) they’re simply the BEST way to pump up the good bacteria in your gut.
And gut bacteria? Uber-important.
The reason fermented foods are so great is because you are putting the bacteria into your belly already fully immersed in a food source that they’re thriving in. Which means they’ve got a much greater chance of flourishing in your guts compared to a capsule you swallow in isolation. (And a little heads up: studies have shown that loads of the probiotic supplements you buy in stores do not actually contain any live bacteria. Word.)
My main fermented food of choice has been home-made raw fermented sauerkraut (which I think is awesome, and which my family/boyfriend definitely think is not).
But about six months ago, sauerkraut began taking a backseat to the deliciousness that is kefir.
I discovered kefir a few months back, in the refrigerated section of the health food store. Peace Love & Vegetables (an awesome Byron-based food company, with quite possibly the best name ever) makes a delicious coconut water kefir, and it quickly became a staple in my fridge. But after reading various reports on how easy kefir is to make yourself, I decided to branch out and begin brewing my own.
Cue fermented awesomeness!
I ordered both milk and water-based kefir ‘grains’ online (they’re not really grains, they just look like them), and they arrived in the post the next day. And within 24 hours, I had my first batches of milk kefir and water kefir ready to drink.
It’s so ridiculously easy, so tasty, and so good for your gut.
The milk grains just sit in a jar with a cup of organic milk. You cover the jar with some breathable cloth to keep any bugs away, cover the whole thing with a tea towel to keep it nice and dark, leave it on the bench for 24 hours (swirling and stirring a few times if you remember) and then voila. You’ve got yourself a fermented milk drink that tastes a bit like fizzy yogurt.
The water kefir grains sit in a jar with 2 cups of spring water (NOT tap), a spoonful of sugar, a 1/4 teaspoon molasses, a wedge of lemon, and a pinch of bicarb soda. Leave it all covered up as for the above, and within 24 hours, you’ve got yourself a fizzy drink that tastes like a semi-sweet lemonade with a slight sour tang.
The grains can be re-used indefinitely, if you look after them. So once you’ve got a batch going, it’s like a never-ending box of Tim Tams (but with less sugar, palm oil and processed shit. And way more bacteria.) Every time you finish a batch and drain off your kefir to drink, you simply start the process all over again with the same grains.
You can also exchange the milk for coconut cream, or the spring water for coconut water. The former makes a slightly-fizzy creamy coconut yogurt, while the second makes coconut water kefir (my favourite of them all).
My favourite thing to do with the water kefir is to experiment on the ‘second ferment’.
After the above stage (24 hours on your bench) you strain out the grains and pop them in a fresh batch of the sugar-water mix. Then, you take the fresh kefir you’ve just made — sans grains — and pop it in a seal-able glass bottle with some fruit or juice. The kefir begins to breakdown the sugar in the added fruit, and the resulting beverage gets crazy fizzy and takes on the flavour of the fruit. (You can’t add the fruit to the initial batch with the grains, because the acidity is too harsh for them.)
My favourite flavour so far has been berry — I fill up my bottles 3/4 full with 24-hr kefir, then pop in a handful of frozen berries. I leave that for another 12 – 24 hours, and wind up with a fresh, healthy, probiotic-filled berry-flavoured drink ready to drink. I’ve also experimented with pear, fig, peach, cranberries, pomegranate, and a combo of fresh ginger, tumeric and lemon.
And it truly is delicious. The proof? My boyfriend drinks it. He is usually crazy-pants skeptical of my somewhat unusual food experiments (and he refuses to try the milk kefir — “Jess, it’s literally off milk, yeah? Who the HELL would voluntarily eat that?!“). But we’ve started a little ritual of a nightly glass of fizzy, flavoured kefir. I think I enjoy it more than him, but I’m happy to start with baby steps!
There’s something incredibly satisfying and primal about brewing your own food and drink. It feels very earth-mother-hippy-goddess-kitchen-witch. Which I dig.
It’s also extremely satisfying to know that you’re doing your insides good, in a way that is sustainable. And it’s been crazy-good for my skin, my digestion and my energy levels.
So tell me, buttercup — have you brewed your own kefir before? Do you make your own fermented foods? I’d love to hear your stories!