Kefir is a cultured fermented milk drink, traditionally made with goats milk and living kefir ‘grains’ which are combinations of living good gut bacteria and yeast. You can’t manufacture a kefir grain – grains only grow from other grains. No one knows where the first kefir grain came from – it’s a mystery for the ages!
The first drinking kefir was made by the inhabitants of the Black Caucasus Mountains in Russia, thousands of years ago. They became so well-known for their long and healthy lives that the Russian government sent an armed party into the mountains to bring ten pounds of the kefir grains back, as the mountain folk were disinclined to share. All real kefir grains today descend from those original Russian grains.
In 1908 scientist Elie Metchnikoff, known as ‘the father of natural immunity’ won a Nobel prize for his work with kefir. Fast-forwarding to modern-day, in 2017 Dr. Michael Moseley performed the first NHS humans trials with kefir on the BBC 2 television show ‘Trust Me I’m a Doctor,’. The study involved 30 volunteers, split into three groups, who drank either a probiotic drink, a fermented drink or ate a prebiotic diet. Measured across four weeks, the study revealed that kefir was the most powerful of all probiotic foods available today for gut health.
Kefir tastes and smells tart and tangy, and is compared to tasting like ‘fizzy feta.’ A fermented food, kefir is like natural yoghurt; you can smell the fermentation when you inhale – sharp and fresh! The active ingredient in the kefir producing the taste is butyric acid, which is that beneficial for your immune system you can purchase it as a food supplement. Butyric acid creates the flavour in parmesan cheese, so that will give you an idea of the sharpness of the flavour.
On the farm we like to drink our kefir straight and well-aged – the stronger the better. We say it’s not good kefir unless it makes you whoop and holler after you drink it! But if you’re a newbie and you’re struggling with the taste, you can blend it up with fresh fruit and 100% pure stevia to make it more palatable. Just make sure to drink it immediately, as the fructose will degrade the live cultures over time.
The best (and most beneficial) kefir is made with goats milk, as it’s non-allergenic, is easily tolerated by most people and is considered a functional food by scientists. Animal milk is the most powerful base for probiotics, however, cow’s milk is highly allergenic for human beings, and is a known trigger for eczema and other autoimmune conditions, so goats milk is preferable as a base.
When you’re buying kefir, look out for goat’s milk kefir which is completely pure, natural and unsweetened, avoiding varieties made with added sugar or other flavourings. These flavourings or sweeteners degrade the good gut bacteria in the kefir over time, much as they harm the healthy bacteria inside your gut.
Embrace the tartness! That’s how you know it’s the best kind of kefir. If it doesn’t say made with real kefir grains on the label, it probably isn’t.
The living kefir ‘grains’ themselves look like small, squashy cauliflowers. They are ‘fed’ with the milk and left at room temperature until the kefir reaches the appropriate pH levels. At this point, the kefir thickens to the consistency of single cream.
Over time, the kefir will continue to ferment in the bottle, becoming thicker over time. The milk proteins will clump together during the fermentation process; essentially, the kefir is turning itself into curds and whey. This is not a problem for consumption; you can simply blend to resolve any grainy-ness or clumping.
Our kefir is 100% lactose-free, as all the lactose is consumed during the fermentation process. For this reason, it is the only dairy food that may be consumed by many lactose-intolerant people and is a great choice for getting calcium into your diet. It is also gluten-free and free of any added sugar, salt, chemicals or flavourings of any kind.