Can You Say “Kefir"?

By Debi Hopkins


Kefir is a fermented dairy product similar to yoghurt and it is one of the oldest cultured milk products in existence.  I've known about the benefits of yogurt with live cultures added for a very long time, but have just recently learned about another cultured milk product----Kefir.

I was unsure as to how to pronounce this new word, so I went to this site on the web that will pronounce it for you, here is the link:

Traditionally, kefir has been made in a base of cows or goats milk, and in some areas sheep's milk was also used.  It was set to ferment or culture in pouches made from the hides of animals. Occasionally it was also made in clay pots or wooden buckets or oak vats.

If the kefir was made in pouches, the pouch was hung in the sun during the day and brought back into the house at night, when they were hung near the door. Everyone who entered or left the house was expected to prod the pouch with their hand or foot to mix the contents. As kefir was removed more fresh milk was added, making the fermentation process continuous.

The Health Benefits of Kefir---

Research has shown that there are many ways we can benefit from ingesting fresh, fermented or cultured foods which are full of friendly bacteria. Some of these benefits include the following: 

*  Cultured or fermented foods help our bodies to manufacture B-vitamins, such as biotin, niacin(B3), pyridoxine(B6) and folic acid by providing the enzyme lactase, and they enhance the digestion of milk based foods, and help our body's to absorb the calcium which they contain, which is a great bonus for people who cannot otherwise digest dairy products.
*  They predigest the protein of cultured milk (yoghurt, kefir) thus enhancing protein digestion and absorption. 
*  They can help control the spread of undesirable micro-organisms (by altering the acidity of the region they inhabit and/or are producing specific anti-biotic substances, as well as depriving rival unfriendly bacteria of their nutrients). The antibiotics some of the friendly bacteria produce are effective against many harmful bacteria, viruses and fungi, not the least of which ar! e the potentially harmful yeasts controlled by some lactobacilli like Candida albicans.  Candidiasis has been implicated in many health problems world-wide, especially in people who are malnourished or whose immune systems are compromised or run down, as is the case in many of the people infected with HIV or AIDS.  Food poisoning and many bowel and urinary tract infections (diarrhea, cystitis etc.) can be prevented and treated using high doses of bacterial cultures like those that are found in kefir.
*  They can help to considerably enhance bowel function, especially where bowel bacteria are absent, or severely depleted, the function of peristalsis is impaired, and the amount of time it takes for food to pass completely through the system can be greatly increased.
*  They can help to control high cholesterol levels.

*  They have been shown to control facial acne in 80% of adolescents with this problem.
*  They play a vital role in the development of a healthy digestive tract in babies.
*  They play a role in protecting against the negative effects of radiation and toxic pollutants, thus enhancing our immune systems.

Traditional kefir is manufactured using kefir "grains," which are "porous polysaccharide structures" resembling small cauliflower florets; the grains hold the microorganisms that are responsible for the fermentation process. The microflora in the grains include lactic acid streptococci, leuconostocs, lactobacilli, yeasts and acetic acid bacteria. After fermentation, a 1 mL of good quality kefir contains between 104 to 109 microbes.


How to Make Kefir---

Kefir can be made from whole, low-fat or skim milk.  If you choose to make your kefir using a lower fat or skim milk, the body and "mouth-feel" of the final product may be lacking, you can counter that somewhat by adding 1 to 4 percent non-fat milk solids like skim milk powder. 

To begin with, the milk is pasteurized by bringing your milk to the boiling point ( about 180°F).  The heat-treated milk is then cooled to inoculation temperature (somewhere around 64-72°F) and "kefir grains" are then added at a rate of 2 to 5 percent.  I use "Yo'gourmet" freeze dried Kefir starter, which comes with enough starter (6 packets) to make 6 quarts of kefir.  Each packet of starter contains 5 grams of kefir granules.  The milk treated milk is then incubated for about 24 hours at 73-77°F,  with two intermittent stirrings. The best fermentation temperature for Kefir are between 72 - 86F.  Then the kefir grains are strained out, (using a plastic strainer) and rinsed with cold water and added to a new lot of milk or saved for later use. The fermented product is chilled and ready for consumption in about 8 hours.  Stir to liquefy and then enjoy!!   Keep your kefir refrigerated.  Some of the commercial kefir products I have tried are sweetened with organic sugar crystals and enhanced with fruit flavor or puréed fruit----peach is my favorite!

If the kefir grains were not removed from the fermented product, excessive acid production would gradually damage the live organisms. With refrigeration, acid production is inhibited, but the organisms will lose their activity after about 10 days. Several successive daily transfers may bring the culture (kefir grains) back to vitality. When kefir grains are washed with clean, cold water and dried on cloth or paper for 2 days at room temperature, they can then be stored in a dry, cool place for well over a year and still stay active. They can also be freeze-dried.


Some of the Health Benefits of Kefir---

A well balanced intestinal flora is a key for any successful treatment of illness. Antibiotics are not very selective as to which bacteria they eliminate. They kill and destroy the balance. When taking antibiotics, a brief improvement may be noticed because the antibiotics kill the unfriendly bacteria that make us ill which is the reason they are taken. But they kill the friendly bacteria as well and disturb the balance. With a disturbed intestinal flora the body's immune system suffers and we are more open to develop new illnesses. Antibiotics are taken again, and again, and it can really reek havoc on our health.

Friendly bacteria, like those found in kefir can be helpful for things like:

Allergies; anemia; arthritis; asthma; bronchitis; cancer; bowel problems; colitis; eczema; gall bladder problems; gout; internal ulcers; kidney infections; liver problems; migraine headaches; rheumatism; skin rashes; stomach disorders like diarrhea and constipation; and building up the body's own immune system and detoxifying it.

People with Candida albicans may be concerned about the yeast's in Kefir, but research has shown that the disease is caused by an imbalance of intestinal flora and friendly bacteria. Yeast like that found in kefir, helps to rebalance the intestinal flora and fight Candida albicans.

Scientific studies in different countries show that friendly bacteria have an anti-tumor potential and act as anti-carcinogenic (anti-cancer) agents.

The recommended dosage for chronic or severe internal health challenges is one quart per day.  For skin disorders a dosage of 1 pint is recommended plus additional washings with Kefir of the problem areas. Kefir is rubbed onto  the skin and left on over night.

How to make Kefir from your culture---

1. Drain contents of jar (whey & culture) through a plastic strainer.
2. Place culture into a clean container of milk (about 1 quart), thickened (if desired), with milk powder. Room temperature milk is best.
3. Place a piece of thin muslin material  over your container and leave it to set or thicken. This could take 24 - 72 hours depending on ratio of milk-to-culture, and temperature.   6 to 24 hours is usually adequate. The Kefir will become tarter the more it separates. 
4. Pour Kefir + culture into strainer and strain Kefir into a bowl. It's now ready to use.  Refrigerate.
5. Wash culture remaining in strainer under cold water until it runs clear. Place into new milk solution as per step 2.
Your Culture will increase in volume each time it is fed, forming from the casein content of the milk. Therefore, the Kefir forms a little faster e! ach time.

Your kefir culture will last as long as you lovingly look after it. It can be rested in milk in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, and it will keep for up to two years in the freezer.

Researchers have found nearly 30 different bacteria and 25 different yeasts in Kefir cultures. Every bacteria and culture has specific temperature requirements, this is why a constant low temperature can't be compensated with a longer fermentation time, or a constant high temperature with a shorter fermentation time. Your Kefir brewing needs some balance like hatching an egg.

There are many brief information sheets available on the web that tell you how to care for your Kefir culture, and the recommendations vary dramatically. Most recommendations advise to wash the culture before every use. Some say with cold water, some with luke-warm.  Washing is recommended to clean up unwanted or unfriendly bacteria which may settle on the sibiotic system. The advice to wash a culture, you only find in Western literature. The people from cultures in Russia, Poland, Romania and Hungary, who have known about Kefir fermenting for generations  do not recommend washing. They say that the beneficial micro flora around the culture will be disturbed or destroyed ---- definitely from using chlorinated or fluoridated water ---- and they don't wash the c! ulture except for drying purposes or if fermentation needs to be paused for a short while.

Stored in the refrigerator, your Kefir will hold it's quality for about 14 days.

I hope you enjoy this information, and will do your own research on cultured and fermented foods, and all the healthy benefits they have to offer you and your family!



Debi <><




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