What is Milk Kefir?
Milk kefir (pronounced “kuh-feer”) is a yogurty, slightly sour fermented milk beverage. This tangy drink originated over 2000 years ago in the Northern Caucasus mountain region bordering Europe and Asia. Its name is derived from the Turkish word keyif which means “feeling good”- perfect to describe this super healthy, probiotic beverage!
How Is It Made?
Although milk kefir resembles yogurt, the fermentation process to make it is much easier! It is as simple as adding fresh milk to milk kefir grains and leaving the mixture at room temperature for 24-36 hours.
What are Milk Kefir Grains?
Similar to the bacterial culture involved in making kombucha, milk kefir is also made using a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). The milk kefir SCOBY takes the form of grains, resembling cottage cheese or cauliflower, and will grow slightly each time they are used. The main bacterial communities cohabiting with the yeast are lactobacillus and acetobacter. These yeast and bacterial communities digest the lactose present in the milk, producing lactic acid and carbon dioxide.
Why You Should Drink Milk Kefir
Although it has been used for centuries in European and Asian folk medicine, milk kefir has received renewed interest thanks to research connecting our gut microbial population to the overall healthy functioning of our body.
A bonus side-effect of the fermentation process gives milk kefir a very low amount of lactose. This makes it an excellent option for those who have lactose issues. The amount of lactose can be further decreased by extending fermentation time. (note- the bacteria will continue to consume the lactose but the resulting kefir will be more sour).
Milk kefir is also very rich in beneficial bacteria for good gut health (almost 30 different types) and high in vitamins B12 and K2, calcium, magnesium and folate.
How to Include Milk Kefir In Your Diet
We consume milk kefir daily in our house. Our stash has permanent residence in our fridge and is a staple for most of the members of our family. My youngest daughter, Ruby, is the biggest fan. She likes to add cocoa powder to it in the morning and will use it to make smoothies before school. I make smoothies for my lunch every day and also for my husband when he is on the go. I have also discovered other recipes using strained milk kefir to make a “cream cheese-like” spread, or a sweet or savoury dip (recipes to follow shortly!)
Milk kefir can now found commercially in the dairy section of your local grocery store. As with kombucha, if you have a starter culture, it is super easy and very economical to make it yourself! Let’s get started!
How to Make Milk Kefir
Fermentation time: 24- 36 hours
- 1 litre (1 quart) cow or goat’s milk (for best results, do not use “Pure filtered”)
- 1-2 tablespoons milk kefir grains
- Glass jar
- Place milk kefir grains and milk in the jar.
- Cover with a cloth or coffee filter. Leave on the counter or in a cupboard for 24-36 hours. The kefir is ready when the milk has thickened and smells slightly sour.
3. Strain the finished kefir and refrigerate.
4. Put the grains back into the jar, add milk and start a new batch. It’s that easy!