If you would have told me ten years ago that I would be buying raw goat milk from a farm and allowing it to sit out un-refrigerated for 24 hours with gooey globs of friendly bacteria mixed in, I would have told you that you were crazy. If you would have told me that I would encourage my children to drink this stuff and use it daily as an integral part of my own health regimen, I would have told you that you were insane.
Well I am sure you have guessed from the title of this article that indeed this is the path I have taken. What started as an idea very foreign to me has become a completely normal, natural, and very healthy way of life.
I will start with a little background on this wonderful cultured milk drink.
Kefir is an ancient cultured, enzyme-rich food filled with beneficial microorganisms. Kefir’s tart and refreshing flavor is similar to yogurt, yet its consistency is much thinner. It contains beneficial yeast as well as the friendly probiotic bacteria found in yogurt.
More than just beneficial bacteria and yeast, kefir contains minerals, essential amino acids, and is abundant in B vitamins that help the body with healing and maintenance functions. The proteins in kefir are partially digested and therefore more easily utilized by the body.
Since kefir does not have to be heated, it can be made from true raw milk. Kefir can be made from any raw milk including goat, cow, or sheep – although after talking with people and through my own experience I have found that raw goat milk is easier to digest than the others.
There are sources for raw milk that can be picked up at the farm or at various co-ops or farmer’s markets around town. For information see http://realmilk.com/where2.html.
There are some excellent farms in the outlying areas of Houston, and milk can be picked up fresh straight from the farm. Raw milk is perfectly safe as long as you know and trust your source, and are sure it is made according to specific health guidelines.
In the Houston area www.analagoatcompany.com is a dairy goat farm that is licensed by the state to sell raw goat’s milk. The license means that Texas Department of Health personnel inspect the farm every month unannounced and test the milk for purity. Anala also sells their goat milk (frozen) at several farmer’s markets around Houston on different days every week.
For full health benefits, it is especially important to use only raw milk to make kefir because it contains unspoiled healing proteins. The “undenatured” whey proteins found only in raw milk have the ability to bind to toxic metals like mercury inside the body neutralizing them and promoting their excretion from the body.
Pasteurizing milk denatures these proteins causing them to lose their healing properties. It also damages enzymes, diminishes vitamins, destroys vitamin B12, and vitamin B6, and kills beneficial bacteria.
Kefir is made from gelatinous white or yellow particle globules that are then covered in milk and left to culture for at least 24 hours. These globules contain a friendly and complex microorganism mixture clumped together with milk proteins and complex sugars that ferment the milk. These globules incorporate their friendly organisms to create the cultured product.
The globules are then removed with a strainer, and the strained liquid is your kefir to drink. It will continue to improve if you allow this strained kefir to rest in the refrigerator for 24 hours before consuming (although it is perfectly safe to drink immediately). The strained globules will then be added to a new batch of milk. This is all done at room temperature (optimally around 70 to 75 degrees, but will work fine at lower and higher temperatures also)
The comment I hear the most is “I don’t think it turned out right.” My advice is that it is probably fine, and you will become much more confident with kefir the more you make it. Ideally, if you know someone who makes kefir, you could ask to try it, so you know what to expect.
The kefir should be somewhat thicker than the original milk, but that can vary from slightly thicker milk to a thick milkshake consistency. There will be very small white lumps or curds in the kefir; this is normal, and you will not notice them while you are drinking it.
When the kefir is being made it can begin to separate and you will see pockets of clear liquid at the bottom. This is the whey and this, too, it is perfectly normal. To make it easier to strain, just stir everything back together right before you strain it. The kefir should smell a little sour and a bit yeasty. The smell is a pleasant and fresh one.
The easiest and best way to flavor Kefir if you prefer not to drink it plain is simply to add 1 tsp of Frontier No-Alcohol Vanilla or Almond Flavoring and 4 to 6 drops of clear stevia liquid extract (adjusting more or less to taste) into 6oz of homemade kefir and stir to blend.
Processing kefir in a food processor can damage very important components of the raw milk, so if you plan on making a smoothie, it is best to process the fruit and then mix it by hand into the kefir.
For more information and step-by-step instructions and pictures of the kefir making process, see http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/Makekefir.html
Most farms that produce and sell raw goats milk also provide kefir grains on request. Otherwise they’re available from http://www.gemcultures.com