Kefir is an old-time custom across Eastern and Northern Europe that is just now becoming a popular culinary topic in North America, the United Kingdom, and Australia. This fermented favorite is a longtime cousin of yogurt and its uses and benefits are just as versatile and applicable. Kefir grains, a symbiotic culture of yeasts and bacteria, are necessary for starting the fermentation process that gives kefir its wide-ranging health benefits.
Calcium and Protein Source
Kefir is an excellent source of protein and calcium and is an incredibly healthy digestive tonic, directly supplementing the gut with living cultures that are essential for breaking down food and assimilating nutrients into the body, thereby helping to maintain a strong immune system. Kefir is also a friendly drink for those that are lactose intolerant; fermentation breaks down the rough-on-the-gut lactose into the totally digestible lactic acid, making it a safe dairy product for consumption.
Different Ingredients Yield Different Benefits
Traditional kefir is a variable drink and its outcome and nutritional value depend on what it is made with and how long it has been fermented. Most commonly, the grains are simply inoculated into the milk of cows, sheep, or goats, or in milk substitutes like soy milk, rice milk, or coconut milk. Kefir grains can also ferment in other sugary liquids such as fruit juice or coconut water. Depending on how long and how fast the kefir ferments depends on how sour it will turn out. Commercial store-bought kefir is made somewhat differently so that the outcome will always remain consistent for the consumers.
Can be Used as a Substitution
In some circles, kefir is a welcome addition in the culinary arts for any recipe that calls for yogurt, buttermilk, mayonnaise, or sour cream, and cooking with it adds a rich, creamy flavor and a tangy tender taste that gives the food a unique signature. Cooking the kefir kills the beneficial bacteria, so in creamy soup recipes add the kefir last just before serving or keep the recipe raw for salad dressings, toppings, or dips. Pour it into a smoothie with fruits, nuts, or granola for a daily boost of probiotics. Kefir contains yeast, so it can be used to make different pieces of bread, especially sourdough bread. It also blends well in curry sauces and Indian recipes that call for coconut milk. Kefir is a traditional food that’s been close to the heart of many healthy communities for thousands of years. May the symbiosis of man, bacteria, and yeast flourish!