Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Water Kefir

I've not been shy in my struggles with pop. I don't know what it is (its not the caffeine), but I have such a hard time giving up pop. I've been looking for better, healthier alternatives. Yes, it'd be great if I could just swap pop for water, but I already drink a LOT of water each day, so that hasn't really worked for me. I started reading about water kefir and kombucha a few weeks back. Many people have said they've found them to be acceptable substitutes for their pop addictions. So I wanted to give it a try. I started with water kefir. I ordered some water kefir grains and started looking through recipes. Wow, there are so many ways of making water kefir! I had no idea. So I picked one to start with, just a very basic recipe. But first, I want to give you a little background about kefir.

There are two types of kefir - dairy kefir and water kefir. You need kefir grains to grow both, but dairy grains are different from water grains. Water kefir grains are more translucent and loose than dairy kefir grains. You can convert dairy grains to make water kefir, but it takes quite a bit of time and the grains will not continue to grow, as true water kefir grains do. Your body can also handle more water kefir in a given day than it can dairy kefir. You can safely drink up to 3 quarts of water kefir daily. And some sources say that water kefir's benefits and good bacteria and microorganisms are far superior to those found in dairy kefir. The typical composition of water kefir include: Lactobacillus brevis, Lactobacillus casei rhamnosus , Lactobacillus alactosus, Lactobacillus casei casei, Lactobacillus pseudoplantarum, Lactobacillus plantarum, Streptococcus lactis, Streptococcus cremeris, Leuconostoc mesenteroide, Saccharomyces florentinus, Saccharomyces pretoriensis, Kloeckera apiculata, Candida lambica, Candida valida. Water kefir is said to be beneficial for those with nervous disorders, ulcers, liver/gall bladder/kidney/stomach/intestinal problems, diarrhea and constipation, allergies, and many other issues. It is said to also help regulate blood pressure and helps with weight control.

Ok, so now back to my first water kefir experience. Like I said, I chose a very basic recipe for my first try. Again, I was quite hesitant to try it once it was done... but once I did, I really liked it! It tastes kind of like Sprite. Its fizzy and everything, though not quite as fizzy as pop is, but its fizzy enough for me. I am very excited to try out different water kefir recipes now and will be brewing up a couple different ones very soon, so watch for those posts in the coming weeks! I'm also on the hunt for a SCOBY to try making some kombucha soon, too!

Water Kefir

- 1 large broad opening glass container with lid - exact size depending on the amount of liquid per batch you want to make. If you make the basic recipe exactly as listed below, probably a 1.5 liter capacity container will suffice. If your glass container does not have a lid, you can simply cover it by placing a plate on top or with some plastic wrap or cloth tied with a rubber band around the opening. (I used a quart mason jar... just make sure whatever kind of container you are using, you only fill it 3/4 of the way full!)
- 1 strainer and/or pouch – depending on method used (I used a strainer this time, but will be making a pouch eventually)
- 1 spoon, non-metallic
- 1 glass jar

There are 2 known methods of dealing with the grains: the “loose grains” method and the pouch method. In the first one, you just toss the grains in the glass container along with all the other ingredients, so you will need to use a strainer for pouring each batch and washing the grains afterwards. The pouch method seems easier and better to keep your grains separate from other stuff you may want to add to the recipes and to manage the grains for washing purposes. You can easily make your own pouch with some porous cloth, like gauze or cheesecloth, folding and sewing the sides together, and using a string to tie up the top. Just make sure there’s more than enough room in it for the new grains to grow in there, as they multiply.

3 Tablespoons Water Kefir grains
1/4 cup brown sugar or 3 Tablespoons honey
1 or 2 dried figs – or any other dried fruit you prefer like dried prunes, apricots, dates, raisins, etc. (I used dates)
1/2 lemon
1 quart filtered water – only water without any chlorine should be used (it will kill your grains), so tap water is not suitable unless it’s filtered

Mix in the glass container and stir.

There are 3 different brews you can make: 24, 48, and 72 hour fermentations. 72 hours is the maximum a batch should be let to ferment. The longer it is allowed to ferment, the stronger it becomes. Note that the carbonic acid increases each day, so if your container is air-tight sealed, it could explode. (I only filled my jar up 3/4 of the way and did not tighten the lid all the way.) Covering prevent flies or bugs from getting into it. Keep out of direct sunlight and at room temperature.

It is said that 24-hour kefir acts as a laxative...

and that 48-hour kefir regulates and re-establishes intestinal function. So I did a 48-hour batch... actually it was more like 44-hours... but close enough. :)

Once the fermenting time has passed, strain the liquid, squeeze the juice of the half lemon used in it, and it’s ready to drink... although I chilled my first!

Wash the grains under running water. You can store them in a small jar of water in the fridge for about a week (add a small amount of sugar to feed them), or else you should dehydrate them. I'm planning to use mine regularly for awhile and I have so many different recipes and fruits to try, that I'm not sure when I'll have excess to actually dehydrate, but I'm guessing that will happen sooner than I think because those babies multiply like mad! My first batch nearly doubled! I was so surprised!

1 comment:

Mary Voogt said...

Neat! I didn't know all of that info about water kefir...the difference between that and dairy. I started with dairy b/c I figured I'd have more use for it since I don't drink much besides water. I wonder if Justin would like it. A couple months ago we pretty much cut out his pop drinking (for health reasons ;). Sometimes he likes it with pizza or something, though. I'll have to think about it.

Maybe we can swap grains sometime...you can have some dairy and I'll take some water :) I have to grow more first.