Sunday, August 7, 2011

Water Kefir and a Great Tomato Harvest

I told you the other day that I had started drinking kefir. Now, there are two different kinds of kefir. Milk kefir, which you may have seen at your local grocery store and is similar to yoghurt but a more pour-able consistency, and water kefir. I have been making the water version of kefir. It is made from little grains of yeast and friendly bacteria that feed off of sugar water creating natural carbonation and lactic acid in the process. It is a refreshing, sweet and sour, effervescent drink that is high in beneficial bacteria, and therefore, good for you.

This is my most recent batch. It is a light brown color from the molasses. I put a little bit of lemon juice and fresh mint after I strained it out, and it was very refreshing. 

There are recipes and information all over the internet about different ways to do it. It is pretty forgiving, and everyone has their own unique technique. However, to start home brewing water kefir you must first obtain water kefir 'grains'. Unlike sourdough or other fermenting processes you cannot create the grains to make it. For my birthday my Mother bought me a water kefir kit off of ebay with live grains and had it shipped to my house. It was a great birthday present! You can get them either dried or live. I have heard that the dried ones are harder to get hydrated and aren't as reliable. So, you can order hydrated ones off the internet or find someone you know that brews it themselves. 

Once you get your grains you will need a glass jar, piece of cloth or coffee filter, rubber band, non-metal spoon, sugar, a slice of lemon, and water. 

Step One:
Place the grains in the bottom of your glass jar and add the correct amount of sugar and water. As a rule of thumb, to every tablespoon of kefir there should be a tablespoon of sugar and 1 cup of water. Stir with a non-metal spoon to dissolve. It's okay if it is not all dissolved at once. You can stir it again in a few hours and it should be good by then. 

Step Two: 
Add a large slice of an organic lemon. If you can't find an organic lemon, just peel off the waxed part of a conventionally grown one. It is not good for the grains to be in contact with the pesticides in the lemon peel. The lemon slice serves to balance the pH in the kefir. 
You can also add different flavorings like slices of fresh ginger or carrot and dried unsulphered fruits depending on your tastes. 

Step 3:
Once you have all your ingredients together in the jar, place a cloth or coffee filter over the top of the jar and secure it with a rubber band. Then let it sit in an out of the way part of your kitchen for 24-48 hours depending on the temperature, the type of sugar used, the desired sourness, etc. You can taste it along the way and strain it out once you think it is ready. 

Step 4: 
Strain it right into a glass and drink, or you can store it in a sealed glass container in the fridge until you are ready to drink it. If it has been 48 hours and it still isn't as sour as you like it, strain it out anyway, put a fresh batch of sugar water with the grains. Then you can let your strained kefir go through a second ferment on the counter until it reaches your desired taste. 

With my kefir I have been using a mixture of 80/20 white sugar and molasses, and about 50% of the time a slice of lemon. For some reason, since the summer started and it has been so hot, my grains have not been doing so good. When they are healthy and thriving they can multiply anywhere from 5-400% in days. Mine have not multiplied in the last month or two and some of the grains look like the texture of sand. I was doing some research and I think I haven't been changing the sugar water often enough. I may need to start changing it every 12-24 hours because of the high temperatures in our kitchen. I have found a great informational website on water kefir. It has the answer to any type of question you might have. It is a company called Yemoos Nourishing Cultures and you can click here for their water kefir webpage. 

Also, as a quick side-note, here is the exciting harvest from our garden this morning. We woke up and literally half the tomatoes on the plants were ripe. We harvested 6 swiss chard leaves, 2 okra pods, 1 little bell pepper, a lot of cherry tomatoes :), and about 16 brandywine tomatoes. Some of them have to ripen on the counter for a few days still. They were weighing down the bushes and we thought it would be better just to go ahead and pick them. I am excited about some wonderful fresh pasta sauce!

This is a close-up of our mini pepper. Unfortunately, it didn't taste that good. It was very bitter. Maybe I left it on the plant too long thinking it needed to grow bigger. I will let you know on the next one. 

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