Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Update: I do not have any grains to share at the moment. I will repost when I do!
I can be impulsive. I know it. I need to know yesterday what's going to happen in 10 years; I have to buy the car today because what if all of the cars on the planet disappear tomorrow; I had to get married right away, wanted to have kids right away, buy a house right away...you get the picture. Sometimes I want to post a recipe before I've even tasted it, because it looks so good. When my water kefir grains arrived a few weeks ago, I was bent on posting that same day, so I could tell my faithful readers what an elixir I'd found! But something in me was holding me back. It's hard to tout the health benefits of something you haven't even tried! Plus, I wanted to be a little more confident about what I was promoting.
Since my mother never gave me soda as a child, I didn't develop a taste for it. Unfortunately (or fortunately??), I don't really have a taste for much of anything aside from water, in the liquid spectrum. Carbonation is like a party in my mouth, only I never invited anyone. I just don't enjoy the sensation. So when I found dairy kefir, I was so happy to have a liquid treat. But I cut dairy out for a few weeks - three, to be exact - I panicked a bit about my morning shakes, and probiotic intake. I'm not one for supplements if I can help it, and I was really counting on my milk kefir to supply me with a solid dose of probiotics. I used to drink 1-2 cups of raw milk kefir a day!! But no fear - a kind woman on the kefir making yahoo group mailed me water kefir grains in exchange for some of my milk grains. I've been culturing them ever since.
My first draw to water kefir was the probiotic count. Probiotics help with digestion, and I was feeling like mine could use some revamping. However, when I started reading more about water kefir, I was so impressed with its resume: reported to help "nervous disorders, internal ulcers, bronchial catarrh, sclerosis,myocardial infarction, liver and gall bladder disorders, kidney problems, stomach and intestinal diseases, diarrhea or constipation, anemia, allergies, dermatitis and other skin problems such as eczema." (Dolores Sanchez-Penalver) I was warned the effects wouldn't be an overnight success - and that was dutifully noted. But after several weeks, I can honestly say that my digestion has improved, and I have noticed an overall improvement in both my physical and mental health. I look forward to continuing to reap the benefits of this yummy drink!
So what exactly IS water kefir?
Well, water kefir grains are a mother culture of strains of beneficial yeasts and bacteria. These good bacteria work with the yeast to kick out the bad guys (a result of antibiotics, excess sugar intake, refined foods, etc.), and change the environment. So those of you who are struggling with yeast overgrowth - kefir may be a welcome friend. The grains are similar in size and shape to milk kefir grains. They are sometimes referred to as SKG - sugar kefir grains. Don't worry about the name though. They actually feed off the sugar, so you're not drinking a cup of water with sugar thrown in when the grains are done with it; instead, it's a transformed drink full of health benefits! The grains are fermented in much the same way as milk kefir grains, and boast of similar health benefits. However, water kefir seems easier to knock down, and even this carbonate-phobic girl swigs with ease. The end result is akin to flavored seltzer water. Here's the recipe I've been using:
1/2 c grains
1 dried fig
2 T raw sugar
3 cups water
There are all sorts of methods and "rules" and proper ways to do things, but my grains are multiplying, I feel good, and everything smells just fine, so instead of give you a million small steps - here's what I do: I dump the ingredients in a quart sized mason jar, cover loosely, and let the mixture ferment for 24 - 72 hours. The longer the ferment, the lower the final sugar content. Then, I strain as I would milk kefir, by pouring the mixture through a mesh strainer into a 4 cup measuring glass (just for ease, since it has a nice spout). I pour the resulting liquid into a clean mason jar, throw away the fig (though I love eating the seeds first...) and refill the old jar with grains, fresh water, a new fig, and some more sugar. I let the strained kefir sit out, tightly covered, another 24 hours to further decrease the sugar, and increase the probiotic count. It also gets fizzier this way. I'll either drink it straight, or add a half cup to some fruit in the morning, blend, and drink right away. It get things moving, if you know what I mean!
Now, I've heard that the alcohol content can be an issue here. And I have to admit, there have been a few times when I feel like I might be buzzed, but it's probably just psychosomatic. The longer you ferment, the more alcoholic, so it's easily controlled by you.
You can experiment with the flavors by adding raisins, prunes, or other dried fruit. (I tried raisins and prunes and didn't like it.) Fresh ginger root is another popular addition, as is a slice of lemon. You can even kefir with fruit juice, or fresh fruits. Make sure that if you experiment, you're using extra grains - and did I mention they will multiply like crazy?!