Thursday, November 25, 2010
In researching a fiction story I'm writing (yes, I've started writing fiction again) I came across a plethora of information on kefir. The character in my story has a herd of goats and I was trying to come up with something she could sell from the goats' milk--other than milk and chevre of course. I started wondering if it was possible to create an alcoholic beverage from fermented goats milk and Googled "fermented goats milk." Well, there is a tradition of alcoholic beverages involving milk, but more interestingly, and more apropos for my story, was the information I found about kefir.
Kefir is a yogurt-like beverage derived from fermenting milk with a kefir grain (kind of like a slimy cauliflower-looking organism) at room temperature. All you need is some milk, some grains and a jar. Kefir is supposed to be full of pro-biotics and even more beneficial to your digestive tract than yogurt. Also, according to a WebMD article I read, kefir reduces the lactose content of milk so that lactose intolerant people like me can drink it. I thought I'd give it a try so I went to the health food stores we have here in town. I found kefir for sale in the dairy section but wanted to make my own. For research purposes for my story, I bought one quart of goat's milk and the powdered form of kefir pictured above for a total of $10. I had to boil the milk first, according to the package directions, let it cool, and then inoculate the milk with one of the powdered packets. Then I poured it into a clean Mason jar (thanks Mom!) and let it sit on the counter for 24 hours. It looked exactly the same to me the next morning, I have to say. But I refrigerated it for 8 hours according to the instruction and drank a glass.
First reaction? My mouth did not want to swallow. Everything in me was screaming, "Sour milk! Spit it out!" But then, when I did get it down, it was pretty good. Not a glowing recommendation for taste, I know. But I have to be honest. The description of it being like a liquid yogurt was pretty dead on for this batch. The after taste was better than the first impression. I can see mixing it with a little honey or making it into a berry smoothie for breakfast.
Now all the research I did on kefir on-line said that the powdered form and all the commercial versions you get at the stores are not the real deal. You don't get the same health benefits due to the way they have to process it in order to sell it, and it can be quite expensive. On the other hand, if you can get a hold of some real kefir grains (I found a lady in Ohio who will ship them to you for a flat $20) you'll have kefir as long as you give it milk to eat. So I'm going to try that next. Also to try: cow's milk. I have some Lactaid on hand just in case my science experiment goes awry. :-)
Oh, and BTW: Happy Thanksgiving all! I have debated about whether to post a Thanksgiving recipe but as I have gotten off scot-free from having to make anything other than a dessert this year it seemed like sheer hypocrisy. A few things I'm thankful for this year: my Feeding Four family and friends, my Kitchenaid mixer, and dark chocolate. Oh and not having to make Thanksgiving dinner. Thank you Aunt Jennifer!
P.S. I originally titled this post "Kefir Culture" because there is a quite an interesting following to kefir. Just wanted to reassure you that I'm not moving to a commune or actually starting my own goat farm. Yet.