Milk Kefir FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about Milk Kefir

What is Milk Kefir

Milk Kefir is derived from the turkish word keyif -meaning ‘good feeling’. It is a cultured probiotic dairy drink, with a similar thick consistency to yoghurt. It has a tart taste, and this unique sour taste brings another level of umami to our tastebuds, along with the health benefits that a balanced ecosystem provides.

What is the history of Milk Kefir?

Traced back to the northern region of the Caucasus Mountains (between Russia and Georgia) and originally called ‘Airan’, The highly valuable milk kefir grains, have been passed down from the Ossettes and other mountain tribes people, and were a symbol of great family wealth.

The traditional method of culturing the kefir was continuous. Using sacks made of animal hide, which would hang at the front door, the grains were combined with cow, goat or sheep’s milk, and left outside in the sun during the day, and brought in at night. Visitors were expected to punch the bag upon entry in order to mix it up the curds and whey. As Kefir was consumed, they would replace it with new milk.

The recipe and grains were closely guarded and contained in this region for centuries, before being discovered by the outside world. Marco Polo (1300’s) even makes mention of this beverage in his travels east. However, once again the outside world forgot about kefir until the early 1900’s, when the All-Russian Physician Society heard of the medicinal benefits, they sought the help of the Blandov brothers (owners of the Moscow dairy, and other holdings in the caucaus region), to obtain the grains. They hatched a plan involving one of their employees, a beautiful woman (Irina Sakharova), to charm the local prince, (Bek-Mirza Barchorov) into giving her the grains. However, the prince had no intention of parting with the much coveted grains, but he did not want to lose Irina either, so he had her kidnapped with the intention of forcing her into marriage (which was a local custom at the time.) A successful rescue mission was conducted by agents of Irina’s employer, and as a result Prince Bek-Mirza Barchorov, was brought before the Tsar, who ordered him to give ten pounds of kefir grains to Irina, as compensation. The milk kefir grains were handed over to the Moscow dairy who started producing it in 1908, and a larger commercial scale production in the 1930’s followed.

Milk kefir grains are made up of a colony of (thousands) of living microorganisms that act in symbiosis, to maintain a balanced microflora of good bacterias and yeasts.

What are the health benefits?

Kefir contains large numbers of probiotics – the microbes that live in our bodies and provide us with important health benefits such as boosting immunity, calming inflammation, assisting in digestion, creating amino acids and vitamins, and aiding in digestion.  Kefir, which can be made from any type of animal milk. Kefir also contains partially digested proteins, enzymes (including lactase, which is good for people who are lactose intolerant), vitamins (A, B1, B3, B9/folate, B12, D and vitamin K), minerals and essential amino acids.

Along with the probiotics, it is high in bioavailable vitamins and minerals such as B-12, vitamin K2, folate, calcium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus and several others.

Kefir has also been used in the treatment of atherosclerosis, allergies, diseases like eczema that are related to allergies, gastrointestinal disorders, tuberculosis and cancer.  However the studies that had been conducted, until recent times, have been inaccessible to most researchers in the west because they were written in Slavic languages, where kefir was popular and the research had been done.

Other health benefits of milk kefir include;
Treats Irritable Bowel Syndrome Reduce Anxiety Cleanses the body of Toxins
treatment of atherosclerosis Treats liver disease Treats gastritis
Nourishes hair and potentially reduce the gray Lowers LDL cholesterol Improves digestion
Normalizes metabolism to help with weight loss Treats psoriasis and eczema Treats lung infections
Treats gallbladder, dissolves gall bladder stones Helps with sleep Improves halitosis
Treats Candida and other fungal infections Lowers blood sugar Anti-aging effects

Milk kefir comprises of approx. twenty different strains of lactobacilli, approx. thirty types of yeast strands, a dozen or more strands of streptococci and lactococci, enterococci, acetobacter and other strains of bacteria like bacillus sp. However, each bacterial and yeast composition, is unique and can vary from one strain to the next.

We use full cream cow’s milk. We DO NOT use lactose free milk, as it will starve bacteria in milk kefir. Lactose is a natural sugar, contained in dairy milk, and is required for the milk kefir bacteria to feed off.

We do not use raw milk as it contains it’s own living colony of bacterial microorganisms, as they have not been killed through the process of pasteurization. This could introduce new strains, or alter the balance of bacteria already established in our milk kefir.

Commercial Kefir v’s Home-made kefir

Commercial brands commonly found on the shelf generally taste a lot milder (like yoghurt- but not as sweet), whilst naturally fermented Milk Kefir has more of a sour/yeasty taste and smell.

Commercially bought Milk Kefir, are generally made from lab grown, freeze dried, powdered culture which are labelled as containing living probiotic organisms. However, in order for them to safely package and standardize their product they remove a variety of bacteria and yeast strains, to limit the build up of carbon, which could lead to their bottles exploding.

This commercial practice not only affects the natural yeasty smell of kefir, but also the taste, consistency and health benefits.

By consuming Craft & Culture’s Milk Kefir, you will be rewarded with more natural probiotic bacteria and yeast strains!

Milk Kefir can initially be described as an acquired taste like many other fermented food and drink products. As such the Milk Kefir we sell as ready for drink and tastes mild as the longer we ferment it, the more sour the taste.

Over Fermented Milk kefir

If your Milk Kefir separates into curds and whey, you will know you have over-fermented it. This generally occurs for a number of reasons:

  • Warmer temperatures, will speed up fermentation times
  • It was left to ferment for too long

Don’t worry if this does occur, you can save your kefir by simply stirring the curds and whey back together, which is still consumable but may be a little tart. You can then get creative and include it in your day-to day meals to disguise the taste, or simply flavour it.

Furthermore, a by-product of over-fermented Milk Kefir is Kefir Whey, which can be used as a starter culture to ferment vegetables and used in many other way that are beneficial to your health.

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