Adventures in Kefir

If you read any articles or blogs about the paleo or primal lifestyle, you no doubt have read about the benefits of fermented foods.  They are the bees knees for the gut and therefore for the brain.  In an effort to get more of these beneficial probiotics into my system, over the past year I have experimented with jun, water kefir and milk kefir.

I received a jun scoby from a YTT friend of mine.  It looked very alien – an amorphous, white blob with floating tendrils.  I made some green tea, added some honey, and the blob went to work. It produced a lightly sweet, mostly tangy, slightly fizzy concoction.  The flavor of it was good, especially initially. However, the scoby grew faster than the size of my container.  Pretty soon the scoby was fermenting the jun so quickly that by the time I got around to drinking it, it was VERY tart and tasted more like apple cider vinegar than green tea with honey.

However, I kept drinking it, convinced by everything that I’ve read that I was doing my body good.  Then I started to notice that I was getting rough, dry patches on my upper lips.  At first I thought it was just dry skin, but then I noticed it was EXACTLY in the place where a glass meets my lips. I tossed my ancient Sigg bottle, assuming that the lining had failed and was aggravating my lips.  Nothing changed.  I bought some Abreva, thinking maybe I was getting cold sores.  Nothing changed.  Finally I stopped drinking the jun.  Problem solved!

In my unscientific experiment of n = 1, here is what I think happened.  The jun was SO vinegary that it was burning my lips!  I can only imagine what it was doing to my stomach. I ended up giving my monster jun scoby away and moved on to something more familiar  – water kefir.

A couple of years ago, I had experimented with water kefir grains from Cultures for Health.  I guess I should back up.  To make water kefir, you take filtered water, add sugar, add water kefir grains, and a day or two later, you have a fermented water beverage.  You can then add some juice to that fermentation (after you filter out the grains) to make an even fizzier second fermentation.

My first experiment with water kefir was frustrating and did not consistently produce tasty water kefir.  However, after my jun experience, I decided to try again.  This time I bought grains from Amazon, a reseller for poseymom.com.

These grains were amazing!  In the beginning I followed the instructions on poseymom’s website and added A LOT of black strap molasses to the water. The grains loved the minerals and doubled in size with every batch. However, even though the grains were healthy, neither Tim nor I were huge fans of the molasses flavor in the kefir.  So I cut down the molasses to about 1/2.  The grains still did well, but the taste was much more mild.  I started to produce super fizzy, very delicious water kefir.

After several months of creating water kefir, I ran out of my Brer Rabbit Blackstrap Molasses and could not find any bottles anywhere, so I bought a different brand.  I *think* that is what caused my issue, but I’m not sure. The grains started to fall apart and change color.  They were not fermenting like they used to. I didn’t like the smell, so I tossed them, intending to buy a fresh batch.

However, I soon noticed that within a few days of not drinking water kefir, I lost about 3 stubborn pounds.  Despite eating the same way I have for the past 3.5 years, I had put on a few pounds. I had attributed it to getting older and maybe allowing more non-paleo cheats.  But once that weight came off, my second very unscientific conclusion is that the water kefir must have still had quite a bit of sugar/carbs in it, and that’s what was pushing my weight up.  I did some research on the internet, and it sounds as if water kefir can drive up yeast in the body.  So not all people react well to it.  Some women even reported getting more yeast infections when they drank water kefir.

So I decided to move on to milk kefir.  I had also tried making that several years ago with powdered grains from Greatest Grains.  It did not turn out AT ALL.  So I went back to poseymom.com, since I had such good results from her grains.

When I got the little pouch (6.99 from Amazon), I was a little disappointed in the tiny amount of grains in the package.  But I followed the instructions on the website and added them to about 2 cups of cheap milk.  After 12 hours, I poured the milk out and put the grains in a fresh batch.  I did this maybe one or 2 more times before putting the grains in some whole fat organic milk. I set the jar on a seeding mat to speed up the fermentation process.

Every 12 hours now I have a batch of tangy, slightly fizzy, thick milk kefir.  It is super delicious and filling.  Our only complaint is, is it so thick that you waste a lot of product on the inside of the jar and glass.

The process is incredibly easy.  Every 12 hours, I get out a clean glass jar and add 2 cups of whole milk. I then get the fermented milk off the seeding mat and give it a good stir with a plastic chop stick (you can’t use metal with milk kefir).  The kefir needs to be stirred because it starts to separate into curds and whey when it ferments.

Then I get out a plastic strainer and strain the milk kefir into a clean, empty jar.  The kefir is quite thick, so I use the chop stick to stir the milk in the strainer, being careful to not break up the kefir grains.  I then dump the grains into the fresh milk.  I have a pretty small strainer, so I have to repeat this process 3 or 4 times to process all the kefir.

I then use a rubber band to attach a coffee filter to the top of the jar with the new milk and grains in it, and set it on the seeding mat.  I give the kefir in the other jar a good stir, cap it with a plastic lid, and put it in the fridge.

We’ve been drinking the kefir for 2 or 3 weeks now, and so far I have not noticed any weight, skin, or stomach issues.  Tim and I both really love the taste and consistency.  We will see how long these grains last before I end up accidentally killing them.  Oh!  And one more thing I should mention.  If you need to go out-of-town, or if you are just producing more kefir than you can handle, you can put the grains in milk in the fridge, and the grains will basically hibernate.  When you return home, give the milk a stir, set the jar on the seeding mat, and 12 hours later you will be back in business.

I may get adventurous and make a little video showing the process because I know that would have been helpful to me.

Hope you have a fabulous Monday!! If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. 🙂

Catch Up Weekend and Primal Challenge Reboot

The Timimimy Tee had to work all this weekend driving bus for the John Deere Classic.  That meant that I had the opportunity to catch up on some long outstanding chores.  Basically we haven’t been home for a full weekend since before the triathlon, so things were starting to pile up.  So what did I do, you ask?  Well, here, let me tell you: I went to the Farmer’s Market, Aldis, HyVee, took several long walks, vacuumed and dusted the whole upstairs, vacuumed most of the basement and moved Lucent’s litter box so that we don’t constantly have to walk over litter particles to get to the washer and dryer and workout area, attempted to rehab my water kefir grains by putting them in a sucanat/spring water solution, sprouted and roasted almonds, cut up all the veggies from the Farmer’s Market, weeded our front garden bed, did 3 weeks of meal planning for the primal challenge (more to come on that below), returned a long overdue email, finished a humongous crocheted blanket for a friend, aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand…RELAXED.  On Sunday afternoon I sat outside and read for probably 3 hours. I got a little bit of a sunburn, but it was so beautiful out there that I couldn’t bring myself to go inside.

OK.  Now for some details.  First of all, I’m kind of excited about Aldis!  I stopped on a whim, hoping they would have spring water for the kefir and for the sauerkraut Tim is going to make.  They only had individually wrapped bottled water (which seems odd for a discount store!), but I found some other great deals.  Avocados were only 79 cents (1/2 the HyVee price), Rainier cherries were only 2.99.  They had nitrate-free bacon for 3.89 and mineral water for 1.49.  I’m so jazzed!!

And on the kefir grains.  So, yeah, I though for sure I had killed them. I got a couple of good, fizzy batches out of them, and then they just stopped working.  They didn’t smell like kefir (didn’t smell like anything, in point of fact).  I emailed Cultures for Health, and they sent me back some great tips.  They recommended using sucanat (unrefined cane sugar that still has minerals left in it) and all spring water.  Previously I was usually Domino sugar and just boiling our Brita-filtered water to remove the chlorine.  Evidently the rest of the chemicals in tap water are harmful to the grains as well.  I had also ran out of mineral drops, so I had stopped using those too.  The person who emailed me said you CAN resurrect the grains, so I’m giving it the old college try.

And, finally, the Primal Challenge.  A couple of workmates and I are going to embark on the 21 Day Total Body Transformation on July 20th.  My friends want to lose some weight, and I want to lose about 3 pounds and do a reset to get closer to 90/10 instead of 70/30 .  I spent an hour Saturday culling through my recipes.  I put together 3 weeks of meal plans (containing mostly just general ideas for breakfast and lunch, and then 4 distinct recipes w/ sides for supper), along with copies of the associated recipes.  I also pulled out additional recipes for them to use, if they don’t like my suggestions.  I reordered the 21 Day Total Body Transformation.  I lent it to my brother probably 2 years ago and haven’t seen it since.  I’m so glad I bought it again. It’s a very concise, helpful guide to the primal lifestyle and contains reminders that I really needed to read again.  I’m really looking forward to seeing how this turns out!!

That’s the weekend, now its back to work and back to training for the Bix 7, which is NEXT WEEKEND.  ACCK!!

 

Farmer’s Market Binge

My little brother was in town last week, so I took him to our local farmer’s market on Saturday.  He lives in NYC, so he went a little hog wild at the sight of so much inexpensive produce.  Unfortunately, he had to fly home 2 days after the market, so we were left with a lot of unusual produce to consume.

For example, Benny bought a whole bag of garlic scapes, which I have neither seen nor used before.  They are pretty little things, but I had no idea what to do with them, so of course I googled it. I found this recipe for Garlic Scape Pesto.   I had no pistachios or Parmesan, so I left out the Parmesan completely and subbed walnuts for the pistachios.  The resulting pesto was bright green, super peppery, and delicious!  At least I thought so.  I put some on a cracker and gave it to Tim to try, and he made the most unpleasantly surprised face I have ever seen on an adult.  He did NOT like it one bit!

I, on the other hand, have eaten it with every meal this week.  I had it on pork chops, hamburgers, hot dogs, and I mixed it with my pork chop/broccoli/mustard green stir fry.  I absolutely love it.  Go try some!

In other news, I’m trying my hand at continuous brew bone broth.  We’ve been soaking Lucent’s food in bone broth so that the food is softer for him and so he gets some extra nutrients.  We’re going through the broth pretty fast, so I’m keeping a pot of it going in the crockpot.  We’ll see how this turns out.

I also think I killed my water kefir grains again.  I see no bubbles, and the kefir smells just like juice – absolutely no kefir-y funkiness going on.  I think that the kefir grains were doing so well they were multiplying, and I didn’t account for their increased numbers and ended up starving them to death.  I thought it was supposed to be EASY to make water kefir!  I think I might order some milk kefir grains instead and try my hand at that.  Dairy tends to give me troubles, even fermented dairy like yogurt & kefir.  However, I was listening to a recent Chris Kresser podcast about how to eat probiotics if you don’t handle them well, and I learned that you can gradually add them into your diet.  I’m going to try to do that with full fat grass-fed yogurt and see how it goes.  My stomach as been feeling out of whack for the past few months, and I’m grasping at straws!

So there you have it, go try some garlic scape pesto and mourn for my dead kefir grains!