Food & Beverage
May 1, 2016
Everyone is sure to have heard of Kefir. Biologically, Kefir is a probiotic which reproduces itself through milk fermentation. Explained in simple terms, it is a colony of living microorganisms, that looks like a cauliflower, but with nutritional and therapeutic value is much greater.
Originated from the Caucasus, it is composed of lactobacilli and yeasts fit to ferment various types of liquid – being milk from cow or goat, historically, the most common.
The metabolism of the microorganisms consumes lactose, synthesizing enzymes that help digest the drink that results of this brewing process. Besides this, it also changes the calcium salts to form shapes that are more easily absorbed by the human body. The mixture can be made with milk of cow, goat, sheep, buffalo, horse and camel. Unlike the yogurt, that is fermented only by lactobacillus, kefir requires lower temperatures.
The kefir grains multiply as they are being cultivated. The higher the temperature is, the more active they get, and therefore increase more rapidly in size. Because of this, traditionally, the grains are donated, and the guidelines for its cultivation are passed orally. While handling, one should use non-metallic instruments, due to the possible reaction of the acid of fermentation with metals, and it must be kept in places with low light, and outdoor temperature as constant as possible - between 15° C and 40° C.
The liquid ferments in approximately 24 hours, and the higher the temperature, the faster the fermentation will be. In temperatures under 10° C, the kefir enters into a state of hibernation, meaning it can be stored in a refrigerator for future use. After this 24-hour fermentation period, the milk should be poured off and the kefir grains should be added to another milk, a procedure that should be done in a cyclic form, for an indefinite period of time. The final product should present a creamy consistency, with bittersweet and refreshing flavour, and can contain 0.08 to 2% of alcohol.
Despite several descriptions on this subject, there is no actual scientific evidence showing that kefir is effective in treating any kind of disease. In patients with lactose intolerance, despite the fact that fermentation reduces the amount of lactose in milk, it can still lead to severe intolerance symptoms. One of the good effects on health that kefir was proven to have, is the cleaning of the intestinal membrane, bringing great relief to many symptoms that confuse the medical diagnoses. Despite having a poor content of most of the vitamins, it is abundant in vitamin D.
The minerals are not present in significant quantities, only the calcium in the form of salts, which is more easily absorbed than calcium contained in non-fermented milk. The greatest merit of Kefir is its high quality and quantity of aminoacids and the elimination of pathogenic micro-organisms of the intestinal flora.
How to Cultivate
Cultivation of Kefir is something quite simple. After milk fermentation, the kefir grains need to be strained, using a plastic sieve to separate the drink of the grains. Do not tighten or squeeze the Kefir grains, just shake the colander to facilitate the flowing of the milk. Store the fermented beverage in the refrigerator in a covered container. Ideally, the kefir should preferably be consumed within 24 hours, or within 3 days maximum, because with time some probiotics may die. It is important not to wash your Kefir with water, because it removes the gel contained in them (kefiran), thus killing the grains. If the grains are too "pasty", you can use a little milk to rinse them. Then, you should return the beans to the recipient, and put more milk in it, until the beans stay afloat.
Cover the container to prevent insects and dust contamination. You can freeze the Kefir grains, so as to prevent them from dying. before freezing, just strain the beans, it is not necessary to wash them. To unfreeze, just place the frozen beans in milk at room temperature, or even cold, and wait for the fermentation period.