Up until 2 weeks ago, I had never heard of water kefir. I had seen the jars of milk kefir at Trader Joe's a couple of times but had never tried it. Fermented milk is just not something I am going to jump up and try, just because it is sold at Trader Joe's.
But then a lady in our church bought some kefir grains to make water kefir. And she shared it with another friend. Who shared it with another lady. First point to be seen here: ladies in our church love to share. And I am so thankful they do. Second important thing to note: all of this sharing, you will see, is a part of the whole kefir process.
What is kefir? Apparently it is a grain called tibicos, that is fermented in water. The health benefits of drinking water kefir are impressive; the long and short of it is that it supplies natural probiotics to your digestive track. You can read more about that here.
So a dear friend shared with me how to grow it, care for it, drink it and most importantly, gave me some of the grains.
Here they are:
They kind of look like translucent rice grains, only they are all different sizes since they are all growing.
To keep the kefir growing you have to feed it. And what you feed it is sugar - kind of like my kids. (Just kidding!) You will also need spring water (it is important to use non-chlorinated water), unsulfured dried fruit (I chose cherries, but most of the ladies I know are using figs or raisins), and a slice of lemon or lime.
You begin by filling a glass jar with the water, then you dissolve the sugar by stirring with a wooden spoon. Don't use any metal in your kefir care; the grains don't react well to metal objects.
Then you add the kefir, a couple pieces of dried fruit and the slice of lemon or lime. I leave my lids on but I don't tighten them.
Leave alone for 24 hours; at this point I open the jars to release any pressure that might have built up. They look like this:
After another 24 hours take the juice, which has now become this beautiful color....
...and strain all the contents into a plastic strainer. Make sure to put a bowl underneath!
Remove all the fruit and rinse the kefir with room temperature spring water.
I put the strained kefir in quart jars, tightly screw on the lids, and store it in the fridge. I have heard that after a couple days in the fridge it gets even more fizzy, but it has never lasted long enough for us to see if that is true.
Now you are ready to start all over again! After a week or two of this you will notice that you are straining more kefir than before; it really does grow. And this is where the sharing part comes in: you can either keep growing the kefir until it is coming out of your ears, or share it with a friend.
How does it taste? The kefir has a naturally effervescent, slightly sweet flavor that is a cool refreshing treat. It also has a kefir taste that tastes like...well...kefir.....you'll just have to try it. It is not an unpleasant taste, just different.
Adding different kinds of dried fruit changes the flavor so it is fun to experiment. We don't drink juice much in our family, so this has been a nice addition to our drink choices; although the 2 quarts I pull off every two days has never lasted more than 18 hours. My kids love it.
1/4 cup water kefir grains
1/4 cup raw sugar
2-3 pieces of unsulfured dried fruit, or 6-8 unsulfured raisins
1 slice of lemon or lime
Day 1: Dissolve raw sugar in spring water in a glass quart jar using a wooden spoon. Add kefir, dried fruit and citrus slice. Cover, but not air-tightly. Place in a place where it will not be disturbed at room temperature.
After 24 hours: Check to make sure the lids are not sticking from pressure.
After 48 hours: Strain contents of jar through a plastic sieve. Discard fruit and rinse kefir with spring water. Store kefir water in a glass jar that is air-tight in the refrigerator.
Start all over again!
You can slow the brewing process by fermenting in the refrigerator.
After 24 hours, taste the water. If it is too sweet you can extend the brewing time by a day, if it is too sour you will need to add more sugar for the next brewing.
You can add sliced ginger, dried pineapple...anything that is unsulfured. If you do use fresh fruit you might need to change it daily to prevent it from rotting.