Monday, September 5, 2011 Post By: Grayne Wetzky

What is kefir?

Kefir has been around for a long time. It is one of the first known forms of fermented milk and has been enjoyed for thousands of years. However, it is a relative newcomer to the West.  The legendary health benefits are slowly getting kefir the recognition it deserves, but what exactly is kefir?

Kefir is a fermented milk drink that originated in the North Caucasus area. Shepherds in the area discovered that milk stored in leather bags would ferment into a tart and tasty beverage.

The fermenting process is caused by bacteria and yeast. They combine in a matrix that looks like white grains or small cauliflower bouquets. Kefir is made by letting the kefir 'grains' sit in milk at room temperature, usually over night. The bacteria ferment the lactose in the milk. The result is a sour and slightly carbonated milk drink.

Kefir is similar to yogurt in flavor but is typically thinner. It can typically be drunk from a glass even though it is thicker and creamier than regular milk. As the kefir grains ferments the milk they multiply. This means that people who make their own kefir will end up with more and more kefir seeds. The seeds can be stored in the fridge for weeks, but over time most people end up with more kefir seeds than they can use. It is common in the kefir community to share excess seeds with other kefir enthusiasts.

In East Europe and Scandinavia kefir has a reputation of being very health bringing. The people of the Caucasus region are said to have remarkable longevity, often attributed to their elevated kefir consumption. These claims are myths, but modern research is uncovering an impressive array of health benefits from drinking kefir.

Many people balk at the idea of drinking fermented milk. For someone who has lived their whole life thinking soured milk is always bad for you it takes a great deal of courage to purposely ferment your own milk. Those who overcome the cultural resistance to sour milk gains access to one of the worlds true super-foods.

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