Fermented Milk Products from All Over the World • Kefir (Romania)
Kefir is a fermented milk product that originates from the Caucasus area and reached Romania where it became very popular. It is known to be a very healthy drink based on milk, due to the generous amount of good bacteria that are introduced into the body, which promote a good digestion and strong immune system. Milk is turned into kefir with the help of special kefir granules. The granules have a whitish color and a jelly-like structure, being actually a symbiosis between bacteria and yeasts, which live in a mixture of sugars, proteins, and lipids. They are an extremely complex community of microorganisms that contain a variety of fungus and bacteria alike.
Traditionally, kefir was made in leather pouches that were hanged on the door, so that each time someone used the door the content got well shaken. The milk was also left to ferment overnight and the result was a slightly fizzy drink, with a sour taste, and a slight content of alcohol, due to the fermentation of lactose. Back in the days, kefir had a content of alcohol that was situated between 1 and 2%, but these days, modern kefir has less than 1% alcohol, probably due to a shorter fermentation period.
If you want to make kefir, you will need kefir grains. But, unfortunately, you cannot produce these grains out of anything. They grow and develop during the fermentation process, so you can only buy them or get them from someone that grows kefir. These grains look like small cauliflower pieces and, what you need to remember, is that they are communities of live beings. Thus, you should only use glass or ceramic recipients when making kefir, and no metal. Even the utensils you use during the making process should not be made out of metal. If you have the kefir grains, you will need 2 tablespoons of grains to 500 ml of fresh milk. Add these to a glass or ceramic container. The milk can be raw, so you don’t have to boil it. Cover the container with something, but don’t close it. Allow the milk to ferment between 8 to 48 hours, depending on the surrounding temperature and desired taste. If it is warm enough, the optimum temperature being of 20 degrees Celsius, your kefir will be ready after only 8 hours. If you allow it to ferment for longer, it will get more sour and acidic. But, before consuming your kefir, you will have to strain it first, by using a plastic strainer. What will remain in the strainer is actually the kefir fungus. If you wash it with plain or boiled water you can grow and reuse it. You can do so by placing it in a bowl again and pouring fresh milk on it once more, doing so for 2 or 3 days, until it doubles its volume. Then you can split it and give the kefir fungus to someone else as well.
But, it is also worth knowing that you can culture milk with kefir you can find on the market, especially if you are buying good quality kefir. So, it is worth trying this method as well if you don’t have kefir grains.