Friday, July 22, 2011

Kefir Water Update and...Margaritas!

I started brewing my own kefir water a couple of weeks ago.   I have written about it in a couple of posts, here and here Fast forward to the present, and I have to say that brewing and drinking kefir water has become a normal part of my life – barely remarked upon even by my husband, who thought I was completely nuts when I started.  Here are some thoughts on the subject of brewing and drinking kefir.


1.      Sugar content: if you have diabetes, or are trying to stay low-carb, drinking kefir water can be tricky.  Most recipes you find for brewing kefir water recommend that you use anywhere between 1/3 and ½ cup of some form of sugar to 1 scant quart of water when you start the batch.  Of course, the final product has less sugar than this, because your little kefir grains happily munch away on the sugar (this is their food, it keeps them alive).  However, I found that this ratio of sugar to water produces a very sweet batch of kefir water, after a standard 48 hour, room temp ferment.  This led me to believe that, if there was so much sugar left over after a full ferment, my kefir grains must not need as much as I was providing to them.  So, I heavily diluted my first batch with water, and added some lemon for a delicious, barely sweetened lemonade.  I decided to brew subsequent batches with less sugar product – about ¼ cup of sugar to 1 scant quart of water.  It has worked out pretty well – the resulting kefir water is still sweet, but not unpalatably so. 


2.      Making the brew: (a) I've experimented with using thai coconut palm sugar paste, brown sugar, and unrefined cane sugar.  All of these sugars work well.  I prefer the coconut palm sugar paste, because it is the least refined.  (b) I have also used bottled spring water, instead of water from the tap.  I have City water, and it is very good.  In fact, the water in my neighborhood comes from a large City well located less than a mile from my house.  I am not sure what additives are put into the water before it gets to my house, however.  I don't think that it is chlorinated, but finding out for sure would require me calling the water department, and that would be a pain in the butt.  And, a gallon of spring water is pretty cheap, and easy enough to pick up at the grocery store.  (c) I have added a few things to my brew, including slices of banana, a handful of dried cranberries, and once, a boiled eggshell.  Why?  Well, I read online at some reputable websites that the kefir grains do well with the nutrients that come from the fruit, and that they also benefit from the minerals in the egg.  I threw the egg shell in because I noticed, after the second batch or so, that the structure of my grains seemed to be degrading a bit.  I also used an eggshell in the subsequent batch, and it fixed that issue right up.  Regarding the eggshell: make sure you boil it.  I had rinsed it, and was about to throw it in the brew, but then had second thoughts.  I had read on one blog that a woman's kefir smelled sulfurous after she threw in a "rinsed" eggshell.  I decided to boil the eggshell, because I didn't want to introduce any foreign bacteria to the brew.  Good thing I boiled mine briefly.  You wouldn't believe how much egg white had been left behind, even after rinsing.  By boiling it, the white grew in size and became opaque, and I was able to remove it completely.   The resulting brew did not taste or smell eggy, at all.  Also, I'm pretty sure that the kefir grains actually did take some minerals from the egg shell, because the short soak in the brew caused the egg shell to be less rigid.  The banana slice did not alter the flavor of the brew.  Neither did the dried cranberries, although they colored it a light pink.


3.      Serving your kefir water:  I usually ferment my kefir water just once, then stick the strained batch in a mason jar with standard lid, and stash it in the fridge.  I usually consume the quart or so of kefir water by the time the next batch is ready.  Here are some serving options: (a) my favorite is kefir limeade – mix one cup of kefir water with lime juice to taste and serve over ice.  I have used powdered lime called "True Lime" in a pinch.  It is delicious, incorporates easily,  and tastes just like you've added fresh lime juice (without all of the squeezing).  It tastes just like the amazing, fresh lime drink I enjoyed frequently when I was studying abroad in Thailand.  Add some seltzer water to taste, and you have a very refreshing beverage in the hot summer heat.  (b) pomegranate kefir lemonade – mix one cup of kefir water with ¼ cup pomegranate juice, and ½ cup of lemonade and serve over ice.  Delicious for those of you who don't bother with low carb.  I made this for my husband, who decided to add just a touch of rum.  He said it was delicious.  I had the tiniest sip, and it was just way to sweet for me.  (c) I've done the second ferment (minus the grains, plus a small amount of pomegranate juice), and I wasn't crazy about it.  The resulting product was just too sweet.  Also, if you leave the mix on the counter with a sealed lid, it may just blow up on you.  I left my brew out for a second ferment in a mason jar with a tight-ish lid overnight.  The next day, I was amazed at the pressure in the jar when I opened it to check on the brew.  Had I left it until the afternoon to check, it may well have blown up on me.  My thoughts: leave it on the counter for about 12 hours, then stick it right in the fridge and let it finish in there for another day or so.  Finally, (d) is something I thought of immediately – making ridiculously delicious margaritas out of your kefir limeade.  Here's a recipe I'm going to try out this weekend and feed to guests who can drink alcohol (unlike your pregnant friend, here).

Kefir Lime Margaritas

6 ounces white tequila
2 ounces triple sec or Cointreau
8 ounces kefir water
Juice of 1 lime, or 4-6 packets "True Lime"

Mix all ingredients in a 1 quart mason jar.  Screw on lid, and shake until well combined.  Open jar, add several ice cubes, and stir until ice cold (okay to shake if you don't mind a cloudy margarita).  Strain into margarita glasses (with salted rims, if you like that).  Should make about 4 margaritas.  Note: I'm not sure whether prolonged exposure to alcohol will kill the cultures in your kefir water, but I don't think so.  Alcohol is one byproduct of kefiring.  Just in case, be sure to mix up the batch right before serving.


4.      The effects of kefir water: Do I feel like Super Woman?  Well, no.  In fact, I feel just like a tired pregnant woman in her first trimester usually does.  I am low-ish on energy, and feel fatigued on a pretty regular basis.  I think that maybe I feel a little less fatigued than I did with my last pregnancy.  However, I don't think that it can reasonably be attributed to my adding kefir to my diet.  I am a lot healthier now than I was the last time I was pregnant (I weight a lot less, I am more fit, and I eat much better).  One thing I can attest to: kefir helps keep you regular.  It moves things along.  That is an added benefit during pregnancy, which can muck up the works a bit.  I can definitely tell you this: I don't feel worse for drinking kefir. 


Alright.  I think that is sufficiently wrapped up.  Until the next time…


Hey, what do you think about kefir?  Is it crazy?  Do you kefir?  Interested in trying?  Any recipes?  Let me know!!

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