A famous and truthful quote from Hippocrates states, "All disease begins in the gut”. If you have a leaky gut or any other physical or physiological condition, it is most assuredly connected to your gut health. We know that more than 80% of the immune system starts in the gut and it play a vital role in nutrient absorption. Many people find themselves on a rollercoaster ride seeking answers and remedies to heal these health ailments, but still feel lost and without refuge. What happens is the nutrients are not being absorbed because the gut wall is porous. The bacteria in the digestive system become imbalanced hosting a rapidly growing arena of pathogenic bacteria and other microbes. We must focus on healing and sealing the gut wall with nutrient dense foods and rebalancing the microbiome with probiotic rich foods. Kefir is an amazing probiotic food that can aid in rebalancing the microbiome.
Making milk kefir at home may feel daunting, but it is a simple and benefit giving technique that is easier than you may realize! Kefir is a very strong and beneficial probiotic source filled with bacterial and beneficial yeast strains. You will need to gather some supplies. First, you will need to find good quality milk kefir grains. My favorite to use are these or these. You can also use a kefir starter like this one. Kefir grains have a cauliflower appearance that have a rubbery and gelatinous texture. One thing to take note of- kefir grains do NOT like metal (except for stainless steel)l. So make sure none of your supplies contain metal!
o Mason Jar
o Non-Metal spoon/spatula (silicone or wood is what I use)
o Fine Mesh Nylon Strainer (not metal)
o Glass jar or bowl
o Plastic Mason Jar Lids
o Milk Source
o Kefir Grains
Typically, when you receive you kefir grains, there is an “revival” phase needed. What is important during this stage, is you will want to use pasteurized whole milk (not ultra-pastuerized). After the revival phase is complete (typically about one week), you can then switch to using raw milk as your kefir grain’s food source. If raw milk is your only option, that is okay to use. The thing to keep in mind with raw milk during the revival period, is raw milk has naturally occurring microbes that can actually compete with your kefir grains for their food source, aka lactose in the milk.
How to Make Milk Kefir:
1. Remove your grains from package contents. Take your grains and put them in your glass mason jar.
2. Add about 1 cup of pasteurized whole milk to your mason jar.
3. Place lid on mason jar loosely.
4. Set your mason jar on the counter and allow to culture for 24 hours. Make sure your jar is not in direct sunlight and is undisturbed.
5. After 24 hours, strain the kefir grains using your strainer. Push the grains back and forth with your spatula/spoon until only the curds/grains remain in your strainer. Start this process over again starting from step 1. You do not have to clean your mason jar in between uses. Some will wait to get clean jar until it starts to smell sour on top. This revival period allows the grains to re-gain their strength and usually takes place within a week.
6. After this amount of time, you may switch to feeding your grains raw milk and continue to repeat this process. You will find a good balance and start to learn how much milk your grains need, etc.
Hint: If you find your kefir is separating, and you see curds on top and clear whey on the bottom of your jar before your 24 hours, then you likely will need to add more milk to your next ferment. If all of the milk has not cultured by the 24-hours, then you will need to use less milk during the next ferment.
Hint: Give your kefir jar a swirl with your hand or a stir at the bginning of your culture or at the end of the culture when you are ready to strain ONLY. This will also help to make the kefir thick and creamy.
Common Kefir Questions:
Can you take a pause from making more kefir?
Yes. Pour your grains into a jar with a generous amount of milk and store in the fridge. The cold temperature allows them to eat the lactose at a much slower rate. Your grains will be fine like this for up to one week. Give the jar of grains fresh milk every 1-2 weeks or when you see the milk starting to separate.
What type of Milk?
Whole milk is best. Do not use non-fat. Find milk that is minimally pasteurized and avoid ultra-pasteurized. Raw milk is a wonderful option for your grains after the revival period.
How long will my cultured kefir stay good (not spoil)?
Many say to not keep kefir milk past 2 weeks in the fridge. The longer the kefir milk sits, the stronger and more sour it will become.
Can I make Kefir with Goat’s Milk?
Absolutely. For some who are more sensitive, they can only use goat milk yogurt, kefir, etc. You can make kefir the same way, just using goat’s milk instead of cow’s milk. The consistency of the kefir tends to be thinner when made with goat’s milk.
How often and how much kefir on GAPS?
Once tolerated and die-off has subsided, 1-2 cups daily is very beneficial. The key is to work up slowly when introducing kefir. This is important as the high yeast and probiotic content in kefir is known to cause a greater amount of die-off in majority of people. Slow and steady wins the race!
What should the consistency be?
Thicker than milk, close to a drinkable yogurt, but not as thick as yogurt.
Some say kefir grains do not like cold milk. If you are concerned or have had issues with this, let your jar of milk sit to room temperature before adding your grains.
If you kefir is not thickening as it should, try allowing it to culture on your counter longer. The warmer the temperature, the quicker the ferment. In the colder months, fermentation times can take a little bit longer.
Ways to Use Kefir:
o Plain Kefir: you can drink it straight! You can also add some flavor with cinnamon, vanilla, honey, whatever your heart desires that is GAPS approved and what stage you are on.
o Smoothies: You can add or replace kefir instead of yogurt in smoothies
o Baked Goods: You can use kefir or kefir cream in different GAPS baked good recipes
o Dressings: You can make GAPS approved dressings with kefir
o GAPS Ice Cream: Yup. You can use it when making GAPS ice cream too.
o Kefir based products: kefir cream, kefir cheese, kefir sour cream, kefir butter, kefir whey, the list goes on
o Second Ferment: Some enjoy doing a second ferment with fruit. Pour your strained kefir milk (liquid without the grains) and add your fruit. Place lid on mason jar and let it ferment until the fruit has colored the milk kefir.
To paint a small picture of how powerful kefir is, Fusion Teas relayed, “University of Florida microbiology class studied this and came up with some really awesome results. They found that 1 tablespoon of kefir had 150 billion CFU. No probiotic pill on the market can even compete.”
Kefir has many health giving benefits and is overflowing with beneficial probiotic bacteria and yeasts that can specifically target pathogenic yeast strains. It can specifically target streptococcus strains and other pathogenic strains which cause eczema. Kefir is an incredible product that can be beneficial to add to your GAPS protocol when you are ready!