Fun with Fermentation - Home-Brewed Kefir and Kvass
|L to R: Just-mixed peach/apple/cinnamon kvass; fermenting kefir; a glass of mixed berry kvass|
Kefir and WHAT, I can hear you saying? I had vaguely heard of beet kvass from the crunchy-mama circles I run in, and the classic kvass is actually from fermented rye bread, originating in Russia and Eastern Europe. But I never actually knew there was a fruit version (which sounds so much more appealing, at least to me) OR that it could be so simple to brew at home!
The basics of fruit kvass are fruit (fresh, frozen or dried), raw honey, filtered water, and whey (which is apparently optional, but I always use it).
Process and equipment: You can brew your own in as little as 48 hours just by mixing that stuff together in a glass jar with a lid and leaving it on the kitchen counter! Yes, it really is that easy. But, if you're like me, you need a little more info. Please find a great explanation of the hows and whys of fruit kvass from the lovely Rebecca Wood here. Your kvass is done when it is fizzy, sweet to the taste, and the fruit inside looks cooked. You strain out the fruit and drink the kvass!
So far, I tried to do a mixed berry one with fresh ginger from frozen Costco fruits (meh) and now there's an apple peach cinnamon (made from fresh organic fruit) on fermenting on my counter that seems quite promising! It's a light-tasting fruit drink with minimal alcohol (so minimal, it is still suitable for kiddos and preggos) and a fizzy finish.
Then there's the KEFIR, which you have probably come across if you've ever been the dairy section at Whole Foods or similar. It's basically akin to a drinkable yogurt, but it more accurately is a fermented milk drink. My husband was a little leery of me leaving any kind of milk product out on the counter and then drinking it a couple days later, but I was up for the adventure because I really love commercial kefir and thought I could make it better and cheaper at home!
The basics of kefir: It will cost you between $3 and $4 to buy a quart of commercially prepared kefir at Whole Foods. When you make it at home, it costs you whatever a quart of organic milk costs, plus the cost of any starter and add-ins you make, which is significantly less! I use Yogourmet freeze-dried kefir starter because I don't have a source for kefir "grains", which are traditionally used. The freeze-dried packets come in a box of six and each packet makes one quart. The box will usually cost anywhere from $5-$7 or more depending on where you buy it. I got mine from Whole Foods, but I saw it even for sale on Walmart.com, of all places!
Process and equipment: The basics of kefir-making at home include heating a quart of milk to about 180 degrees, then letting it cool to somewhere between 73-77 degrees Fahrenheit. You can help it along by putting it on ice or in the refrigerator. (I use mason jars to make mine in.) Once cooled, you mix the kefir starter to a bit of the milk before adding it all back together and mixing well. Then, you set it on the counter in a cool, dry place! The top of the jar needs to be covered somehow so that air can still get in, but not bugs or other particulates. I have found it easy to put a coffee filter over the top and secure it with a rubber band. I've heard you can do cheesecloth or a tea towel or something of the sort. Leave it out for about 24 hours, then stop the fermentation by putting it in the refrigerator for 8 hours. It is then ready to strain or stir and enjoy!
It is summer here in Northern California, so I've found that it doesn't actually take a full 24 hours before mine is completely solid. Therefore, I've been giving it as little as 12-14 hours before sticking it in the fridge. I have so far tried mango, blueberry, chocolate, and peach/banana flavorings using my kefir and our Vitamix! The chocolate was my least favorite (oddly) and the peach banana that I made today has by far been the BEST! I'm eager to try a chai and a vanilla flavor. I'm also wondering if there's a coffee recipe out there so I can mix two of my favorite breakfast drinks together into one awesome power drink! (Maybe I'm dreaming on that one...)
I've found the book Delicious Probiotic Drinks by Julia Mueller to be fun for recipes for the kefir, and also for ideas for other fermented drinks to make at home!
If you decide to try or have tried either of these fun drinks yourself, please leave me a note about how it went!