KEFIR is a light, refreshing and nutritional drink. It is a fermented milk beverage prepared by inoculating milk with kefir grains popular in Nothern and Eastern Europe. Initially KEFIR was accidentally discovered when shepherds used to carry milk in skin bags and the milk used to ferment by itself and resulted into a carbonated drink. The introduction of kefir grains in the milk changes its chemical structure and leads to fermentation introducing a sour or tangy flavour to the beverage. The fermentation process yields two by products viz. CO2 and ethanol (alcohol), thus making it carbonated and a bit alcohol.
Most of the lactose (sugar) is converted into lactic acid due to fermentation and the fact that they improve lactose digestion like yogurt makes it sound good for diabetic patients but on the whole the considerable amount of lactose left unfermented makes it unsuitable for lactose intolerant subjects. It has got polysaccharide named kefiran which gives it a rich texture and distinct taste.
Kefir is a light and healthy drink – Healthy because it is made from milk and light because the fat and lactose are present in the lowest quantity. Its making requires a starter lot which is used to make it (like curd requires curd). The starter can be got from natural food stores. The grains grow and multiply during fermentation and are sieved after each preparation for further use as a starter next time for preparation. The milk is added with grains (5 percent) in a container** not completely filled allowing it to expand and is kept at a dark and cool place (4-40 0C ; exceeding the temp limit would kill the culture). Initially the container is shaken to provide agitation. The fermented liquid after sieving can be consumed directly or by adding flavours or it can be again put for further fermentation to make it even tangier.
The liquid used in the making can be cow milk, sheep milk, goat milk, camel milk or milk substitutes like almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk or other liquids like fruit juice, beer, coconut water all of which get easily fermented and leads to the tasty and healthy kefir.
The nutritional value:
The nutritional content of kefir is different depending on the time it is kept and allowed to ferment. This cultured beverage improves lactose digestion and fights intestinal infection. The bacteria in the intestine leave enzymes which help in digesting lactose. It is rich in vitamins viz. vitamin A, vitaminB1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. It has a good content of iron, calcium, iodine and is a light drink.
Yogurt is almost similar to kefir. The only difference being the type of bacteria used for fermentation. It can be consumed plain or sweetened or can be used in making smoothies and baked goods. Homemade kefir is better because of fewer strains of bacteria and yeast in the market version. Try it today because it is healthy, tasty and easy to make.
* The alcohol content is less than 1 percent with the use of modern methods and lesser fermentation time.
**Use sterile containers to allow only good bacteria to grow.