What is Kefir? – The Real Food Dietitians
Aug 27, 2019By Jessica Beacom
What is Kefir? We’re glad you asked because it’s an ancient food with modern health benefits that we think you’ll love.
This post was brought to you by our friends at Kalona Supernatural.
Milk Kefir: An old-world food with modern day health benefits
Maybe you’ve spied those bottles of milk kefir on the shelves next to the yogurt or maybe you’ve heard someone talk about kefir but you didn’t have the time to pick the bottle from the shelf or ask questions to find out what this mysterious (and often unheard) of beverage is. That’s okay because that’s what we’re here for today – to answer the question: What is kefir?
Kefir is a probiotic beverage that results when you add kefir ‘grains’ (or powdered kefir culture) to milk. Kefir ‘grains’ contain no grain at all, but they resemble small bits of rice which is why they’re referred to as ‘grains’. These grains contain a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast that thrive on the lactose in in milk in the process of lactofermenation. Kefir can also be made with water or coconut water but you may have already guessed that we’re talking about the milk version here today. This process leaves behind a plesantly tart-sour and slightly effervescent beverage that’s rich in gut-friendly bacteria and much lower in lactose than fresh milk.
You can learn more about lactofermentation (and why it’s beneficial) here.
Kefir has been around for thousands of years and there are many stories about its origins in the Caucaus Mountains where people routinely lived to be 100 years old. It’s most likely that once discovered, it went from novelty to necessity as lactofermentation is a great way to extend the shelf life of fresh foods like dairy, meats, fruits and vegetables. Like many of the traditional foods that have enjoyed a recent revival (think bone broth, sauerkraut, kombucha, and more) milk kefir, like other naturally fermented foods, is a great way to boost the nutrition in everyday meals or just enjoy by the glass.
Kalona Supernatural Whole Milk Kefir is available in both plain and vanilla.
Isn’t kefir just ‘drinkable yogurt’?
Though you may see kefir labled ‘drinkable yogurt’ it’s not actually yogurt. Though it’s fermented like yogurt and has a similar tangy taste, the big differnce between yogurt and kefir is the culture used to make it.
While yogurt is typically cultured with 2-3 strains of bacteria, the culture (or ‘kefir grains’) used to make kefir contain upwards of 15-30 different strains of bacteria plus yeasts making it a more diverse with respect to the types of bacteria present in the final product which is really good news for your gut!
Pasture-grazed makes it better
As you already know, we beleive that the best products start with the best ingredients and milk kefir is no exception to that. Made with pasture-grazed, unhomogenized milk in the small town of Kalona, Iowa, Kalona Supernatural 100% grass-fed Whole Milk Kefir is as about as natural as you can get (outside of owning your own cow).
Kalona Supernatural was founded in 2005 in rural Iowa to help local Amish and Mennonite family armers bring their organic dairy to market and ulitimately to your kitchen table. The average herd size of these family farms is just 35 cows and most of the work is still done by hand and most of the farms have been in the farmers’ families for over 150 years and have never been touched by chemicals fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides.
The cows in Kalonas network of midwest farms spend their days grazing pasture and enjoying the many varieties of grass that come and go with the seasons and you can taste that delicate, floral note in their milk. Kalona Supernatural believes in keeping dairy simple and natural so they use low-temperature pasteurization to destroy harmful pathogenic bacteria while leaving the beneficial bacteria and enzymes in the milk making it the perfect starting point for their naturally-cultured, 100% grass-fed whole milk kefir. They also skip the process of homogenization so you’ll see a layer of cream on every product, just stir or shake it in and enjoy the unreal creaminess that only comes with cream on top.
Easy to use & Easy to enjoy
Drink it from a cup – Often referred to as ‘drinkable yogurt’, kefir is convenient and easy to enjoy (no spoon needed!). Blend it with your favorite fruit if you want a sweet, fruity flavor without all of the added sugar.
Blend into your favorite smoothie in place of yogurt – Kefir is the perfect base for smoothies with it tart-tangy taste and any leftover smoothie can be made into freezer pops with molds like these.
Use in place of water, milk or buttermilk in pancakes, waffles and muffin recipes – Much like buttermilk, kefir makes baked goods extra fluffy thanks to the reaction between baking powder and the slightly acidic kefir.
Add to overnight oats for an easy, on-the-go breakfast – Give your oats a probiotic boost by mixing them with vanilla or plain kefir before stirring in your favorite fruit, spices or sweetener.
Use to tenderize meats before breading – Giving chicken a quick soak in plain kefir before breading and pan-frying or baking makes it extra juicy – much like your great-grandma’s secret recipe for fried chicken used cultured buttermilk.
Use it to make creamy dressings or in salads that call for yogurt, sour cream or mayo – Plain kefir is the perfect way to lighten up creamy salads or add a probiotic punch to to salad dressings.
Make a delicious spread or dip – Just strain the kefir overnight through a coffee filter or cheese cloth (in the fridge) to remove the whey and leave behind a thick, creamy spread to which you can add your favorite herbs or seasonings.
Have you tried kefir? If so, what you are your favorite ways to use or enjoy it? Share in the comments below.
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This post was made possible by our friends at Kalona Supernatural. Although we received compensation for this post, the opinions expressed here are – as always – 100% our own. Thank you for supporting the great companies we work with thereby allowing us to continue creating great recipes and content for you.
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About Jessica Beacom
Jessica is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist living in Boulder, CO with her hubby and two daughters. She’s been described as a ‘real food evangelist’ and loves sharing her knowledge with others to help them break free of the diet mentality and find their own food freedom. In her spare time she enjoys CrossFit, telemark skiing, mountain biking, teaching herself how to play the banjo and camping out under the stars.