Kefir dates back many centuries to the shepherds of the Caucasus mountains. They discovered that fresh milk carried in leather pouches would occasionally ferment into an effervescent beverage.
In the Caucasian Mountains, legend has it that the resulting kefir "grains (not really a true grain) were a gift to Orthodox people from Mohammed, who instructed them on how to use the grains. Mohammed strictly forbade them from giving away the secret of kefir preparation to other people, or pass anyone kefir grains, because they would lose their "magic strength." The legend explains why kefir grains and the method for kefir preparation have been surrounded by mystery for so long.
For most of recorded history, kefir was scarcely known outside the Caucasian Mountains, although Marco Polo mentioned it in recounting his travels.
This self-carbonated dairy-based beverage continues to be popular in Russia, southwestern Asia and Eastern and Northern Europe, and has recently gained some popularity in the United States.
Basically, kefir is made by fermentation of the "kefir" grains, which resembles miniature cauliflowers that are the size of wheat kernels. These grains consist of casein and gelatinous colonies of microorganisms that are grown together symbiotically. The dominant microflora are Saccharomyces kefir, Torula kefir, Lactobacillus caucasicus, Leuconnostoc species and lactic streptococci. In addition, some yeast is present.These many beneficial microorganisms are what separates kefir from virtually all other cultured milk products, which typically use only one, and rarely more than three species in the culturing process. These microorganisms produce a variety of changes in the milk.
Kefir's Health Benefits
The cultures' chemical changes make the milk much easier to digest, allowing the body to absorb more of the naturally present nutrients. The transformation of lactose to lactic acid allows people, even t hose with lactose intolerance, to digest kefir and get its full benefits.Kefir is high in calcium, amino acids, B-vitamins and folic acid. Kefir can play a vital role in the development of a healthy digestive tract in babies, as it protects against negative effects of radiation and helps improve the immune system. Kefir's friendly cultures also produce specific antibiotic substances which can control undesirable microorganisms and act as anti-carcinogenic factors. Kefir also helps to enhance bowel function and control candida - a condition where there is an excessive growth of yeast cells. In reference to Candida, Dr. Orla-Jenson, a noted Danish bacteriologist specializing in dairy research states that "Kefir digests yeast cells and has a beneficial effect on the intestinal flora".
An international Nobel prize winning researcher, Elie Metchnikoff (1908) found that kefir activates the flow of saliva, most likely due to its lactic acid content and its slight amount of carbonation. Kefir stimulates peristalsis and digestive juices in the intestinal tract. For these reasons it is recommended as a postoperative food since most abdominal operations cause the bowels to stop contracting and pushing food along (peristalsis).
Kefir's unique properties include its use as a remedy for digestive troubles because of its very low curd tension, meaning that the curd breaks up very easily into extremely small particles. The curd of yogurt, on the other hand, holds together or breaks up into lumps. The small size of the kefir curd facilitates digestion by presenting a large surface for digestion agents to work on. In addition, kefir possesses mild laxative properties. It is also recommended to restore the intestinal flora of people who are recovering from a serious illness or being treated with antibiotics.
Kefir is predigested due to the fermentation process rendering itself tolerable to those persons who can not tolerate dairy products.
The story of kefir is littered with distinction: a 2,000 year history, a mention by Marco Polo, and, in the 1980s, a symbolic gift exchanged between superpowers at the end of the cold war.
Kefir is a fermented milk product containing live probiotic organisms and rich in nutrients required by the body: proteins, minerals and vitamins. It is produced by adding a fermented grain culture to milk.
Produced in ancient times by nomadic shepherds in the Balkans, kefir was little known in the West for 1,900 years, despite being mentioned by Marco Polo. Then, by order of the Russian Czar, it was brought to Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century and became popular in many parts of Europe.
Kefir is a cultured, creamy product with amazing health attributes. Its tart and refreshing flavor is similar to a drinking-style yogurt, but it contains beneficial yeast as well as friendly 'probiotic' bacteria found in yogurt. The naturally occurring bacteria and yeast in kefir combine symbiotically to give superior health benefits when consumed regularly. It is loaded with valuable vitamins and minerals, it contains easily digestible complete proteins, and it boasts natural antibiotic properties - a natural antibiotic made with milk!
For the lactose intolerant, kefir's abundance of beneficial yeast and bacteria provide lactase, an enzyme which consumes most of the lactose left after the culturing process.
Kefir can be made from any type of milk, cow, goat or sheep, coconut, rice or soy. Although it is slightly mucous forming, the mucous has a "clean" quality to it that creates ideal conditions in the digestive tract for the colonization of friendly bacteria.
Kefir is made from gelatinous white or yellow particles called "grains." This makes kefir unique, as no other milk culture forms grains. These grains contain the bacteria/yeast mixture clumped together with casein (milk proteins) and complex sugars. They look like pieces of coral or small clumps of cauliflower and range from the size of a grain of wheat to that of a hazelnut. Some of the grains have been known to grow in large flat sheets that can be big enough to cover your hand!. The grains ferment the milk, incorporating their friendly organisms to create the cultured product. The grains are then removed with a strainer before consumption of the kefir and added to a new batch of milk.
In addition to beneficial bacteria and yeast, kefir contains minerals and essential amino acids that help the body with healing and maintenance functions. The complete proteins in kefir are partially digested and therefore more easily utilized by the body. Tryptophan, one of the essential amino acids abundant in kefir, is well known for its relaxing effect on the nervous system. Because kefir also offers an abundance of calcium and magnesium, which are also important minerals for a healthy nervous system, kefir in the diet can have a particularly profound calming effect on the nerves. Kefir's ample supply of phosphorus, the second most abundant mineral in our bodies, helps utilize carbohydrates, fats, and proteins for cell growth, maintenance and energy.
Kefir is rich in Vitamin B12, B1, and
Vitamin K. It is an excellent source of biotin, a B Vitamin which aids the
body's assimilation of other B Vitamins, such as folic acid, pantothenic acid,
and B12. The numerous benefits of maintaining adequate B vitamin intake range
from regulation of the kidneys, liver and nervous system to helping relieve
skin disorders, boost energy and promote longevity.
The benefits of consuming kefir regularly in the diet are numerous. Easily digested, it cleanses the intestines, provides beneficial bacteria and yeast, vitamins and minerals, and complete proteins. Because kefir is such a balanced and nourishing food, it contributes to a healthy immune system and has been used to help patients suffering from AIDS , chronic fatigue syndrome, herpes, and cancer. Its tranquilizing effect on the nervous system has benefited many who suffer from sleep disorders, depression, and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
The regular use of kefir can help relieve all intestinal disorders, promote bowel movement, reduce flatulence and create a healthier digestive system. In addition, its cleansing effect on the whole body helps to establish a balanced inner ecosystem for optimum health and longevity.
Kefir can also help eliminate unhealthy food cravings by making the body more nourished and balanced. Its excellent nutritional content offers healing and health-maintenance benefits to people in every type of condition.
Two delicious kefir recipes
Make kefir with the freshest milk possible and add as many of the following ingredients as desired:
· 1 tsp. of unrefined flax seed oil
· Lecithin, which aids fat digestion, to taste
· Fiber, such as Nutri-Flax
· Probiotics (friendly bacteria)
· Natural flavorings or herbs such as stevia, nutmeg, cinnamon, non-alcoholic vanilla or natural fruit flavoring
· Fresh or frozen organic fruits, strawberries, raspberries, bananas, kiwi, mango etc.
Cool Kefir Dressing (No Oil)
1. Combine all ingredients
(except xanthan gum) and blend thoroughly.
2. Slowly add xanthan gum and continue to blend until mixture thickens.
3. Full flavor will develop after 6 to 8 hours.
Note: Dairy products combine best with nonstarchy vegetables and acid fruits. Don't hesitate to add a little Flax Seed Oil to this recipe.
The easiest way
to have fresh kefir available any time is to make it yourself! Among the
benefits of homemade kefir: you can choose the milk you use -- organic,
nonfat, low fat, whole, goat's or cow's milk; it's very rich in microorganisms,
and, of course, it can't get any fresher.
These are divided into four Genus groups:
Lc. lactis ssp. lactis
Encyclopaedia of Food
Research shows that units count of microbes in kefir grains that were Gram stained were: Bacilli (single cells, pair, chains), Streptococci (pair, chains) and Yeast (single cells). The means and ranges were : Bacilli 66, 62- 69% ; Streptococci 16, 11-12% ; Yeasts 18, 16 -20%.
Note: I have no knowledge of C. albicans has ever been isolated from kefir grains, in fact, with the help and use of daily intakes of kefir, I have helped to eliminate in myself C. albicans infection (over growth).
These two wonderful articles were written by
Cathy J. Saloff-Coste
from Danone at their website www.danone.com
Kefir is a refreshing fermented milk with a slightly acidic taste. It is made only from kefir grains or mother cultures prepared from grains, although attempts to produce kefir with pure cultures are in progress.
Kefir grains are
a complex and specific mixture of bacteria and yeasts held together by a
polysaccharide matrix. The lactic acid bacteria and yeast fermentation of milk
results in the production of numerous components, including lactic acid, CO2, a
small amount of alcohol, and an array of aromatic molecules, all of which
provide kefir with its unique organoleptic properties. Many health benefits
related to the consumption of kefir have been observed, but rigorous research
using modern scientific methods is in its early stages.
Kefir is a fermented drink which has been consumed for thousands of years. It originated in the Caucasus mountains in the former Soviet Union where the drink was fermented naturally in bags made of animal hides. Its use is currently being expanded because of its unique organoleptic properties and its long tradition of health benefits.
Kefir distinguishes itself from the more known fermented milk yogurt in that it is traditionally made only from kefir grains which contain a complex mixture of both bacteria and yeasts. The resulting kefir possesses unique organoleptic characteristics. Research on its health benefits is just beginning, and there remain many questions unanswered.
of kefir exist: sugary, a fermented sweetened water; and milky, a fermented
milk beverage. This article addresses the milky variety, whose norm has been
established by the International Dairy Federation (2) , and it will provide an
overview of its characteristics and a discussion of its potential health
Characteristics and consumption of kefir
Kefir is a refreshing slightly carbonated and acidic fermented milk (3) . It can be consumed as is, or can be used in cooking (in soups, sauces, and cakes). The distinctive organoleptic properties differ from yogurt in that small amounts of CO2, alcohol, and aromatic molecules are produced as a result of a dual fermentation of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts.
Although kefir is
just being discovered in some areas of the world, it has been very popular in
the former Soviet Union, Hungary, and Poland for many years. In the former
Soviet Union, kefir accounts for 70% of the total amount of fermented milk
consumed (4). It is also well known in Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Germany (5)
, as well as in Greece, Austria, Brazil, and Israel (6). It is currently
available in the United States, primarily as an ethnic drink, and is growing in
popularity in Japan.
While yogurt can readily be made from the lactic acid bacteria present in fresh yogurt, kefir can only be made from kefir grains and mother cultures prepared from grains. The grains contain a relatively stable and specific balance of microorganisms which exist in a complex symbiotic relationship. The grains are formed in the process of making kefir and only from pre-existing grains. They resemble small cauliflower florets, and each grain is 3 to 20 mm in diameter (7). Kefir grains are clusters of microorganisms held together by a matrix of polysaccharides. The grains include primarily lactic acid bacteria (lactobacilli, lactococci, leuconostocs) and yeasts, and include acetic acid bacteria and possibly other microorganisms (8).
organization of microorganisms of grains is not completely elucidated. More
than a thousand years of consumption have demonstrated that the microorganisms
in kefir are not pathogenic. Even further, milk inoculated with grains can
suppress the growth of some pathogens such as Salmonella or Shigella (1) . The
grain matrix is composed of a complex of 13% protein (by dry weight), 24%
polysaccharide, plus cellular debris and unknown components (6) . The principal
polysaccharide is a water-soluble substance known as kefiran. Several
homofermentative Lactobacillus species including L. kefiranofaciens and L.
kefir (9-11) produce this polysaccharide. They are an integral part of the
grain, and without their presence, kefir grains cannot be propagated. The
mechanism, however, is not fully understood.
Fabrication of kefir
There exist several methods of producing kefir (see Figure 1). Food scientists are currently studying modern techniques to produce a kefir with the same characteristics as those found in traditional kefir, but without some of its drawbacks.
1. Traditional process
The traditional, or artisanal, method of making kefir is currently achieved by directly adding kefir grains (2-10%) to milk that has been pasteurized and cooled to 20-25¡C. After a period of fermentation lasting around 24 hours, the grains are removed by filtration. The beverage, itself containing live microflora from the grain (see Table 1), is then ready for consumption. The grains grow in the process of kefir production, and are reused for subsequent fermentations (6). ?Grains can then be dried at room temperature and kept at cold temperature (4¡C). For a longer conservation, they can be lyophilized (freeze-dried) or frozen (14) .
A second method, known as the"Russian method", permits production of kefir on a larger scale, and uses a series of two fermentations. The first step is to prepare the cultures by incubating milk with grains (2-3%), as just described. The grains are then removed by filtration and the resulting mother culture is added to milk (1-3%) which is fermented for 12 to 18 hours (6). Several problems associated with traditional kefir have led to a more modern method of production. The traditional method produces only small volumes of kefir, and requires several steps, each additional step increasing the risk of contamination.
In addition, the grains themselves are not well understood, and are not well controlled. Strong pressure from the CO2 gas content can lead to the explosion of the recipient unless appropriate containers which resist the escaping of gas are used (14). Finally, the shelf-life of traditional kefir is very short, less than three days.
2. Recent process
To resolve the above difficulties, some producers in Eastern Europe have begun using concentrated lyophilized cultures made from grains (7). These mother cultures are then used as bulk starters for direct inoculation of the milk. More control over the process and fewer steps provide a more consistent quality.
3. Current areas of research
Attention is now being turned toward producing kefir from pure, defined cultures (15-17). This method will allow for a better control of the microorganisms involved, an ease of production, and a more consistent quality. The product will also have a longer shelf-life (14) of 10 to 15 days at 4¡C. It will also permit various modifications of the product to achieve certain health or nutritional benefits.
procedures for manufacturing kefir have been developed using pure cultures
isolated from kefir grains. Milk can be inoculated simultaneously with lactic
acid bacteria and yeast, or it can undergo two fermentations, the first with
lactic acid bacteria and the second with yeast. Results have been encouraging,
but finding the right equilibrium of bacterial and yeast strains to create a
product with the characteristic properties of traditional kefir including both
the organoleptic qualities and the health benefits - is a difficult task. The
major difficulty is understanding the microbiology of kefir.
The microbiological, chemical, and nutritional
composition of kefir
The composition and flavor of kefir vary significantly, depending on a variety of factors including the source (cow, ewe, goat, mare) (18) and the fat content (regular fat, lowfat, nonfat) of the milk used, the composition of the grains or starters, and the technological conditions of production(14).
Table 2 lists some of the biochemical components of the range of kefir. The major products formed during fermentation are lactic acid, CO2, and alcohol. Many aromatic compounds, including diacetyl and acetaldehyde are present in kefir (14) .
produced by Str. lactis subsp. diacetylactis and Leuconostoc sp. (7). The pH of
kefir is 4.2 to 4.6 (19). As in yogurt, the lactose content is reduced in kefir
(14), and the b-galactosidase level is increased as a result of fermentation.
Information on vitamin and mineral content is limited and sometimes
contradictory, but overall, there do not seem to be significant variations from
that of the milk used. There is also a small increase in proteolysis, leading
to an increase in free amino acids (2).
Health properties of kefir
Kefir enjoys a rich tradition of health claims. In the former Soviet Union, it is used in hospitals and sanatoria for a variety of conditions, including metabolic disorders, atherosclerosis, and allergic disease (1). It has even been used for the treatment of tuberculosis, cancer, and gastrointestinal disorders when no modern medical treatment was available. Its consumption has also been associated with longevity in Caucasus (20) . Various scientists have observed digestive benefits of kefir (21, 22) , but controlled studies have yet to confirm their empirical findings.
Various research teams around the world have reported encouraging results, but several methodological difficulties still need to be resolved. Most studies to date have been performed in vitro or using animal models, and human studies are not available. Further, the effects of kefir grains or their isolates are often studied, rather than the product kefir, and there is no evidence that the observed effects would occur using the drink itself. Also, kefir products vary significantly according to the composition of the grains used and even according to the region in which it is made, and therefore specific effects may not be demonstrated in all kefirs. Given these caveat, a variety of health benefits are being investigated. Table 3 presents recent studies using kefir products.
Several studies have investigated the antitumor activity of kefir (20, 23, 24) and of kefir grains (25, 26) . Specific cultures isolated from kefir were also shown to bind to mutagenic substances such as indole and imidazole (27, 28). Immune system stimulation with kefir (24) and with sphingomyelin isolated from the lipids of kefir (29) have been demonstrated in both in vitro and in vivo studies.
possesses antimicrobial activity in vitro against a wide variety of
gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria (20, 31), and against some fungi (20)
. In Zacconi et al.ís recent study (30), the antagonistic effects of kefir
against Salmonella kedougou were attributed to the complexity and vitality of
the kefir microflora. De Vrese et al . (32) demonstrated that fresh, but not heat treated,
disintegrated kefir grains suspended in kefir directly enhanced intestinal
lactose digestion in minipigs. This effect was attributed to microbial
b-galactosidase activity of kefir. The above studies provide encouraging
results, but much more research is necessary in order to demonstrate similar
effects using kefir in humans. Further, a standardized, well-defined product
must be used in order to provide useful information.
Research on fermented milks (FM) has grown dramatically in the past 20 years. FM have probiotic effects since their consumption leads to the ingestion of large numbers of live bacteria which exert health benefits beyond basic nutrition. Major results of research are as follows. Yogurt consumption reduces symptoms of lactose maldigestion compared to milk. FM, may have antibacterial and immunological properties. Ingestion of the lactic acid bacteria bifidobacteria improves the colonic microflora by increasing bifidobacteria levels. Lactobacillus casei reduces the duration of some types of diarrhea. Future research conducted using human subjects, with rigorous methodology and modern statistical analysis, will provide further information on the health benefits of FM.
Keywords: fermented milk, probiotic, yogurt, kefir, Lactobacillus streptococcus,
Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus casei, bifidobacterium
Lactic acid bacteria (LAB): a large group of bacteria with the common characteristic of producing lactic acid as the principal end product of metabolism; found in milk and other natural environments LAB can be: a. homofermentative: produce 70-90% lactic acid; e.g., L. bulgaricus, S. thermo-philus, L. acidophilus b. heterofermentative: produce at least 50% lactic acid plus other compounds such as acetic acid, CO2, and ethanol; e.g., L. casei, bifidobacteria a. mesophilic: grow best at a temperature range of 25-30¡C; e.g., L. casei b. thermophilic: prefer a range of 40-44¡C; e.g., L. bulgaricus, S. thermophilus a. Facultatively prefer anaerobic anaerobic: conditions for metabolism, but are aero-tolerant (most LAB fit in this b. Strictly anaerobic: survive only in anaerobic conditions; e.g., bifidobacteria
Foods that, by virtue of physiologically active food components, provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition (Working definition of ILSI Functional Food Task Force, Brussels, February 17,1997). Interleukin, interferon, tumor necrosis factor: examples of cytokines, which serve as signals between cells involved in immune response. sIgA: secretory immunoglobulin A; principal antibody produced by the gut immune system.
Azoreductase,§-glucuronidase, glycocholic acid hydrolase, nitroreductase: colonic enzymes implicated in the conversion of procarcinogens to carcinogens. LDL/HDL: ratio between blood levels of low density lipoprotein and high density lipoprotein; level above 3 indicates increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Breath hydrogen test: measurement of hydrogen expired after oral lactose load of 12-50 g compared to base level; > 10-20 ppm indicates malabsorption.
From legend to science: Historical perspective
For centuries, fermented milks have been purported to provide a large gamut of health benefits, from improving well-being to increasing longevity. One story recounts that in the sixteenth century, King Fran*ois the First of France suffered from persistent diarrhea, and after several unsuccessful treatments, a Turkish doctor was sent in. He brought with him sheep and a secret recipe for yogurt. The king was soon cured of his intestinal infection.
Scientific interest began much later, in the early twentieth century, when Elie Metchnikoff, a Nobel-prize winning biologist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, first suggested that lactobacilli might counteract the putrefactive effects of gastrointestinal metabolism (1). In the past twenty years, scientific research has blossomed, with an interest in topics ranging from antimicrobial effects to reduction of risk of cancer. Much valuable preliminary work has been done using animal or in vitro models, which allow for much greater control over variables than when studying humans, and which offer reproducible results. These models are also useful for studying the mechanisms involved.
Studying the effects of FM on humans presents several
challenges. Fermented milksare unctional foods, and as such, their impact on
human physiology is of a small amplitude and not easily detected. Also, early
humans studies, though numerous, were generally case reports rather than modern
experimental studies (randomized). Currently, researchers are beginning to
address these methodological problems.
Yogurt, the ever-popular fermented milk
According to the Codex Alimentarius (5), yogurt is milk (usually cowís milk) that has been fermented by Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus under defined conditions of time and temperature. Each species of bacteria stimulates the growth of the other, and the products of their combined metabolism produce the characteristic creamy texture and mild acid flavor. Fermentation is stopped by cooling, and the final product, which contains100-1000 million live bacteria per ml, is refrigerated until use. As a fresh dairy product, it has a limited shelf-life.
1. Milk digestibility
Given all the research to date on FM, the fact that lactose is better digested from yogurt than from milk by lactase-deficient individuals is the most well-established health benefit (6). Yogurt ingestion leads both to less hydrogen production in the breath hydrogen test (lactose maldigestion) (Figure 1) and to reduced symptoms (lactose intolerance) (Marteau, 1990; Lerebours,1989; Kolars, 1984). This effect is related to the living bacteria, the enzymatic content ( e.g ,§-galactosidase), and the texture of yogurt.
2. Recovery from diarrhea
Yogurt reduces the duration of certain types of diarrhea, especially in children (Niv, 1963; Boudraa, 1990). The World Health Organization (WHO, 1995) recommends that during treatment of diarrhea, yogurt should replace milk when available since it is better tolerated than milk and can help prevent malnutrition or reestablish nutritional adequacy.
3. Immunomodulating effects
Yogurt has been shown to enhance various parameters of the immune system in invitro models (13) and in mice (14-16). In humans, one study found an improvement in clinical symptoms of nasal allergy, but no changes in any parameters tested (17) . A recent report with atopic subjects found no significant modification of immune system parameters, showing that there was no aggravation of the immune system caused by yogurt (18) . Very high concentrations of yogurt bacteria have led to increases in IFNy, B lymphocytes, and natural killer cells (19) , and yogurt consumption increased 2í,5í-a synthetase activity (a reflection of production of IFNy) (20).
4. Reduction of risk of cancer
A recent epidemiological study from France showed that people consuming yogurt had less risk of developing large colorectal adenomas (21). In addition, the consumption of yogurt in elderly subjects with atrophic gastritis led to a decrease in the procarcinogenic fecal enzymes nitroreductase and azoreductase (22). Research in this field is intriguing, but preliminary.
5. Blood cholesterol levels
Mann and Spoerry (23) reported over 20 years ago that Maasai warriors consumed several liters of FM per day and yet had low serum cholesterol levels. This observation sparked a series of conflicting studies on the possible hypocholesterolemic properties of yogurt and other FM. Results have been inconsistent (24). What is clear is that regular consumption of yogurt does not increase plasma cholesterol concentration (24, 25); yogurt can be part of the daily intake of individuals who are concerned about heart disease.
Kefir, another traditional fermented milk
Kefir is a stirred beverage made from milk fermented with a complex mixture of bacteria (including various species of lactobacilli, lactococci, leuconostocs, and aceterobacteria) and yeasts (both lactose-fermenting and non-lactose-fermenting). The small amount of CO2, alcohol, and aromatic compounds produced by the cultures give it its characteristic fizzy, acid taste (26). Kefir fabrication differs from that of yogurt in that kefir grains (small clusters of microorganisms held together in a polysaccharide matrix) or mother cultures from grains (27) are added to milk and cause its fermentation. Kefir is actually a family of products, in that the grains and technology used can vary significantly and thus result in products with different compositions.
Many health benefits have been traditionally reported. Kefir has been used for the treatment of atherosclerosis, allergic disease, and gastrointestinal disorders, among other diseases (28). Until recently, most research has been limited to studies lacking modern statistical practices or to reports written up in Slavic languages, rendering them inaccessible to most western scientists.
Recent studies have investigated antibacterial (29), immunological(30), antitumoral (31), and hypocholesterolemic(32) effects of kefir consumption on animals. Results suggest potential benefits. Fresh, but not heat-treated grains in kefir enhanced intestinal lactose digestion in minipigs (33). While awaiting more research, it is important to remember that kefir, like yogurt, has been and continues to be a part of the regular diet in central and eastern Europe for centuries. Bifidobacterium: a natural inhabitant of the intestines Bifidobacteria were first described in 1900 by Tissier (34) . Since that time, their classification has evolved continually, and currently includes around thirty species (35, 36) . In general, they are strictly anaerobic, Gram-positive rods which often have special nutritional needs and grow slowly in milk. Very few strains are adapted well enough to milk that they both grow in sufficient numbers and survive well throughout the shelf-life of the FM.
Although bifidobacteria produce both lactic acid and acetic acid as major end-products of metabolism (heterofermentative), many microbiologists consider them to be lactic acid bacteria, albeit a special case. Tissierís hypothesis almost 100 years ago that bifidobacteria might have health benefits(37) was based on the following observations. Bifidobacteria are normal inhabitants of the human intestinal tract throughout the life cycle, beginning just days after birth. Further, they are often the predominant microorganism in the gut of breast-fed infants. It has since been shown that breast-fed babies are less at risk for diarrheal disease than formula-fed infants (38). In addition to the above inherent characteristics of bifidobacteria, some strains of the micro-organism survive intestinal transit in sufficient numbers to exert a metabolic effect in the gut (39,40).
1. Effects on the intestinal microflora
Ingestion of milk fermented with bifidobacteria leads to an increase in fecal bifidobacteria levels, both in infants (43) and in adults (44) . Elevated levels return to normal after cessation of consumption (39). Ingestion of FM with bifidobacteria has also led to a decrease in §-glucuronidase activity, but not in other enzymes associated with colon (44).
2. Effect on mild constipation
Slow intestinal transit can be partially corrected in women by the regular consumption of a milk fermented with yogurt cultures and bifidobacteria (41). This effect was not observed with yogurt as a control, thus demonstrating the specificity of bifidobacteria for the increased colonic motility (42).
3. Prevention of diarrhea
Few studies have been performed. One double-blind study of infants demonstrated that a formula with added B. bifidum and S. thermophilus reduced the incidence of hospital-acquired diarrhea compared to a standard formula. It also lowered the rate of rotavirus shedding into the environment (45).
4. Immunomodulating effects
Ingestion of milk fermented with B. bifidum led to an increase in phagocytic activity in peripheral blood compared to milk consumption (46). A mixture of B. bifidum and L. acidophilus decreased chronic inflammation of the sigmoid colon and increased humoral immunity in a group of elderly subjects (47).
Lactobacillus casei: new interest in an old bacteria
The group L. casei consists of several species of facultatively anaerobic and hetero-fermentative, mesophilic lactic acid bacteria(48). Their metabolism provides organoleptic qualities to several traditional FM and cheeses, and more recently, to new fermented milks. L. casei have been detected in the feces of both infants (49) and adults (50). Their ability to survive transit through the intestinal tract in adequate numbers to have a physiological effect (50) , coupled with their potential health benefits make L. casei an ideal candidate for a probiotic.
1. Treatment of diarrhea
Several double blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials have demonstrated that oral consumption of L. casei reduces the duration of diarrhea (51), and in particular, rotavirus gastroenteritis (52) in children. In addition, L. casei may help reduce the duration of diarrhea associated with children in day care centers (53), antibiotic treatment (54) and travelerís diarrhea (55).
2. Effects on the intestinal microflora
In addition to increasing lactobacilli count in feces (50), milk fermented with L. casei has been shown to lower the activity of the colonic enzymes §-glucuronidase (50, 56), glycocholic acid reductase, and nitroreductase (56) in healthy adults. A recent study demonstrated a decrease in §-glucuronidase and §-glucosidase activities in infants after ingestion of a milk fermented with yogurt cultures and L. casei. This effect was not found with yogurt alone or with gelled milk (control) (57) , thus suggesting that the modification was due to L. casei or to the association between L. casei and yogurt.
3. Immunomodulating effects
Challenge tests ( e.g ., using Salmonella typhimurium ) with oral ingestion of L. casei in mice has led to increased protection in animals infected with pathogenic bacteria (58, 59). A few reports using human subjects have shown an enhancement of non-specific immune system activators, such as y interferon and interleukins (ex vivo) (60) and of specific immune responses to various challenges, including rotavirus vaccine (61). In a recent study infants with atopic dermatitis were given formula with added L. casei. Not only did the concentration of fecal tumor necrosis factor-a decrease significantly (a measure of the immune response), but clinical symptoms improved as well (62) . Viability of the bacteria is an important factor of its effectiveness (61).
In addition to the probiotics discussed above, other bacteria, some well known and some more recent, offer additional health benefits. In particular, much research has been conducted on L. acidophilus. Several studies suggest a hypocholesterolemic effect of L. acidophilus (63) , while others have investigated its ability to prevent various types of diarrhea (64) and to reduce the incidence of candidal vaginitis (65).
In addition, consumption of L. acidophilus has led to modifications of various parameters of the immune system (46), and to a decrease in several fecal enzymes associated with colon cancer (66). Less well-known bacteria include Lb. helveticus (67), L. plantarum(68) , and L. reuteri (69). These lactic acid bacteria have different microbiological and metabolic characteristics than the ones listed above, but may also exhibit health effects, such as stabilizing the intestinal microflora or reducing the duration of diarrhea.
Probiotic effects of lactic acid bacteria and FM can be categorized in the following way: effects on the small intestine and digestion, direct modification of the colonic microflora and its metabolism, and general effects initiated in the colon. Thus, yogurtís main health benefit is related to improved lactose digestion; while bifidobacteria primarily affects the balance of the colonic microflora; and kefir and L. casei provide more global benefits, the first in relation to its antimicrobial effects and the second to diarrhea. In all cases, the lactic acid bacteria must be present in the FM in very large numbers, and must be live and active. Not all effects have received as yet adequate scientific attention. Few studies have compared various types of FM. As more research is performed using human subjects and with rigorous methodology and statistically valid conditions, the variety of health benefits of FM will become more well-defined.
Amidst the plethora of sometimes contradictory evidence, it is important to remember the nutritional and organoleptic qualities of yogurt and kefir that make them both healthful and pleasant choices in a balanced, varied diet, regardless of probiotic effects. The probiotics discussed in this report are incorporated in FM because of health benefits beyond inherent nutrition, and are appropriate for individuals with specific health goals. Taken together, they represent the best of both tradition and modern science; FM and probiotics have journeyed from nutrition practice to nutrition science and back again.
These two wonderful articles were written by Cathy J. Saloff-Coste from Dannone at their website www.dannone.com
I've heard about Caucasicum offered through a nutritional MLM. Can you tell me more about it?
This information is about the best probiotic and anti-oxidant of which I've learned during my research this year. We were so impressed with its qualities both my husband and I have been using it since January. Its ingredients are far ahead of ordinary yogurt, as made commercially. Because it is in capsule form, it can easily be swallowed by those who don't like yogurt, and want a product which will give them more pro-biotic or friendly bacteria, along with its amazing anti-oxidant properties.
Kefir Caucasicum, is a combination of Kefir grain, which is among the world's first known grains, and a type of yogurt culture derived from Kefir. The end result is a complex, symbiotic mixture of the micro-organisms that indigenous peoples of mid-Eastern countries have been consuming for many centuries. It naturally contains 4 genera and 11 species of probiotic, or friendly, bacteria. It is then freeze-dried at low temperatures, and 2 probiotic growth accelerants are added, recognized as superb. The end result is a complete, alcohol and yeast-free, Kefir complex in every capsule.
The yogurt which most Americans eat is quite basic. The yogurt manufacturers usually add 2 species of friendly bacteria to milk, along with flavorings, sugar, and small amounts of overcooked fruit. It is then bottled in various shapes of containers, and then allowed to ferment in incubators. This is more of a dessert than anything else. Even the plain yogurt, while a good calcium-rich food, is no match for the actual probiotics, or friendly bacteria, contained in the Kefir Caucasicum. However, there is a use in a healthful diet for both the plain, calcium-rich yogurt, and the Kefir Caucasicum.
The other part of Caucasicum Plus is one which helps to give the product its unique properties and astounding healthful benefits. Rhodogen, a Trade- Marked Formula, is an unusual extract from the root of an extremely rare variety of plant named Rhododendron Caucasicum. It is also known as the Snow Rose, and usually grows at altitudes above 7,000 ft. on the Caucacus Mountains in the Republic of Georgia. This was once part of the southern border of the Soviet Union. It is not unusual for people to live beyond 100 years of age in that region. About 40 years ago Soviet scientists launched a full scale research project to discover the reason for this longevity.
It was discovered that the Georgian peoples traditionally brewed the roots of their Snow Rose into what they called Alpine Tea. and added it to their widely used Kefir culture, which proved to be the key to their longevity. The reasons they did so were three-fold. The Alpine Tea or Rhododendron Caucasicum sweetened the Kefir culture, while protecting it from harmful bacteria, or turning rancid before it could be eaten, and they learned over a long period of time that it gave them strength and energy. They also discovered that it protected them from what today we call "free radicals, pathogens, and viruses." But to them it just seemed to ward off many diseases from which their neighbors in surrounding countries were always dying.
The scientists learned that the Rhododendron Caucasicum has many important properties of its own. It improves physical abilities, increases activity of the cardiovascular system, and increases blood supply to muscles and especially to the brain. It also shows tremendous anti- bacterial activity against the harmful bacteria, but allows "friendly" or probiotics, such as are found in Kefir culture, to thrive.
There were many clinical studies and experiments performed over the years in the First Central Moscow Hospital using the Rhododendron Caucasicum alone. These all proved very successful in cases of Heart Disease, Gout, Neuropsychotic (brain) Disease, severe Depression, Capillary fragility, and Detoxicant (increasing discharges of toxins from the body.) The most important discovery, however, was that it was the most tremendously effective ultra-antioxidant or "free radical" scavenger in their experiences.
There are other plant extracts such as pine bark and grape seed, sold under several different product names, that have shown strong anti- oxidant activity. However, they are, by nature, much less effective "free radical" scavengers. Furthermore, the methods of extracting and producing those extracts almost always include the use of organic solvents, which generate highly toxic and powerful "free radicals" them- selves,--the very things the products were meant to destroy. So, much of the scavenging energy of pine bark and grape seed extracts is spent cleaning up the very dangers that they created.
The Rhododendron Caucasicum in CAUCASICUM PLUS is not only a much more effective antioxidant or "free radical" scavenger, but it is also absolutely organic solvent-free, and 100% water soluble.
Also added to the Kefir Caucasicum culture, are concentrated minerals from the waters of the Georgian mountains. Each of these ingredients are incredible by themselves, but when all 3 are combined, the final result is the unique product known as Caucasicum Plus.
Because Caucasicum Plus helps to increase the circulation in the legs, it is a valuable Formula to take on a regular basis. I will Forward a Testimonial to you concerning this.
For further information on Caucasicum Plus, again please look in my Web Site below. Also, if I can help you further in any way, don't hesitate to write me with more questions!
Better Health for YOU, and Everyone!
Kefir is a cultured, enzyme-rich food filled with friendly micro-organisms that help balance your "inner ecosystem." More nutritious and therapeutic than yogurt, it supplies complete protein, essential minerals, and valuable B vitamins.
Why should I drink kefir?
What if I'm lactose intolerant, don't do dairy
or don't digest milk products well -
is kefir right for me?
The beneficial yeast and friendly bacteria in the kefir culture consume most of the lactose (or milk sugar). Eat kefir on an empty stomach first thing in the morning before (or for) breakfast and you'll bedelighted to find it can be easily digested -- as numerous people who have been lactose intolerant for years have discovered.
We offer a kefir starter culture, an easy, reliable way to have fresh kefir whenever you desire.
If you prefer to purchase ready-made kefir at your health food store (in this form it is perishable and would be found in the refrigerated section), the only such product approved by Body Ecology is made by Helios Nutrition. You can call them toll-free at 1-888-3HELIOS (343-5467) to find out where it may be available in your area. You can also visit their Web site at: http://www.heliosnutrition.com
THE CAUCASUS KEFIR
Dr. Lee Lorenzen, Biochemist
In 1908, Metchnikov wrote in his book, "The Prolongation of Life" that the secret to longevity that he found in the Russian mountains was the yogurt that the people were making and eating.
The villagers of Caucasus mountains gave us yogurt. But this part of the world is also the origin of fermented milk product that may be good for your health called Kefir. The history of Kefir is centuries old. It is mentioned in the Koran and is very well known in Eastern Europe.
Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) have been used to ferment foods for at least 4000 years. Without understanding the scientific basis, people used LAB and kefirs (bacteria and yeast complexes) to produce cultured foods with improved preservation and with different characteristic flavors and textures from the original food. A wide variety of foods including sausage, ham, wine, cider, beer, sauerkraut, olives, and pickles contain LAB and other GRAS ("Generally Recognized As Safe") microorganisms. LAB are used for many fermented milk products from all over the world as well, including yogurt, cheese, butter, buttermilk, kefir, and kourniss. Although kefir is just being discovered in some areas of the world, it has been very popular in Europe and the Middle East. In the former Soviet Union, kefir accounts for 70% of the total amount of fermented milk consumed. It is also well known in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Hungary, Poland, Germany, Greece, Austria, Brazil, and Israel.
Like yogurt, kefir is milk based. The process to make kefir involves fermenting milk with what are called kefir grains. The grains are a mass of safe bacteria, yeast and polysaccharide (complex sugars). The grains are a living growing mass that have been the subject of much study to define exactly what makes up the grains. Origin, storage, temperature, growth, media (what you feed the kefir to make it grow) and handling all influence the make up of the grains.
The polysaccharide that makes up the mass of the kefir grain has been shown to be unique and has been given the name kefiran. The fermentation process takes about twenty four hours, during which the grains change milk into a sour tasting drink. Many years of consumption in these countries have demonstrated that the microorganisms in kefir are not pathogenic or disease causing. Kefir is actually a preventative. It processes antimicrobial activity against a wide variety of gram positive and gram negative bacteria and against some fungi. In a recent study by Zacconi, the antagonistic effects of kefir against Salmonella was attributed to the complexity and vitality of the unique microflora found in this complex.
The folklore of Kefir enjoys a rich tradition of health claims. In the former Soviet Union, it is used in hospitals and Santeria for a variety of conditions, including metabolic disorders, atherosclerosis, and allergic disease. It has even been used for the treatment of tuberculosis, abnormal cell growth, high cholesterol levels, gastrointestinal and metabolic diseases, hypertension, ischaemic heart disease and allergy. The mild acid taste and its characteristic microflora facilitate salivation, enzyme secretion in the stomach and pancreas and improved peristalsis. Kefir contributes to more even movement of food in the intestine and the presence of lactic acid, acetic acid and antibiotic substances inhibit decomposition processes in the small intestine.
Its consumption has also been associated with longevity in Caucasus Mountains where the drink was fermented naturally in bags made of animal hides. For additional information, read the research of Dr. Kornai.
This is from the folklore of the region and we make no claims as to the effectiveness of our kefir to treat or control disease. It is, however, a very healthy drink which can help control bad bacteria and yeasts in the digestive tract.
Our Caucasus Kefir was brought to us by a Christian missionary in 1983. We have kept this complex alive since that time and have studied the many. microorganisms it contains, including Saccharomyces boulardii, a now well known yeast which is antagonistic to Candida albicans and pathogenic bacteria which cause severe gastrointestinal upset for the travelers. After years of work we were able to stabilize and freeze dry the complex so that it could be encapsulated and shipped to those in need.
For thousands of years, the villagers in the Caucasus mountains had never allowed their precious complex to be used outside their area, but the missionary (who was originally born and raised in the village), convinced them that this discovery was too important to be used by only a few people. We are honored that the people of the Caucasus have shared their unique development with us.
How to Make Kefir
Making Kefir is a simple procedure, requiring only a few minutes of your time. Writing a recipe, however, is a problem. It is easier to start in the middle with the daily routine of making Kefir and then go back to explain how to buy your first Kefir grains.
Assuming that there is a quart jar of 2 or 3-day old Kefir standing on the counter top in the kitchen, this is the procedure:
1. Taste the Kefir to see that it is finished to your taste.
2. Pour the Kefir through a strainer into a bowl.
3. With the back of a spoon, gently press some of the remaining liquid from the Kefir grains.
4. Wash the Kefir grains that are in the strainer under the faucet or with a spray. Move the grains around in the strainer once or twice to be sure that the grains at the bottom are also being washed. The grains should be thoroughly clean.
5. Put the washed grains of Kefir into a quart of fresh milk. (Do not have the jar of milk completely full. Allow room for the addition of the Kefir grains.)
A tea cupful of grains to a quart of fresh goats milk is just about right for a slightly thick Kefir drink. As your Kefir grains grow past this amount, you can start a second jar of milk.
6. Stir with a clean spoon, place a saucer on top of the jar to keep out the dust, and set the jar back out of the way on the counter top.
7. Pour the strained Kefir that is in the bowl back into the jar that it was made in, put on a top, and refrigerate.
8. Allow the new Kefir to stand for two or three days, stirring once or twice a day as you think of it.
9. Taste the Kefir milk occasionally after the second day in order to determine when it is done to your taste.
10. Repeat this process from No. 2 through No. 9 to start a new jar of Kefir.
Beatrice Trum Hunter has an excellent section on Kefir on pages 75-83 in her book, Yogurt & Other Milk Cultures. She gives the history of Kefir, its unusual health values, and a few excellent recipes. If her directions for freezing Kefir grains (middle of page 79) are followed carefully, it is a simple matter to store your Kefir grains during the winter when your goats are dry.
Kefir is a
living relationship, a symbiosis, of a number of bacteria and yeast, which form
grains or cauliflower-like structures. These living organisms ferment milk into
the living food Kefir. Kefir is a Super Yoghurt, up to 36 times
more probiotic than yoghurt.
Kefir does not equal Kefir
There are at least three different varieties of cultures. The water Kefir has grains like milk Kefir, but is grown in water with sugar and dried fruit. It's also called 'Japanese water crystals' or 'Tibi'.
Scientific analysis indicates that there are many different friendly bacteria and yeasts combined in Kefir. Kefir grains are mostly sold as dried granulates. However, there is in most cases a problem to revive the grains. Over the years I have sold the dried grains, and all my customers have not been able to grow new grains to give to friends or produce a Kefir as pleasant tasting as the Kefir made from the LIVING Kefir-plant.
The LIVING Kefir plant looks like a cauliflower where many of the grains form one plant. However, there is a problem with the culture, since it can only survive in milk or only for a few days in water. This is the reason why LIVING Kefir must be given from friend to friend. This is why the International Kefir Network was founded.
Kefir grains are a biological production centre. Living foods like Kefir are pro-biotic. Kefir helps to detoxify, support and balance digestion and to build up the immune system to counteract negative influences.
During the fermentation process the Kefir grains change normal milk into the Kefir beverage. Lactic acid, ethanol, acetic acid, carbon dioxide and other compounds are produced as well as vitamins. The delicious microbiological LIVING food Kefir can be very helpful in regenerating the bowel flora and works in this way, in many cases like a wonder.
Kefir converts normal, unhealthy (pasteurised, homogenised) milk, which we buy in grocery shops, into living healthy food. Kefir also revitalises milk powder and even soymilk into living food but not microwaved milk.
For further reading the book Kefir For pleasure, beauty and well-being is recommended. The book has many recipes showing how to use Kefir for your taste buds' pleasure, like Kefir champagne, ice cream, salad dressings and how to make your own products for beauty, hair, foot and body care. Kefir is excellent for skin treatments and beauty. The book Skin Saver Remedies is recommended for further reading.
It is recommended in some publications that you should replace your Kefir Culture for "hygienic reasons" after a 2-month use.
If you make Kefir with a healthy living Kefir Culture you will find, that this culture will reproduce many new cultures within this 2-month period.
· Why should you throw away perfectly healthy Kefir cultures?
· How was it done over the centuries in the countries where Kefir is found?
· Was there ever a Kefir culture, which reproduced many new cultures, which was not healthy itself and had to be replaced?
There is NO reason to replace a reproducing Kefir culture.
Dried Kefir grains are often dead. If your culture does not reproduce, you most probably make nothing else than sour milk with dead Kefir grains.
grains were taken to the Moscow Dairy and in September, 1908, the first bottles
of kefir drink were
offered for sale in Moscow. Small quantities of kefir were produced in several small towns in
the area where there was a ready market for it, people mostly consume it for
its alleged medicinal value.
Commercial manufacture of kefir on a large scale began in Russia, in the 1930s. However, it is difficult to produce kefir by conventional methods on a commercial scale.
Traditionally, kefir was made in cows or goats milk in sacks made from the hides of animals. Occasionally it was also made in clay pots or wooden buckets or oak vats and in some areas sheeps milk was also used. Usually the kefir sacks were hung in the sun during the day and brought back into the house at night, when they were hung near the door. Everyone who entered or left the house was expected to prod the sack with their foot to mix the contents. As kefir was removed more fresh milk was added, making the fermentation process continuous.
By the 1930’s kefir was being made as a set-type product which entailed
growing a quantity of grains milk and then straining out the grains and adding
the cultured milk to a larger batch of fresh milk. The mixture was incubated
and, when set, allowed to cool.
Unfortunately, this type of product was not as good as the one produced using the tradition home-style method. During the 1950’s workers at the All-Union Dairy Research Institute (VNIMI) developed a new method for commercial kefir production which gave a drink similar to that produced in the home by traditional methods. The kefir was produced by the stirred method.
Fermentation, coagulation, agitation, ripening and cooling, were carried out in a large vessel, and then the kefir was bottled.
In 1973 the Minister of the Food Industry of the
Soviet Union sent a letter to Irina Sakharova thanking her for bringing kefir to the Russian people.
Presently, kefir is the most popular fermented milk in Russia. Various reports have stated that it accounts for between 65% and 80% of total fermented milk sales in Russia with production of over 1.2 million tons per year in 1988. The average yearly consumption of kefir in the Soviet Union was estimated at approximately 4.5 kilograms per person per year in the early 1980s. Currently kefir is being manufactured on a commercial scale in Czechoslovakia, Finland, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, Russia and various of the former soviet union states, Denmark, the United States, France, West Germany, Canada and parts of southeast Asia.
Kefir Caucasicum and Fungus
Hi, I am a surgical technician, and sales associate at a department store. I am on my feet all day and night so I have always had a problem with foot fungus and toenail fungus. I finally cleared up the foot fungus but the nail fungus is alive and ugly!!! I work with several podiatrists and the only solution is oral medication with side affects and a monthly monitoring of liver functions. So to say the least I opted not to take the medication.
In the meantime, through Team Platinum I found some "Feed the Brain" products for my sons with ADHD and COD, and they were starting to help. I highly believe in antioxidants so I bought the Kefir Caucasicum. YOU ARE WONDERING WELL WHERE IS THIS LEADING???
Well this is how it happened, I started to take 2 capsules a day of the Kefir Caucasicum due to a lot of stress and lack of rest that I am putting myself through for now. The more stress and free radicals we subject our bodies to, the more antioxidants are used and needed.
NOW FOR THE PUNCH LINE:
I was having my morning ritual in the restroom and as I was sitting there, for lack of things to do I was looking at my feet and noticed that the new growth on my toenails next to the skin was nice and pink, not that white or yellow opaque nail I was used to. I was so excited that when I got out of my shower I asked my son to look real close to make sure because I couldn't find my glasses fast enough. LOL. Sure enough it was so....
Today I ran into one of the podiatrists and asked him if a vitamin or mineral deficiency caused the fungus. He asked me if I was eating large amounts of YOGURT??? I said NO but I am taking an antioxidant high in YOGURT Kefir Caucasicum derived from kefir grains. The end result is a complex, symbiotic mixture of microorganisms.
Kefir Caucasicum is true kefir. He then said well that's it. That is what is EATING UP THE FUNGUS IN MY SYSTEM (CLEANSING MY BODY). That's the part no other antioxidant has ever done for me. Just as the claim says, it is not only an antioxidant but a scavenger of free radicals and a cleanser
I am proof,
We have been making our own kefir fermented milk since the late seventies. It has fallen nicely into our routine: David, my husband, makes the kefir while doing the washing up and then it comes to the table either as a topping for soft fruit, a drink, or disguised in all sorts of dishes, even bread or fizzy drinks, prepared by me. However a few years ago we appreciated how important it was to us when, on coming back from a one year sabbatical abroad, we were dismayed with the news that our unlabelled kefir container in a friend's freezer hadn't survived a spring cleaning.
It took us long a while to find a source of real kefir grains. Eventually a friend turned up with a jar that had been at the back of someone else's fridge for ages. The culture had grown into an extraordinary ribbon about 3 cm wide and would you belive it, after a few passages followed by vigourous sieving, we were back to our beloved cauliflower-like grains.
Recently after visiting Dom's inspirational site I realised that there is a very active worldwide community of kefir users united by the web. Indeed thanks to Dom there is now a kefir e-group. I have also discovered that Adnan Smajlovic has set up a wonderful Kefir community site to help anybody find REAL live Kefir grains in their area. So stimulated by these efforts I have decided to improve my collection of kefir recipes and share them with all of you. Also just like Dom I am only one e-mail away, so do give me your feedback.
Subject to availability we can provide you with some of our spare kefir culture, in starter bottles, all we ask is for a donation to the Muscular Dystrophy Group of Great Britain (MDG). Your donation will go entirely to this charity and will be used for research on these sometimes devastating diseases. We actively support the MDG, our younger son has CMD, so the packaging and posting costs will be our own donation to the charity. If you are interested just get in touch with Maria Fremlin, 25 Ireton Rd, Colchester CO3 3AT, England, +44 1206 767746 for more details. Please note that there might be difficulties sending a live culture to some countries, so first check the regulations of your own country.
This is a very interesting culture which reliably produces yoghurt of good quality with very simple operations. It is astonishingly robust. We have had this particular kefir since 1998, but it seems identical to one which we kept from 1982 to 1996 without problems.
Subject to availability we can provide you with some of our spare kefir culture, in starter bottles, all we ask is for a donation to the Muscular Dystrophy Group of Great Britain (MDG). Your donation will go entirely to this charity and will be used for research on these sometimes devastating diseases. We actively support the MDG, our younger son has CMD, so the packaging and posting costs will be our own donation to the charity. If you are interested just get in touch with Maria Fremlin, 25 Ireton Rd, Colchester CO3 3AT, England, +44 1206 767746 for more details. Please note that there might be difficulties sending a live culture to some countries, so first check the regulations of your own country.
· kefir grains
In the bottle you will find some soft granules, looking a bit like badly overcooked cauliflower florets, in a few spoonfuls of milk. There are two ways of making kefir: the traditional sieve regime or the pouch method. The latter is quicker and produces a milder tasting kefir that looks more like yoghurt.
(i) Put the grains either loose or in a pouch in a glass
jar with milk, not airtight.
(ii) Leave it around until it's ready.
(iii) Put it in the fridge until you want to use it.
(iv - a) If the grains are loose pour through a sieve (helping it along with a spoon) to separate the grains from the yoghurt.
(iv - b) If the grains are in a bag all you have to do is remove it.
(v) Resist the temptation to wash the grains, or the bag, under the cold water tap, as this is known to adversely affect their growth. Put them back in a clean jar with fresh milk, if using a bag give it a good shake in the fresh milk to dislodge the clots from the mesh.
(vi) Drink the kefir.
You do not need to heat the milk. You do not need to keep the culture at any particular temperature, though of course its growth will be more predictable if you always leave it in the same place. You do not need to sterilise anything, just keeping things very clean will do. We have been making kefir since the late seventies and only once or twice had what seemed to be a mild contamination, which spoilt the flavour a little for a week or so, but the culture has always recovered. When we go on holiday, we just freeze the grains, with or without milk, in a little Tupperware container. Our record for successful recovery is of a culture frozen for just over a year.
We recommend using a glass jar so that you can judge the progress of the fermentation from the outside. We find that a good tablespoonful of the grains, in a 1 liter/ 2 lb glass jar, on the kitchen windowsill, gives an agreeable yoghurt in about 48 hours. But you may find that you prefer a milder or stronger yoghurt. The culture will grow and the excess can either be passed on to friends or composted. Now for some details. The particular dose you have in the little bottle that we send you is a starter pack, and we suggest experimenting with half-pints of milk for the first couple of cycles, using shorter rather than longer incubation periods, while you find what suits you. For the sieve, we use a deep metal sieve with a 1 mm mesh but other people might prefer plastic. For the pouch, we use a 8x19 cm (3x7.5 inches) bag made out of dress net, which is a widely available synthetic material with a mesh identical to the sieve. It is easily made at home; once ready just pop the grains inside and tie a knot at the top. If you would like us to send you a bag in the starter pack, please say so and allow for that in your donation to the MDG.
A word of warning: after periods of neglect - either in fridge or freezer - the culture is a bit slow and not perfectly reliable for a couple of cycles, and you may want to start it up gently with short cycles in small quantities. A thick velvety layer on the top of your kefir is a sure sign of neglect.
Please note that kefir's fermentation skills are not confined to milk, be it cow's, goat's or soy milk. Its potential in the kitchen is unlimited, just go to the bottom of this page and click on kefir recipes for more ideas.
This bread was inspired by Tom Jaine's recipe for naan bread which is in his excellent book: Making Bread at Home, 1995. However instead of using the recommended lump of the previous day's dough, I decided to experiment with the kefir fermented milk as the one and only source of leavening. The results were very good indeed and I have now come to the conclusion that any recipes calling for either a lump of the previous day's dough, or a sourdough starter, or a biga can easily be adapted to the this method. Moreover the kefir dough starter works equally well with kefir made either with the sieve or the bag method. Just go for it!
· 250 g/ 1 3/4 cup/ 9 oz unbleached white strong bread flour
· about 3/4 cup kefir
· 1 teaspoon sea salt
· 1 tablespoon clarified butter (ghee), butter or margarine
Oven at 220ºC, 425º F, gas mark 7.
The day before add enough kefir to your flour in order to make a nice kneading bread dough. Do not forget the salt. Knead until the dough is elastic and smooth. Place in a bowl, cover with cling film and leave overnight in a warm place. I leave mine in the airing cupboard. Next day, when the dough is well risen and before it collapses, knock it down and divide into little lumps. I usually made 16 little ones, but you can make bigger ones if you like. Stretch them out by hand so that the dough is about 1/2 cm thick. Place on a well oiled tray dusted with maize meal, cover with oiled cling film and leave in a warm place for about half an hour or until risen. Before baking, gently brush the tops with the melted fat of your choice as this gives the bread an extra touch of luxury. Bake for about 5 to 8 minutes or until they have coloured a bit. Watch out that they don't get toasted, this bread should be soft. Serve at once or keep wrapped in a cloth until needed.
These little flat buns don't keep that well. However you can revive them, by sprinkling with water and placing them in a hot oven or grill, just for a few minutes. You can, before baking, sprinkle the buttered tops with poppy or nigela (charnuska) seeds. Or even with some garlicky herb butter. Delicious!
I have also used this kefir dough as a pizza base. For that just make enough dough the day before for your usual size pizza. As a rough guide for each cup of flour you need a third of a cup of kefir. If you haven't got enough kefir to spare, top it up with water. With luck the bugs in the kefir grains will not let you down. Any problems? Then get in touch with me. I would love your feedback.
I have hit upon the idea of using the kefir fermented milk for making a sourdough starter. It works very well; it is also quicker and simpler to make than the special milk free kefir sourdough starter. Unlike some touchy starters this one is simple and reliable. All you need to have is a continuous supply of kefir, which is not at all difficult once of have got your own grains.
This starter is very simple to make, it is also smells very nice, just like kefir really. Moreover I have now come to the conclusion that any recipes calling for either a lump of the previous day's dough, or a sourdough starter, or a biga can easily be adapted to the this method.
· 320 g/ 2 cups/ 11 oz unbleached white strong bread flour
· about 2/3 cup kefir
Add enough kefir to your flour in order to make a nice kneading bread dough. Knead until the dough is elastic and smooth. Place in a bowl, cover with cling film and leave overnight in a warm place. I leave mine in the airing cupboard. Next day, when the dough is well risen and before it collapses, knock it down and go to the next step.
· 750 g/ 5 cups/ 2 lbs 3 oz spelt flour
· 430 g/ 3 cups/ 7 oz strong unbleached white bread flour
· 1 tablespoon sea salt
· 1 sachet/ 7 g easy blend yeast
· 3 slugs of good olive oil
· 1 tea spoon honey
· 1 cup/ 240 ml/ 8 oz warm water, see text
Oven at 220º C, 425º F, gas mark 7.
Move your starter to a large bowl and to it add the flours, salt, yeast, honey and oil. Slowly add enough water to obtain a good kneading dough. Knead vigorously until the dough is soft and elastic. Cover with plastic or damp cloth, and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled. Knock down, divide in three equal portions, put them in well oiled tins. Cover again, this time with oiled cling film so that when you remove it doesn't stick to the dough and deflate it. When well risen, remove the cling film and bake in a very hot oven for about 35 to 40 minutes or until it sounds hollow. Cool on racks.
I must tell you that I have got into the habit of dividing the dough not in 3 parts as I mention above. I tease out a forth smaller one and with it I made a pizza. So it has become a habit to have pizza on the bread baking day or vice-versa. Whichever way I say it saves quite a bit of my time and the pizza is particularly popular! To do bake the lot in one go I start by baking the loaves first and then time the pizza so that everything is ready at the same time.
I am pretty sure that any of your favourite bread recipes can be adapted to this method. Just let me know of your successes as I would love to hear from you.
Water-kefir is a lightly sweet,
carbonated, and alcoholic beverage. In naturopathy, positive effects on many
diseases such as diarrhea, heart attack, gastrointestinal ulcers and even
eczema are attributed to water-kefir.
On the other hand these positive effects could not be confirmed decisively by
Normally, all these health-related attributes should be declared in accordance with food law. But as water-kefir is not commercially available it is not subjected to food quality control. For this reason hygiene is very important when handling with fungus. After use the kefir should be washed carefully. If there is no development of carbonic acid 15-30 minutes after preparing, the water-kefir should no longer be used . Because of the danger of explosion, the vessel should not be covered gastight during fermentation. Normal preparation requires two liters of water, 6 tablespoons (ca. 120g) of kefir-fungus, 150g of sugar, two dried figs and one lemon. After two days at room temperature, the drinkable water preparation can be separated from the kefir. Its maximal content of alcohol (38g per liter) is similar to that of beer (5% vol.): 40g alcohol per liter are equivalent to 5% per volume. In practice, that percentage cannot be reached before 7 to 10 days. In a study of water-kefir of different origins, only 2,7 up to 15,9g/L (0,3 - 2,0 vol%) alcohol could was measured after two days.
The rate of alcohol production depends on the temperature, the amount of fungus, and on the conditions of reaction (rather aerobic than anaerobic). Therefore the amount of alcohol found in the study varies. Under anaerobic conditions, the yeast in kefir grain produces more alcohol and carbon dioxide than under aerobic conditions. In the latter case production rates of alcohol and carbon dioxide decrease, to the advantage of the growth of fungus (Pasteur-effect). If one increases the sugar in the preparation, total alcohol could also be increased.
Kefir is a fermented milk similar to yoghurt.
It is one of the oldest cultured milk products in existence, enjoying widespread popularity in Russia and the Caucasus. The history of kefir making and the legends connected to this amazing food are described below.
Amongst the people of the northern slopes of the
Caucasian Mountains there is a legend that Mohammed gave kefir grains to the Orthodox
people and taught them how to make kefir.
The 'Grains of the Prophet’ were guarded jealously since it was believed that
they would lose their strength if the grains were given away and the secret of
how to use them became common knowledge.
Kefir grains were regarded as part of the family's and tribe's wealth and they were passed on from generation to generation.
So, for centuries the people of the northern Caucasus enjoyed this food without sharing it with anyone else they came into contact with.
Other peoples occasionally heard strange tales of this unusual beverage which was said to have ‘magical’ properties. Marco Polo mentioned kefir in the chronicles of his travels in the East.
However, kefir was forgotten outside the Caucasus for centuries until news spread of its use for the treatment of tuberculosis in sanatoria and for intestinal and stomach diseases. Russian doctors believed that kefir was beneficial for health and the first scientific studies for kefir were published at the end of the nineteenth century.
However, kefir was extremely difficult to obtain and commercial production was not possible without first obtaining a source of grains.
The members of the All Russian Physician’s Society
were determined to obtain kefir
grains in order to make kefir
readily available to their patients.
Early this century a representative of the society approached two brothers called Blandov and asked them to procure some kefir grains. The Blandov’s owned and ran the Moscow Dairy, but they also had holdings in the Caucasus Mountain area, including cheese manufacturing factories in the town of Kislovodsk.
The plan was to obtain a source of kefir grains and then produce kefir on an industrial scale in Moscow.
The Blandov’s were excited since they knew that they
would be the only commercial producers of this much sought after product.
The true story of the Blandov's quest for the elusive kefir grains is below.
Nikolai Blandov sent a beautiful young employee, Irina
Sakharova, to the court of a local prince, Bek-Mirza Barchorov. She was
instructed to charm the prince and persuade him to give her some kefir grains.
Unfortunately, everything did not go according to plan. The prince, fearing retribution for violating a religious law, had no intention of giving away any 'Grains of the Prophet’.
However, he was very taken with the young Irina and didn't want to lose her either. Realising that they were not going to complete their mission, Irina and her party departed for Kislovodsk. However, they were stopped on the way home by mountain tribesmen who kidnapped Irina and took her back to the prince. Since it was a local custom to steal a bride, Irina was told that she was to marry Bek-Mirza Barchorov. Only a daring rescue mission mounted by agents of her employers saved Irina from the forced marriage.
The unlucky prince was catted before the Tsar who ruled that the prince was to give Irina ten pounds of kefir grains, to recompense her for the insults she had endured.