Bacteria can kill you. Seriously.

Bacteria can also help you thrive and live a happy and healthy life. Seriously.

So how can Bacteria be both good and bad? Well it is because there are millions of different types of bacteria. The importance of having more friendly bacteria in your digestive tract is unparalleled to anything else in regards to our health. The more I read and learned the more I realized that we need to add more of these bacteria into our daily lives (more on why in a later post). I am doing this myself by eating more fermented foods, not worrying when I drop food on the floor, not using antibacterial soap, and getting my hands dirty outside whenever I can (don’t I sound like a fun party guest!?).

Taking pills… not my thing! So whenever I can, I always try to find a more natural way to cure or solve my problem. Recently when I was having digestive problems and reading more and more about the importance of good bacteria in my gut,  I found a lot of articles (and my mother) telling me it might be a good idea to start taking a pro-biotic supplement.

What was that? Take a pill? No thanks!

So I started looking instead for how I could naturally, through my diet and lifestyle, start increasing my good bacterias. First stop: eat more fermented foods. Yogurt and Sauerkraut… exciting… this is going to be interesting! But wait… the more research I did the more I found out about an amazing array of other foods that are fermented and full of beneficial bacteria. Most importantly, they are delicious!

  • Miso,
  • Tempeh,
  • Kombucha,
  • Kimchi,
  • Natto,
  • Lassi,
  • Pickles,
  • Soy Sauce,
  • Tamari,
  • Yogurt
  • Sauerkraut

The list goes on and on…….

I replaced our soy sauce with tamari, started buying and eating more yogurt, making salad dressings with miso, and eventually trying out Kefir.

What is Kefir?

Kefir is a fermented milk drink (am I making you drool yet?) that has a consistency somewhere between milk and yogurt and a taste somewhere between as well (now you are definitely drooling!). I have seen it popping up more and more in my local grocery stores and decided to give it a try. It is full of billions of amazing bacterias (more than yogurt) and very delicious.I buy the plain version (no added chemicals and sugars please) and eat it with my granola in the mornings or in an afternoon smoothie. As I am on a personal mission to see how many things I can make from scratch at home (saving packaging and money!) I decided to look into how I can do it myself. So I started doing some research and eventually ended up at my local health food store asking for Kefir grains…. yup they had them!

Kefir is made by adding bacteria to milk (any type!) and letting them grow/ferment for a period of time. Essentially you just mix milk and the kefir starter and then wait for the magic to happen. You can either start your kefir with “grains” which you can use indefinitely to make batch after batch as long as you look after them, or from “powder” which can only be used a limited amount of time (and is significantly cheaper). Seeing as price tends to sway me a lot these days, I bought Yogourmet’s Kefir Starter Freeze-dried packets for $6 . The box came with 6 packets which will allow me to make 6 batches. I am still investigating/experimenting with how many times I can re-use each bacterial starter… stay posted.

So, after my exciting day at the local Health food store I was ready to try making my first batch of Kefir. I made sure to do my research online and also read the instructions that came with the starter. I was ready to go. Off to the kitchen I went, and into the fridge…

Where is the milk??

In my excitement at the store (and the fact that I had biked there in the pouring rain and was dripping wet) I had forgotten to make sure I had sufficient milk to make one batch. I needed 1 Liter and appeared to only have about ½ Liter in the fridge. Sure I could have maybe used half the package and used up my milk, but I wasn’t planning on going into town again for a few days and how would I make my cappuccinos?

Luckily and by fluke I had also made a fresh batch of almond milk that morning before heading out…. so of course my mind starts pondering and I think to myself “can I use this almond milk instead of cow’s milk?”. Back to the computer to research and find out that YES it can be done!

The instructions that came with my package indicated to boil the milk before adding in the starter… I could not find any information about doing this to almond milk in any of my research…. what do I do? I was left to make the decision for myself. So off I went back to my lab (aka kitchen) and here is what I did- sometimes you just take a guess and hope for the best.

  1. Poured my fresh almond milk into a very clean quart sized mason jar
  2. Dumped in one package of freeze-dried kefir starter
  3. Placed the lid on the jar and gave it a light mix
  4. Covered in a towel (to keep warm) and then let it sit on my counter for 24 hours to ferment.

The next morning I woke delighted to see that it had separated as I had read it would and that is also smelled like yogurt (aka fermented). It worked!!! I had a small dance party in my kitchen and then began the tastings. It had a slightly sour taste and was delicious mixed with granola or in a smoothie. I haven’t quite fallen in love with its taste just as is but plan to try more recipes with mixing in fruit or vanilla to spice it up. Sometimes in life you just have to try something once and see what you learn. I learned that I will be able to easily make my own kefir and no longer have to buy it from the store. This week I am excited to use cow’s milk and compare the tastes to find which I like best.

The gates are open now…. stay tuned as I already have plans to try making Kombucha and Kimchi in the upcoming weeks.