Friday, August 6, 2010

Homemade Coconut Milk Kefir

This week I made coconut milk kefir. If you've never heard of kefir, it's okay. Think of it as a thin yogurt with healthy strains of probiotics, which of course help encourage healthy happenings in your intestinal track. (Isn't that a fun way to put it?) If you've ever had GI issues (and if you're gluten free, there's a good chance you've had fun GI issues, yes?) you know that probiotics, especially naturally produced probiotics are a super healthy addition to your diet.

If you want the details smetails of what kefir really is, check out this article by Wikipedia. Or this article from Earth in Common.

Traditional kefir (as with most fermented milk products like buttermilk and yogurt) are made from cow, sheep, or goat's milk. Thankfully kefir will also grow in other non-dairy milks like soy and coconut. (I have read that trying to make kefir with nut milks does not work, but I haven't tried it... so if you can't have soy or coconut... I don't see why you couldn't at least try to make it with a fresh cashew milk or almond milk...)

Soy is not nice to my body, so I use coconut milk as you see in the picture above. There several different ways of making kefir. The traditional way starts with kefir "grains". Coconut milk is poured over the "grains" and left to ferment for about 24 hours and you are left with a slightly soured milk with lots of healthy probiotics. Another popular way to make your own kefir is to use a freeze-dried kefir starter that you simply mix with coconut milk that you have "pasteurized" or gently heated to kill off any bad bacteria. Once the pasteurized milk has cooled you stir in the kefir starter and then allow it to ferment for about 24 hours. When it's finished you will have a thickened slightly sour drink. In Europe it's often enjoyed alone as a beverage... for sweeter American palates it's used more in smoothies and/or mixed with fruit for a sweeter drink.

Kefir can also be used in baking when a recipe calls for an acidic liquid such as buttermilk or yogurt. Here is one recipe I've made that uses kefir.

I recently purchased some kefir grains to make future batches, but for this week I used the Body Ecology Kefir Starter. This is a great starter to use if you are dairy or casein intolerant because it's dairy free. Many brands of freeze-dried kefir starter also contain powdered dairy milk, which is great if you can have dairy. I've heard this brand is really good.

Making kefir with freeze-dried starter is very simple.

First it's best to heat the coconut milk (I used 2 (13.5 oz) cans of  regular (not lite) coconut milk) to about 160-180 degrees to make sure to kill off any bad bacteria that might be lurking in the can.

Next you allow the coconut milk to cool back down to about 75-80 degrees. This can take a while. The Body Ecology directions indicate that you don't need to heat the milk to the temperature I did. Do what works best for you. Once the coconut milk has cooled you simply whisk the kefir starter into the coconut milk. I poured the cultured milk into a large glass jar and covered it with a tea towel. Allow the kefir to sit undisturbed for 24 hours.

The resulting coconut milk kefir is slightly thick (think thin sour cream texture). Don't be surprised if you have some water at the bottom of your kefir that has separated from the thicker mixture. That's fine. Just stir it back into your kefir.

Now it's time to use that kefir. Add it to smoothies, if you enjoy the slightly soured taste, drink it alone, eat it like you would yogurt with gluten free granola on top for crunchiness, use it as a cream on raw berry blueberry pies (that was super delicious if you're wondering!)... Make sure to store your coconut milk kefir in the refrigerator.

So there you go. Easy homemade coconut milk kefir. Are you going to try it?
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