Many of you out there are simply and purely afraid to making an attempt at fermenting foods. Let it be because you feel ill-equipped or just do not know how to do it, and doing it safely, somewhat scared to play with a bunch of mysterious bacteria – or because, it is easy enough to go to a health store and empty your wallet for the hassle-free and ready to eat/drink selection.
Many years ago, everyone was making their food from scratch, including fermented food. Sourdough, Sauerkraut, and Yogurt were just a few of the foods that could be found at any given time in a kitchen, anywhere around the world. Our modern lives have made us the slaves of time and it seems we never have enough of it, and when we do have some to spare we would rather do something else...
Making fermented foods or drinks takes seconds.
Usually, the longest part is waiting for the fermentation process to occur, which gives you plenty of time doing the things you love. Water or milk Kefir takes 24-48 hours to be ready. Yogurt and Fermented coconut about 8 hours to 15 hours. Kombucha can take from 5-to-10 days. Making your own sourdough starter about a month; the same to make nutritious sauerkraut; however, you need to be prepared to spend time and effort building up a routine, and get all the necessary equipment. Once all is set, fermenting is very easy and causes little inconvenience (unless you have a tiny kitchen, and you are making sauerkraut for the fist time during the hot summer months).
I have attempted to make sauerkraut several times, many successfully and the last time not quite. It is then I understood how the state of the place you call home can play a massive role in fermenting food; hence why for some people are failing to even grow kefir grains (when all is required is water and sugar). Sometimes, it may be because you are not using the right utensils (the fermentation process is usually altered whenever using metal) or because you are using unfiltered tap water. But sometimes, like in the case of my previous kitchen, there was never any sun getting through the window, and the walls were damp nearly all year around; this was promoting the wrong kind of bacteria to develop, no matter how careful I was.
Then, I realised I could ferment things other than Sauerkraut, especially when a large jar of non-pasteurised Organic Sauerkraut can be found for under £2.00. Again, making Sourdough did not work in that kitchen, and it was right about time when I decided reduce my intake of gluten...
So here I was and thinking I was running out of options. I was already making my own mustard, my own pickles using vegetables from the garden, such as 'Cornichons' (miniature cucumbers, a fraction of the size of an actual gherkin), cucumber and beetroots.
One day, as i was sitting in class, we were taught about Kefir, and how good it is as a drink and for its properties. Raw Goat's Milk Kefir was the best according to lecturer, and I managed to find Raw Goat's milk and since then have made my own Kefir. And I really love it.
I was worried the grains were not growing fast enough, but I have learnt to be patient and to leave time for the kefir grains to feel at home.
Following this successful attempt, I tried making my own kombucha. Purchased an Organic 'Scobi' (the name of the mixture of Bacteria and fungus necessary to make the actual kombucha, usually looking like the body of a jelly fish). It took some time to wait for the brew to be ready, to wait for the mother scobi to be removed, and I was set. I have come to realise that if you are trying to have kombucha on tap, like I am, it is impossible to leave it alone. If you are going away, it would be best to remove the scobi and place it in a sealed bag, as it will carry to grow and make of the liquid pure vinegar. Meaning that you are loosing all and need to start from scratch. Plus, the wrong kind of bacteria may develop due to the very acidic environment.
A few weeks ago, I was given a large bag of Water Kefir grains and finally I happily gave in to making Water Kefir. I have looked at dozens and dozens of videos and it seems that it is all to easy.
And it is...
Just remember that you need to use glass bottle and best with a sling-top; never to fill the bottle right to the top, and only add sugar to first part of fermentation, not in the second, as it will make the brew very very fizzy and the bottle will explode; and, always store the second brew in the fridge, to alt the fast fermentation process! Water kefir once bottled up can be kept in the fridge for several months (unlike Kombucha that gets fizzy once cooled, Kefir's fermentation is stopped by cooler temperature) .
While Milk Kefir grains are white and resemble tiny cauliflower florets, Water Kefir grains looks like amalgamated translucent to light-yellow grains of sand.
The colour depends greatly on the liquid or sugar used. For example, I used Coconut sugar and molasses to make sure to deliver all the goodness the grains require; therefore, the grains tend to get darker and darker after each brew.
It is also important to note that homemade Kefir may taste different from one batch to another, and may also vary in colour.
How to make my favourite Organic Coconut Water Kefir
Even better than your average glass of Coconut Water, with is rich in Potassium, but with the added power of probiotics; and still remains low in sugar
As explained, there are two different kind of Kefir grains, and they are necessary to ferment a liquid. Like a Kombucha scobi, they are a very specific mix of bacteria and fungus, which feeds on the sugar present in the liquid used to produce Lactic Acid, a small percentage of alcohol (ethanol), and Carbon Dioxide, which carbonates the final brew.
Grains cannot be grown from scratch and must be purchased (fresh, if possible) from a trusted source. Growing grains is easy and takes only a couple of days to double, and you will become a 'donor' quite rapidly.
how to Grow more grains and to make Water Kefir
The ratio is usually 1 Tablespoon of grains for 1 Tablespoon of sugar for 250 ml of water
it is best to make a litre at a time, as this is enough to keep until the next batch is ready.
Measuring grains is not that essential, but the more you put in the faster the fermentation process.
Growing Grains, making Water Kefir
1 Litre filtered water or spring water
4 Tbsp of grains (use plastic measuring spoons)
1 Tbsp Organic Blackstrap Molasses
4-6 Tbsp Coconut Sugar
a pinch of Sodium Bicarbonate
Add all ingredients in a glass jar. Place a cheesecloth or muslin over the top and tie it securely with a rubber band. I prefer to use jars with removable lid top, and screw the lid back in with muslin, so that it is securely maintained and the brew is still breathing.
Allow to stand on your kitchen counter for up to 48 hours.
Strain the liquid (it can be drunk or added to juices or smoothies) using a plastic sieve and rinse the grains thoroughly (you should notice an increase in volume). You can repeat the process until you have enough grains, especially if you started with a little amount and adjusted the recipe accordingly.
Making Organic Coconut Water Kefir
Starter (Coconut Kefir) Recipe
1 Litre Coconut Water (Raw, unprocessed)
4 Tbsp of grains
Using the same jar used to make the started, add the grains and Coconut Water. Placing muslin and lid as indicated before.
Let to ferment for 48 hours checking at least every 12 hours, making the fermentation process is not going too fast (which may happen during the summer months). The longer you leave it the more pungent and sour it gets, though.
Strain the grains using a sieve and rinse them thoroughly. You can now use them to ferment the next batch, using the same recipe.
Starter (Coconut Kefir) liquid
125-250 ml of juice (you can experiment with any juices)
Place liquids inside a jar, and let to ferment for 48 hours, following the same instructions as above. The Kefir, during this second phase of fermentation will break down the sugar present in the juice and go fizzy.
If you feel that your kefir is already fizzy enough, or it is just to your taste, it is fine to bypass the second fermentation process altogether and bottle it up straight away and place it in the fridge, which will slow down the fermentation. Always use a tight-fitting lid on the bottle or a sling-top lid.
N.B. While unprocessed Raw Organic Coconut Water does not have enough sugar to grow the kefir grains, it has enough to make the Coconut Water ferment into Kefir.
if you have fast grains or fermenting during the summer months, you will need less time and it could ferment in about 12-24 hours. On the other hand, if you have slow grains, you can expect to wait 24-48 hours. As long as they are growing and producing kefir, the speed and strength is more of just the character of the particular grain you have, and not something to worry about either way.
If your kefir is too sour before your usual straining time, simply adjust to less grains, or more sugary-water, or strain it every day instead of every other day. If you use too much sugar-water and not enough grains, the solution may go off before the kefir grains have a chance to ferment it, so make sure to follow the recipe carefully.
Do not add sugar directly to the obtained starter liquid, as this will act as fuel to the fire, and once bottled up the wildly produced gases will cause your bottle to explode.
Like Kombucha, Water kefir needs to be fed at least every other day. Kefir grains need to be strained every 24-48 hours and put in a fresh mix of water and sugar.
If you or your grains would like to take a break, place them in a sealed container or freezer bag and stored in the fridge up to 2 weeks, refreshing them weekly with fresh water and sugar or simply put them in their finished kefir juice for up to a week or two. They should be brought back out to room temperature before being used again.
Alternatively, you can freeze the grains and bring them back to life using the first recipe given above, once they reach room temperature; however, it may take several batches before producing more grains.
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Olivier is a Michelin-Star trained chef, also a student in Nutrition and Naturopathy, embracing fully his passion for good food and healthy eating. He should graduate July 2016.