I am in love. again.
I have re-discovered the world of fermented beverages and my newest adventure has been with water kefir. I had tried my hand at other home-brewed bevvies in the past with success. In fact, ginger beer and T'ej (Ethiopian honey wine) were staples around my house for some time.
But water kefir has really rocked my boat. I think a big factor is that it takes a fraction of the time that others take to make - and who doesn't appreciate that?
The most pleasing attributes for me though are the flavour and how great it makes me feel after drinking it. It is the cleanest crispest flavour I've experienced in a ferment. Now I'm no fermented beverage aficionado - not by any stretch of the imagination - but I have had my fair share of 'booch' (aka: kombucha).
And there is also no denying how happy my belly feels after a cool crisp glass of my homemade water kefir. When I first made it a few months ago after a workshop I took with the talented Andrea Potter, I couldn't stop! I was hooked on the first sip and had to have more.
I was also adequately convinced that the refined sugar (something I don't normally use at all) was metabolized in the fermentation process and so it did not create any of the ill effect it would have if it had not been fermented. The refined sugar is virtually consumed by the active bacterial cultures within the kefir 'grains' and used as fuel to make this deliciously healthy drink. Some of the nutrients within include: enzymes, probiotic / friendly bacteria, antioxidants, assorted vitamins and minerals.
Now that's some good food magic
The method is simple once you get your hands on some water kefir grains (ask around at health-food shops and organic markets - many folks have them you just need to ask around in neighborhoods where people make or grow their own food).
Approx. 1/4 tsp. kefir grains (that's all you need for a litre!)
1 litre boiled/purified water
1/4 cup organic cane sugar
Approx. 1/4 cup fresh or dried fruit of choice
a few sprigs of herb of choice (ie: mint, thyme, basil, fennel) - optional but recommended to achieve complex flavour and higher nutrient value.
1. Place clean jar(s) on counter top and add 1/4 cup sugar to the bottom of jar.
2. Pour just under 1 litre water into jar over sugar and stir.
3. Add the herbs of choice to the hot sweet water.
4. Let cool to room temperature.
5. Add the fruit - I mash the berries to get the maximum nutrients out of them. If I'm using lemon or lime wedges I squeeze them a little first too.
6. Then add the kefir grains. I first put them into a little reusable tea sac to avoid having to strain them out of the fruity/herbal much afterwards.
7. Place a tea towel or cloth napkin over the top of the jar and fasten with an elastic band.
8. Let sit for 48 hours in a warm place away from direct sunlight and stir with a non-metal implement every 8-12 hours. (They don't like metal so I use a wooden spoon.)
9. After 48 hours, remove the little sac with the kefir grains and place it in the refrigerator in a jar with some of the liquid from the kefir to keep it moist and fed. It will be fine for a few days but feed it with a little sugar and water if you leave it for longer. Even better, use them for the next batch right away - this keeps them the healhiest.
10. Strain the rest of the fruit/herb bits and bottle the strained liquid. *Note: Bail top bottles are my favourite and they are nice and strong for holding back the sometimes powerful carbonation that builds during fermentation. Wine bottles and corks work too - put on lids tightly :)
11. Leave the bottle at room temperature for another 24 hours if you like carbonation.
12. Transfer to fridge after 24 hours in the bottle and enjoy once cooled.
*Be careful opening your fermented beverage as it can act like champagne sometimes and flow over wildly!
A few favourites: Rhubard and vanilla pod, lime & mint, summer plum, pomegranate, aumtumn pear or pineapple + coconut water.
"Easy-peasy lemon-squeezy" as my son Oskar would say!
Enjoy drinking in the goodness...