Inside of you are 3 trillion microbes that make up the body known as you. Four pounds of bacteria. More bacteria that the total cells of your body. Without them, you can’t digest your food and receive the nutrients that you need to build your body and to have the building blocks of nutrients needed for cognitive function. Your emotions, believe it or not, are controlled by your gut bacteria. Studies now suggest that gut bacteria help control anxiety and stress responses. Your cravings for food are determined by how many microbes you have in your gut. If you crave a lot of sugar and fat then you have a lot of sugar- and fat-loving microbes – and the same with healthy foods. If you reset your microbes, you can change your habits, your behavior, and the markers that create inflammation and disease in your body. You will begin to heal just by resetting the microbes in your gut.
Most of you have heard of gut health and leaky gut – it's all in the news these days. Leaky gut can cause all sorts of autoimmune diseases like Lupus, MS, inflamatory bowel disease, celiac disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, joint pain, thyroid disease, arthritis, allergies, asthma, acne, obesity, and even mental illness, and issues like autism and ADHD, etc.
Healthy guts help you digest your foods better, cause you to handle stress and anxiety better, keep you from having seasonal allergies, keep you from having achy joints, and from autoimmune diseases.
What can you do to improve your gut health? Eat a healthy diet of REAL FOOD and add some fermented foods to your diet.
What are fermented foods and why will they help your gut health?
Fermentation is a process of preserving foods that has been used for millenia. There are two common types of fermentation – alcoholic (like with wine) and lactobacillic (like with yogurt).
Historically, the fermentation technique was used as a way of preserving foods and drinks long before the days of refrigeration. Fermentation encourages the growth of good bacteria while preventing the growth of bad bacteria which would make the food spoil. Milk becomes yogurt, grapes become wine, cabbage becomes sauerkraut, cucumbers become pickles, etc.
The consumption of foods and drinks that have undergone fermentation contain benefits to health that stretch beyond food preservation. The transformation of sugars and starches enhances the natural, beneficial bacteria in food. These bacteria, known as probiotics or ‘good’ bacteria are thought to help a multitude of health issues, specifically digestive health.
Do you eat any fermented foods? I'll bet you do! Do you eat or drink.....
All these foods are fermented.
Today, we are going to learn how to make three different fermented drinks that you can add to your diet to help heal your gut and the guts of your children....
Milk Kefir (pronounced keefur)
Each of these drinks has the same benefits to your health, but are a little different in their bacteria and yeast strains so it is a good idea to mix them up in your diet.
Kefir is a probiotic cultured milk drink which contains up to 61 strains of beneficial bacteria – that's compared to yogurt which has up to 5! Kefir is a powerhouse of gut health! It is rich in minerals and vitamins, particularly the B vitamins and vitamin K. It is easier to digest than milk since it is pre-digested by the bacteria and makes it tolerable by people who cannot tolerate dairy.
Kefir is made with “grains.” Kefir originated in the Caucasus Mountains in the former Soviet Union where shepherds discovered if they put their milk in leather pouches it would ferment into an effervescent beverage. For most of recorded history, kefir wasn't known outside of these mountains, although Marco Polo mentioned it is recounting his travels. No one really knows where the grains came from although there are many theories that God gave them to Abraham, or Mohammed, or they were found in a river bed....well.
The grains look translucent and feel like little bits of cauliflower. They are living organisms and heat will kill them. They are a combination of bacteria and yeast commonly called a SCOBY – symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. 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.
Kefir has a tart effervescent flavor and is similar to a drinking-style 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 has been proven to help with blood sugar control, lower cholesterol, increased nutrition, improved lactose tolerance, improved stomach health, allergy and asthma, bone issues like osteoporosis, and weight control.
Kefir can be made from any type of milk, cow, goat or sheep, coconut, rice or almond. When made with raw milk, the good bacteria count is really huge. Although kefir 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.
HOW TO MAKE MILK KEFIR
Quart Mason jar or any type quart jar
1 tablespoon active Kefir grains
2 cups Milk (not ultra-pasteurized)
Pour the milk into the jar. Add the grains and stir slightly. Cover the jar with a coffee filter and rubber band. Set in a warm place in your kitchen (68 to 85 degrees) to culture.
Culture until milk is slightly thickened and aroma is pleasant. This generally takes 24 hours, but can take less time in warmer temperatures, so keep an eye on your grains.
After the milk changes texture and culturing is complete, separate the grains from the kefir by pouring through a fine strainer.
Place the kefir grains in a new batch of milk.
Do not rinse your grains in water.
If you have to go out of town or your supply of kefir is more than demand, you can put your grains to “bed” in a jar of fresh milk (two cups) and store in the frig for up to two weeks. When you are ready to activate again, throw away the milk from this jar and start culturing again.
When you make kefir for a while, your grains will multiply and you might even be able to give some to a friend. You will need about 1 tablespoon of grains per quart of milk.
Store the finished kefir in the refrigerator OR second-ferment your kefir....
SECOND FERMENTED KEFIR
A second fermentation mellows the tartness of the kefir and adds flavor.
Add to the jar of kefir a small amount of fruit, fruit peel, vanilla, cinnamon, cocoa powder, garlic or onion (for savory uses like dips), chai tea bags, pumpkin spice, the sky's the limit!
Set the jar on the counter for from 1 – 12 hours depending on how strong you want the flavor to be. Then refrigerate.
Kefir lasts 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator and can be frozen to last 1-2 months or longer.
Kefir can be used in smoothies, for straight drinking (if you like the tart flavor), salad dressings, ice cream, and can be used in any recipe calling for yogurt, buttermilk or sour cream. You can strain it to make a soft cheese and use the whey for fermenting vegetables.
Water kefir is made with grains like milk kefir, but the grains are different, but they can be converted from milk kefir grains and vice versa.
Water kefir has a different profile of bacteria than milk kefir so it's good to mix the two drinks in your diet. Water kefir has all the good benefits of milk kefir.
The flavor is different and it is a good replacement for sodas because when you second-ferment water kefir it bubbles like champagne.
HOW TO MAKE WATER KEFIR
quart Mason jar
water kefir grains
¼ cup sugar (I use organic)
Pour 1/4 cup sugar into the jar. Add 1/2 cup hot water. Swirl to dissolve the sugar.
Add 3 cups room-temperature or cool water.
Check the temperature of the liquid to make sure it's room temperature ( 68°-85°F.) Water too hot will kill the grains.
Add the water kefir grains
Cover the jar with a coffee filter and rubber band and place in a warm spot, 68°-85°F, to culture for 24-48 hours.
Check the flavor after 24 hours and see if it is still sweet. If it is, let it culture another 24 hours. It should not be sweet – the sugar is eaten up by the bacteria.
When the flavor is right, strain out the grains and bottle the water kefir in airtight bottles, Grolsch-type bottles are good, but any tightly-sealed bottles will work. Then refrigerate the kefir. When you open it do not shake it! It might have carbonation so you have to be careful.
Do not rinse your water kefir grains.
If you want a lot of carbonation, you can second-ferment your kefir.
After your culturing of water kefir is complete, prepare a new batch of sugar water, (steps 1-4 above).
Place kefir grains in the new batch of sugar water and set in a warm place to culture and the process starts all over again.
If you need to “put them to bed” for a while, you can put the grains in about two cups of sugar water and refrigerate for up to two weeks. Pour off the water and start culturing again.
Water kefir grains will multiply too over time and you can either culture more or give them away. You will need about 1 tablespoon grains per quart of sugar water.
SECOND-FERMENTING WATER KEFIR
After you bottle your kefir, add juice, citrus peels, fruit, spices, anything you want to each bottle. Seal tightly and set the bottles on your counter for at least 24 hours. Open the bottles and burp them at least twice a day or they will explode from the carbonation!
After about 24 hours you can refrigerate the kefir. Be careful when you open it!
Recommended Places for Buying Grains:
Kombucha Kamp – this is where I get all my supplies for milk kefir, water kefir, and kombucha supplies.
Cultures for Health (although these will be dehydrated and you will need to rehydrate them)
Cultured Food Life
RECIPES FOR MILK KEFIR
from Cultured Food Life
from Nourished Kitchen
RECIPES FOR WATER KEFIR
Another wonderful drink to add benefit to your diet is kombucha! Most of you have probably heard of kombucha because it is “in” right now. You can get it on tap at restaurants. You can buy it in the grocery stores – not just Whole Foods.
Why is kombucha good for you?
Kombucha has up to 40 strains of bacteria and yeasts and, when raw and unpasteurized, help with heart health, lower rates of anxiety and depression, fewer yeast infections, weight management, helps with the side effects of chemotherapy, boosted immunity, and, you guessed it, improved digestive health.
HOW TO MAKE KOMBUCHA
Kombucha is made with a SCOBY. It is generally large and pancake-shaped and looks gross, but it is full of good bacteria. Rinse your hands with vinegar before you handle the SCOBY.
cloth and rubber band
8 tea bags or 2 tablespoons of tea leaves
SCOBY and the starter tea that comes with it (at least a cup)
1 cup sugar
13-14 cups of chlorine-free water
Combine hot water and sugar in a glass jar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. The water should be hot enough to steep the tea but does not have to be boiling.
Place the tea or tea bags in the sugar water to steep.
NOTE: Using a metal tea ball to contain loose tea for making kombucha is acceptable. The tea ball should be removed before adding the SCOBY and starter tea, so the tea ball will not come into contact with the SCOBY.
Cool the mixture to 68-85ºF. The tea may be left in the liquid as it cools or removed after the first 10-15 minutes. The longer the tea is left in the liquid, the stronger the tea will be.
Remove the tea bags or completely strain the loose tea leaves from the liquid.
Add starter tea that came with your SCOBY or from a previous batch to the liquid.
Add an active kombucha SCOBY.
Cover the jar with a tight-weave towel or coffee filter and secure with a rubber band.
Allow the mixture to sit undisturbed at 68-85°F, out of direct sunlight, for about 7 days, or to taste. The longer the kombucha ferments, the less sweet and more vinegary it will taste. If it is summer and your house is warm, it will take less time to ferment than it would in the winter when your house is colder. Taste it after about 5 days. It should not be too sweet. If it is, allow it to ferment longer, tasting the next day and every day after until it is not too sweet.
If your house is cold, you might need to wrap the jar with a towel or use a heating strip to help with culturing.
Pour kombucha off the top of the jar into bottles that are tightly sealed for consuming. Fill the jars up to the rim if not second-fermenting. If you will second-ferment, leave space for whatever you use to ferment. Refrigerate. The kombucha can be enjoyed plain or second-fermented.
Every time you make a batch of kombucha a new SCOBY will form. You can give this one away or culture more kombucha with it, or put it into a SCOBY “hotel” or a jar with lots of SCOBYs in it where they hang out :) There are directions on the internet for setting up a SCOBY hotel.
SCOBYs are good for your skin, for placing on wounds, you can give them to your chickens (you have chickens, right?), you can eat them too. :) What!?
Retain the SCOBY and enough liquid from the bottom of the jar to use as starter tea for the next batch.
After your kombucha is bottled, you can add fruit, spices, juice, etc., to flavor your kombucha. Anything you want.
Seal the bottles tightly and set them on your counter for 24 hours, burping them twice a day.
After 24 hours, open one and taste. If the flavor is strong enough for you, refrigerate. If not, allow the kombucha to second-ferment a little longer and taste. When it is flavored to your liking, refrigerate. Be careful when opening and do not shake!
Kombucha will last in your refrigerator for 3 months. Technically, it will be safe to drink after that, but will taste more like vinegar. When it gets like this, use it in salad dressing recipes.
Where to Buy a Kombucha SCOBY:
Kombucha Kamp! I also like their tea mixture. It makes a great tasting kombucha.
I also have a continuous brew system which I purchased from them and love it.
Today you will be able to taste all of these fermented beverages and I hope you will find that you like them! Some (or all) might have acquired tastes, but remember you probably didn't like Diet Coke the first time you tried it either! Or other foods! I have heard that you have to try things several times before your taste buds can like them, so give them a chance because they are so healthy for you and your children to drink. If you have really young children, get them started on these drinks right away and get their taste buds used to them. Even my picky granddaughter likes mango and strawberry kombucha!
Start slow! If you have never had any of these drinks in your diet, you shouldn't have a nice, big glass full. Start with a couple of ounces or say, ½ cup, then increase a little at a time until you can drink the amount you would like to drink. If you drink too much and your body isn't used to it, locate the nearest bathroom and make sure you stay close to it. This is a die-off reaction, but don't worry, you might lose a lot of time in bathroom breaks, but you'll be fine.
Does kombucha have alcohol in it? The amount is negligible – the same amount as would be in an overripe banana.
Wait! This label says kombucha has sugar in it! What??? Yes, you have to use sugar when you make kombucha, but the sugar is for the bacteria and yeast to eat. By the time you drink it the sugar is long or almost gone.
Can you make kombucha with honey? Yes, but not until you are an expert! Look on the internet at Traditional Cooking School for a recipe.
Now, why would you make these things when you can buy them?
First, the cost. It is much cheaper to make them at home!
Second, the kefir you buy in the store is pasteurized and, therefore, all the good bacteria has been killed.
Third, you have to be careful when you buy kombucha that you get a brand that has not been pasteurized. GT is a good brand and I'm positive it has not been pasteurized.
IF YOU TAKE GOOD CARE OF YOUR MILK AND WATER KEFIR GRAINS AND YOUR KOMBUCHA SCOBY, YOU WILL NEVER HAVE TO BUY ANY MORE.