There are two kinds of kefir – dairy and water. The water kind is essentially a fizzy drink made by fermenting sugar water or fruit juice, and it has a good blend of yeasts and bacteria. But it’s dairy kefir that has health gurus excited, with three or four times as many different yeasts and bacteria as water kefir, making it a mega microbe mix for your gut. Dairy kefir – generally just called kefir – is a thin, yogurt-like drink, with a faint fizz. It’s made using a mixture of bacteria and yeast (like kombucha), which form into “grains” that look a bit like cottage cheese but have a rubbery texture. Caroline Gilmartin is a kefir and fermenting expert and holds classes in Bristol (everygoodthing.co.uk). She finds that kefir works with all kinds of milk, although ideally full fat for its creamy texture. “Goat’s milk kefir is runnier than cow’s milk but it is delicious,” she says. “A mixed nut or nut and oat milk is best for vegans.”
WHAT YOU NEED
Kefir grains – ask a friend to share theirs, look on sharing apps such as olioex.com or buy them online from freshlyfermented.co.uk, from £6.40 including p&p.
Milk (cow, goat or sheep)
A jar with a glass or plastic lid A plastic sieve milk. Put the lid on and leave the jar at room temperature for 24 hours. The next day, strain the mixture through a plastic sieve – this kefir is ready to drink or use in a recipe in place of yogurt. Put the “grains” in a clean jar and add more milk to make your next batch. Kefir too thin? Line the sieve with muslin or kitchen paper, place it over a bowl and tip in the kefir. Leave it to drip for an hour or so until you have a consistency you like. You can add the whey to smoothies.
If the slightly cheesy taste of kefir doesn’t appeal, add a little grated lemon zest, or make smoothies:
Blueberry: blend 100ml kefir with half a banana, 100g blueberries, and 100ml milk.
Mango spinach: blend 100ml kefir with 50ml milk, 100g frozen mango or pineapple and a handful of spinach. Add more milk if it seems too thick. The company has won Great Taste awards for its the mother – in the non-reactive container. Add about 750ml wine or cider (diluted if necessary). Cover.
Leave for three weeks or so, then taste: if it has become vinegary enough then you can start using it, either spooning it from the jar as you need it or ladling it off and pouring into bottles. Top it up with more alcohol as and when it suits you. 225ml apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
200g caster sugar
3 bay leaves
If using whole pomegranates, remove the seeds and whizz to juice in a blender. Strain through a fine sieve and set 500ml of it aside.
Gently heat the vinegar, sugar and bay leaves in a pan for a few minutes, just until the sugar dissolves.
Take off the heat and mix with the pomegranate juice.
Leave for a couple of hours, and then lift out and discard the bay leaves. Pour the shrub into a sterilised bottle and put in the fridge for five days before using.
The shrub will keep for at least a month so long as it is stored in the fridge.
The Vinegar Cupboard by Angela Clutton (Bloomsbury Absolute, £26) is published on March 7
GOOD BACTERIA Kefir is a mega microbe mix for your gut; fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut are versatile