Handout prepared by Erika Laurion, MS, CNS, CDN
for our WAPF chapter event, 3/24/13, in Hudson
To make 2 quarts of beet kvass, chop up 3 medium beets, add 1/4 cup whey and 1 tbsp. salt, adding pure water to fill the container. Keep at room temperature for two days (or maybe a few more depending of the temperature of your kitchen), then keep in frig. You will know when its ready by the color and taste. It should be a deep rich red and will taste tangy. When most of the liquid has been drunk you can re-cut the beets a little bit smaller and refill with fresh water and repeat the process. You can save some of the kvass to make more, instead of using whey or you can add more whey and salt. (Chopping is recommended vs. grating, which can result in too-rapid fermentation that creates more alcohol than lactic acid.)
Beets are highly nutritious. Sally Fallon says that 4 oz. of beet kvass twice a day is a great blood tonic: Beets have a tremendous regenerating effect on the body, and for those recovering from digestive ailments beets help to can be used a digestive aid. It is an excellent tonic for the blood as it alkalizes the blood, promotes regularity, cleanses the liver and is a good treatment for kidney stones. Beet juice or beet kvass is also helpful in healing the gallbladder, or important for those without a gallbladder as it helps to thin out the bile. If the bile is too thick the liver and gallbladder get congested and problems start to occur. The betaine in beets is what aids digestion, as well as helps to promote healthy stomach acid and juices. The nice thing about drinking beet kvass is you get all the nutritive value of the beets without all the sugar content. Beets are also loaded with minerals and fermenting them only enhances their nutritive properties.
Water Kefir is a wonderful mildly zesty fermented sugar-water beverage. It is fermented at room temperatures in sugary water with lemon and dried fruit for about 24-48 hours. It has many wonderful health benefits and is also a great option for those sensitive to milk.
Kefir grains are an amazing symbiotic matrix of bacteria and yeast that work together to feed off the natural sugars (and sometimes proteins and fats too, especially in the case of milk kefir) found present in the sugar-water and dried fruits. The yeast and bacteria co-operate, making the nutrients that are inaccessible to one digested into accessible nutrients for the other. Yeasts break down the simple sugars like glucose and fructose, turning them into ethanol and acetic acid. Lactic and acid-producing bacteria (such as lactobacilli) convert sugars (such as sucrose) and complex carbohydrates (starches, etc) into simpler sugars and lactic acid. Lactic and acetic acids naturally preserve as well as starve off harmful foreign bacteria. The result is a drink that has had much of the sugar converted to simpler sugars, lactic and acetic acids, carbon dioxide and ethanol. It also contains millions of probiotics.
How to make water kefir
Making water kefir is not an exact science.
The general idea is to dissolve sugar in water and allow the grains to ferment in this mixture for one to three days. Once fermented, remove grains and drink kefir as is, or add flavoring (in the form of fruit of juice) and allow to ferment for another day. It is during this second ferment that kefir often becomes very bubbly (but not always). The amount of sugar, type of sugar, length of fermentation, and type of flavoring can all vary.
In a pot, on the stove top, dissolve 1/3 cup of sugar in 1 cup of water*. Allow to cool a little then add 3 cups of water. Pour this mixture into a 1/2 gallon mason jar and add another 1 1/2 to cups of water (so the jar is filled close to the shoulder or 6 cup mark). If the water is room temperature, add 1/3 cup of water kefir grains. Cover with a tea towel or coffee filter and secure with a rubber band. Leave in a warm place to culture for 24 to 72 hours. The longer you leave it, the less sweet it will be (the grains eat the sugar!). Taste the water kefir each day to see if it has reached your desired level of sweetness. Once it has, strain out the grains by placing a plastic strainer over another mason jar and pouring the kefir through it. Store the grains in a sugar water mix in the fridge or use them to begin a new batch of water kefir.
Once the grains have been removed, you can do a second fermentation.
The second fermentation is a great time to add fruit (fresh or dried) or fruit juice for extra flavor. Add a cup of raisins and some lemon slices. Instead of using a towel or coffee filter to cover the top, place plastic wrap over the mouth of the jar and then the lid. This will keep out the air and allow bubbles to form. Leave the water kefir covered for another 24 to 72 hours. Then strain out any fruit pieces and pour into a clean container or bottle. Store in the fridge.
To make fruit juice water kefir: Place 3 Tablespoons of kefir grains in 1 to 2 quarts of organic juice . Cover as directed for the first fermentation and allow to sit for 24 to 48 hours. Strain and enjoy!
Does kefir grains have a sugar preference?
Water kefir grains are unique from batch to batch and season to season. Some find that whole cane sugar (Rapadura) or Palm Sugar mixed with white sugar in the summer and a blend of white sugar and blackstrap molasses in the winter work best. They can also readily adapt and be happy with brown sugar. Other sugars may work for your grains and it will depend on the water you use and the temperature you keep your house at. It is always worth trying a variety of different sugars, and when the grains start to under-perform, try switching things up. Water kefir can ‘get tired’ of what it is in, needing a switch-up of sugars and this is likely due to the fact that no one food (or sugar) contains all of the vitamins and minerals, and the grains simply are needing to be exposed to variety to obtain what they need. Some sugars are more difficult for them to process and some process very rapidly – making raw cane sugar better in the summer when they are fermenting more rapidly, but too difficult sometimes in the winter (when molasses seems to supply the minerals that whole cane sugar does, but in an easier form). Again, it is best to test a wide variety of options for your grains, and be flexible to change when your grains tell you they need something new.
Does it matter what water you use?
Water is one of the crucial ingredients for water kefir. What water you use will make a difference. Since most of us don’t have the equipment to test what is in our water, let alone on a day-to-day basis, this usually requires some experimenting. Water kefir generally prefers a nutritious highly mineralized water (also called hard water, or mineral water / spring water if its from a bottle). Soft water, filtered water, carbon-activated, ionized or otherwise altered water does not seem to encourage the same amount of growth or vitality. They may not contain enough of the various and vital minerals found in normal tap, spring or mineral water. Also, chlorine can be an issue and should be avoided if possible. To remove some of the chlorine you can let your water set out (without a lid) and it will evaporate in about 24 hours. Some forms of chlorine such as chloramine won’t dissipate as easily. If you are unsure what your tap water contains, contact your local water facility for details. Note that some people who feel that their water doesn’t have enough minerals add 4 drops of liquid minerals each time they make kefir (can be found on Amazon).
What is the purpose of the lemon and the dried fruit?
The lemon and dried fruit have traditionally been used in the recipe for ages. As with many things from the past, people used what they found worked, and we are now able to scientifically define why. The lemon serves as a natural ph buffer, lowering the ph to protect the water kefir from foreign and competing contaminants. Lemon peel also is high in calcium, a main mineral for the grains. The dried fruit serve as an added source of sugar and the various minerals found within them (including a good dosage of potassium and magnesium). It is interesting that just as with us, it is also important for kefir grains to receive a large amount of calcium, potassium and magnesium (and other trace minerals). Some dried fruits seem to work better than others. Raisins are the traditional fruit of the recipe, but dates, figs, apples, apricots and coconut among others also work very well.
What is the advantage of taking Kefir instead of a probiotic supplement?
Fermented products such as kefir are considered functional foods because they offer enzymes, pre-digested nutrients, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, calories/energy and billions of probiotics. Probiotic pill supplements contain just one or a select variety of bacteria, and usually that’s it. It’s always better to eat something in its whole form when possible, because each part makes the other more digestible. This is why companies are now adding fiber back into cereals and fruit juices, and citric acid into calcium – you often need all the parts to assimilate nutrients correctly.
Why is water kefir sometimes ok for diabetics to consume?
The bacteria and yeast produce enzymes that break down the sucrose (the double sugar that sugar is composed of) into fructose and glucose. Fructose is digested by the liver and does not spike the blood sugar of diabetics like sucrose or glucose. Because of the fructose, it makes this drink a lower Glycemic Load (GL). Also the added acetic acids and carbonation from the fermentation lower the GL as well. We’ve noticed and had people share that the best way for diabetics to consume water kefir is to do a secondary ferment with pure fruit juice (high in fructose) and a portion of the finished water kefir which results in a low-sugar (and low GL) beverage. It is not safe for all diabetics, and is ultimately up to you to determine how your blood sugar levels respond after consuming water kefir. ‘Ripening’ kefir can even further reduce the sugar content (but raise the alcohol and acids) if desired.
What’s the difference between milk kefir and water kefir?
Milk kefir grains and water kefir grains behave similarly by both fermenting a sugary liquid into a probiotic beverage (similar to yogurt for the milk kefir, or kombucha for the water kefir). However, they are separate cultures, and are not ‘made’ from one another. Although you may try to ferment juice with milk grains, or attempt to ferment milk with water kefir grains, they will not switch to be the other culture or look like the other culture. Milk grains look like soft opaque curds of cauliflower heads while water kefir looks like tiny semi transparent crystal gems.
Kimchee (this is a different recipes that I showed during the CCWPC meeting in March 2013)
You will need anywhere from several hours, to overnight, to soak the fresh chopped veggies in salt solution, and then anywhere from 5 days to 2 weeks to ferment your kimchee depending on how warm the room is, how much salt to vegetables, and whether you had leftover kimchee “juice” to jump-start the fermentation with.
Step 1 assemble ingredients: For roughly two quart jars:
~2 lbs chinese cabbage
~1 whole daikon radish or several red radishes
~1 to 2 carrots
~onions and/or leeks, bunch of scallions, or shallots… as many or few as you like.
~6-8 cloves of garlic, or as many as you like… your love of garlic is the only limiting factor
~5-6 tablespoons of grated ginger, or grate up a 4 inch piece… again, more to taste if you like it especially
~3 tsp. hondashi japanese fish broth powder (or a handful of dried bonito, crumbled) or fish Sauce (made of anchovies)
Brine will be 4 cups of water to 4 tablespoons of salt. If this isn’t enough to cover the fresh veggies, then double the brine recipe.
Step 2 – Chop the vegetables: Chop the cabbage into roughly 1-inch slices across. The daikon will wind up in rectangular slices about 1/4 inch thick by 1 to 1 1/2 inch long by 1/2 to 1 inch wide, (the main point is getting it into bite sized pieces that are thin enough to ferment well but not so thin as to disappear into the dish). Carrots can be julienned, but you can shave them into very thin slices, using a mandolin. Again, the point is to end up with bite-sized carrots thin enough to ferment and soften well. Cut the scallions and add to the spice paste mix. Kimchee is very forgiving so if you decide to add scallions to the main vegetable brine instead of the spice paste, it doesn’t seem to hurt anything.
Step 3- Mix the vegetables in the brine: Put 4 Tablespoons of salt into 4 cups of water in a nonreactive mixing bowl, glass jar, or stoneware crock. Add all your chopped vegetables. If there isn’t enough brine to cover and soak everything, add 4 more cups of water mixed with 4 more TBSP salt. Let it sit several hours or overnight.
Step 4 – Prepare the spice paste
In this step, you will grate ginger, press or pulverize garlic, slice scallions or onions, chop or crush chilies if using whole ones, and add dish broth, sauce, or crumbled dried fish.
Step 5 – Mix and Stuff: Drain the brine from the vegetables (reserving in case you need it later), and taste. They should taste nice and salty, but not so salty that you wouldn’t want to eat it. If it is so salty that it is very unpleasant rinse a little. If it doesn’t taste good and salty, add a little salt. I know this is very subjective, but usually the brine proportion works and doesn’t require tweaking. But in case, you should know that tweaking is ok.
Mix the vegetables with the ginger-chili-onion-garlic paste. Mix thoroughly, then stuff into jars. You will find that two quart-sized mason jars are just about right, but you can also use more pint jars, or a single larger crock or jar. Pack it tightly, and put something on top to weight it down. This can be a slender glass tumbler, a ziplock bag filled with water or brine, a nice clean smooth rock that fits inside the jar, etc. And actually, I have made perfectly edible kimchee without weighting it down, just by packing very tightly in the jars and pushing the contents down firmly each day while fermenting. It’s better if it is weighted though, which is why traditional pickling crocks were so handy. Cover to keep out dust and flies (plastic screw-on Mason jar caps are nonreactive and easy). Set on a tray to catch any juice that may come up and over the top of the jar while fermenting. You can ferment this on your kitchen counter, smelling and tasting it daily until it tastes like Kimchee and then refrigerate, or you can put it in a cool basement to ferment more slowly and develop more complex flavors.
Generally it is ready when the cabbage and daikon are somewhat translucent and softened, but you can start eating it any time, dependent on your taste.