A nightcap for little sickos

I’ve experimented quite a bit over the past year with some of the different fermented drinks you can make at home — namely milk kefir, water kefir and kombucha. My feeling is that they all have their time and place, and water kefir and kombucha are both great to have on hand in the summertime for a sweet, fizzy drink, as a nice treat. I do find the sugar content to be quite a lot though, and have been hibernating the cultures for both of those until the warmer months. There is also debate as to whether kombucha is safe for breastfeeding mothers, and although I don’t tend to worry too much about that sort of thing, I’m just not really feeling it right now. I actually believe I’ve reached a state of “fermentation fatigue”, which I predict will become a nation-wide affliction in 2015. This year, I’m planning to stick with the basics: sourdough, sauerkraut and milk kefir.

I’ve probably had the grains in a bottle of sour milk in the back of my fridge for at least six months, but now that Ocean is one (big girl!!) and eager to taste and try whatever she can get her hands on, I’ve been putting milk kefir back into steady production. It really is like magic; so good, so satisfying and so easy. I use whatever I have on hand for milk, be it from cow, goat or nut (although I mostly use real milk to keep my grains plump and healthy). I would opt for raw milk in a cool heartbeat if I had a nearby source, but for now, I seem to rotate among all of the convenient options: organic whole homogenized, organic whole un-homogenized, goat’s milk, conventional cow’s milk. Whatever. I actually see this as a way of infusing a bit of love into the denatured store bought milk that is otherwise nutritionally questionable to say the least, or really very bad for you if I’m being honest. Yeah, I still buy it. Kid likes his glass of milk at night, what are you gonna do.

Jackson had a bit of a cold recently, and while I don’t love giving dairy during a cold (as it can create inflammation and mucous in the body), he wanted a glass of milk to drink with his bedtime stories. I decided I’d feel better about giving him a nice, warm, probiotic sleepy time treat, and he sipped it with so much pleasure that I wanted to share. Milk kefir is just the greatest stuff, so good on its own, so good in smoothies, and so good as a nighttime sweet treat for little sickos. It’s also said to colonize the gut with healthy bacteria in a more long-term sense than yogurt, the effects of which are supposedly very temporary. I’m not going to try to position myself as one of those health bloggers who pretends to know everything about everything, because frankly they irk me (bless them and their recipes). For the record, I’m not trying to position myself as a health blogger at all… or even a blogger really. I don’t actually know what I’m doing here and I’m not sure why you’re still reading this. In anyhow! Google will turn up tons of interesting facts about all this stuff, that may or may not back up anything I have said. 🙂

Ok here we go. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine:

  • 1 cup of milk kefir
  • 1 tsp raw honey
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg

Stir your magic sleepytime potion until the honey is mixed in and it is just warm enough for tender young lips to touch. You don’t want to overheat it, as this would damage the good stuff in the kefir and honey. Definitely double this recipe as you will want to cheers your love and sip away together over bedtime stories.

***

I know you can buy kefir at the store, but this stuff is expensive and not nearly as potent as what you can easily and cheaply make on your own kitchen counter. To make your own milk kefir, all you need are: kefir grains (not real grains, btw, but a bacterial live culture that looks like tiny gummy cauliflowers), milk, a jar, a breathable cloth, an elastic band, a non-metal strainer.

Once you’ve got your hands on all those things it’s as easy as this:

  • put your milk kefir grains in a glass jar (about 1 quart size)
  • fill the jar with milk, leaving an inch or 2 of space
  • cover with cloth and elastic band
  • leave on counter for approx. 24hrs
  • strain out the grains, bottle and refrigerate the kefir, and start again (If you want to take a break, simply cover the grains with milk and store in a jar in the fridge. The cold will slow down the fermentation process and they will stay happy for a couple of weeks or so)

IMG_0580

Et voila! There’s a learning curve, but don’t sweat it. You really, honestly, can’t go wrong. If it’s iffy, put it in a smoothie. If it’s rank, give it to your dog. If it’s a little bit creamy and just the right tangy-ness, yum! You did it! Drink it straight or stir in some maple syrup for an alternative (or companion) to your morning coffee. Cultures for Health provides awesome how-to videos on their website that will walk you through these steps in about 3 min.

Hope you try it! Feel free to hit me up with any questions about making milk kefir, or suggestions on how to combat fermentation fatigue!!!

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