My friend Alice R. stopped by a few weeks ago to pick up some plants for her garden. We had a wonderful visit... the kind friends have when a long time has passed in between, and we had some catching up to do! During our chat, she asked me if I'd ever made Water Kefir. Now, I had heard of and indulged in dairy kefir before, but this was new to me. It sounded a bit unpleasant, I must admit. She told me to Google it, and I was intrigued when she said it was a great and inexpensive source of probiotics, and that it was really easy to make. She offered me some water kefir grains if I wanted to try it, then we continued with what we were doing.
Just a few days after that, another friend stopped up for a visit. (We had some catching up to do, as well!) She asked me if I'd ever heard of water kefir, and I told her about Alice's visit. Needless to say, I figured I'd better pay attention to this one, so the next day, I picked up some kefir grains at Steff's and I've been making Water Kefir ever since!
Why drink Water Kefir? Here are a few links touting the health benefits of water kefir...
You were right, Alice... I LOVE it! And thank you Steff for the added nudge! It's simple enough for me, and I'm having a great time concocting various flavors. And I've been researching various bits of information, but... true to my nature, I've come up with what works well for me. As with all cooking and baking, I am not a measurer, and this hasn't seemed to affect the kefir's outcome, so I'll share my process as well as some links, and leave you to decide what works for you!
I must say that when I heard the term water kefir "grains", I was picturing something akin to rice. However, the grains are translucent and almost flake-like... I cannot help but think that they resemble (and please forgive me for saying this) the ultra-absorbent gel-like material on the inside of a baby diaper, except on a larger scale. (Sorry!) In the above picture, you can see the wet water kefir grains. When I received them, my friend had put some of hers into a pint Mason jar filled with sugar water. (I'll explain that further later.)
I let this sit on the counter overnight, and the next day, I strained the kefir grains from the water using a nylon strainer... you always reserve BOTH the fermented water (to drink) and the kefir grains (to begin another batch). Also, metal is apparently not good for the fermentation process, so avoid it and use glass and wooden utensils, and do not use chlorinated tap water.
Once I strained the kefir grains from the water, I began another batch. First, I took a clean half-gallon Mason jar and filled it with about a half-cup of warm distilled or well water, to which I stirred in 3-4 tablespoons of organic sugar, which feeds the kefir; the warm water helps the sugar dissolve quickly. Then I filled the jar with COLD water to the 3-Cup mark on the Mason jar, stirred it all well and then added about 3/4 cup of water kefir grains.
I covered the jar with a plastic mason jar top, not too tightly, and let it sit on the counter out of direct light for 24 to 48 hours. 24 hours produces a slight fizz, 48 hours is more fizzy, like soda.
When the desired effervescence is achieved, strain the kefir grains from the water, reserving both.
At this point, you can simply place the strained-off kefir water in the refrigerator and enjoy, and begin another batch following the steps above again.
Or you can flavor your kefir water, which is just what I like to do! I have tried lemon-mint and my favorite, grape. It's really simple...
Once you've strained off the kefir grains, pour the reserved fermented water back into a rinsed half-gallon mason jar. Add another tablespoon or two of sugar, and stir well. Then add about 1/2 cup of organic fruit juice... I prefer Knudsen's Just Concord Grape. Let this ferment for another 24 hours on the counter, then refrigerate and enjoy when cold.
I am in the process of experimenting with other flavors, not only using the other Knudsen flavors... pomegranite, blueberry, cranberry, but also lemon mint (using pure organic lemon juice and adding a fistful of crushed mint springs), and using fresh crushed fruit. Not sure how they'll all turn out, but I'm having fun.