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July 7, 2017

Blessed are the cheese makers

If you haven't heard about the health powerhouse that is kefir then it's time for you to get schooled! Kefir is probiotic fuel that kickstarts your gut and digestive system back into a functioning state to improve your health. That's kind of general, I know, but for me, it has pretty much cured my IBS, has improved my sleep and ability to focus and has even improved my skin with huge reductions in my usual winter psoriasis and even less blemishes! I was happy when I thought it just regulated my digestion, realising all the other benefits was a really happy bonus! What's more, these ancient grains have allowed me to stop buying store bought yoghurt and cheese, as I can now make my own. That means I get to avoid a whole bunch of other nasties that are included in these processed foods and also avoid all the plastic they're usually packaged in too. WIN WIN!

But how?

Ok, so I was gifted some ancient Russian kefir grains through a member of my gardening community. His gift led me to a culture and fermentation community which has really opened up the world of possibilities when it comes to probiotics. The grains are fermented in milk for 24hrs, then strained off. The liquid from straining is the kefir yogurt, the grains can either go back in milk for another round of fermentation or can be stored in milk in the fridge for a few days. It takes about 5 minutes to strain off and jar up the yoghurt. We gave up dairy a while ago, but the grains need to feed on lactose, so this is one area where I bend the plant-based diet rules, as the benefits to my digestive system have been too good to give up! I feed the grains on goats milk and then alternate between fermenting with coconut, soy milk and goats milk to keep them alive.

To turn kefir yoghurt into cheese you just need to pour thekefir into a tea towel or cheesecloth and hang it over a pot or bowl to separate the curds and whey. Once separated you can use as is (a cream cheese) or continue to develop by weighting the curds. This timing of this process depends on the type of cheese you are making. Plus you end up with whey which you can add to smoothies or use to make your own sauerkraut or kimchi.

Not only has kefir provided me with massive health benefits, but it's been an integral part of my almost zero waste journey, as it has eliminated my need to purchase particular pre-packaged products like yoghurt and cheese. The grains can be purchased online as dormant (dried) grains or you can join a fermenting community online and source starter grains from a fellow member. I've found these communities to be a wealth of knowledge and incredibly generous with both their grains and their time 😉 

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