Bubble, Bubble, Toil, and Trouble…

Ok, not really any toil or trouble, but definitely lots of bubbles.  (And for all you Shakespeare lovers out there, I know it’s misquoted. 🙂 )

I’m talking about water kefir (pronounced ke-FEER) today, which is an amazingly bubble and thirst quenching brew you can make at home. It’s a naturally carbonated beverage that’s full of probiotic goodness. You can leave it plain. Or you can flavor it with fruit or juice.

If you want your kefir to have a lot of carbonation you will need to invest in either bottles and a capper (available from most home brewing supply stores), or flip-top grolish-style bottles (available from several online sources). Both of which are made to withstand the buildup of pressure from the carbonation. If you don’t want to invest in bottles until you decide if you really like it or not, you can always use canning jars. Just be sure that you leave the lid loose so that pressure doesn’t build up and make the jars explode.

To make water kefir you need water kefir grains. There are also milk kefir grains, but they are not interchangeable. I’m not really sure why they are called “grains” because they have nothing to do with wheat-type grain. Perhaps it’s because “grayish-white, rubbery, blobish things” doesn’t sound very appealing? 

Regardless of the name water kefir grains are much like a SCOBY for brewing kombucha. They are clusters if beneficial yeasts, bacteria, and enzymes that create a pro-biotic rich beverage that helps to replenish the good stuff in our digestive tracts.

Kefir grains can come either frozen and ready to use, or dehydrated. There are several places online that have them for sale. I got mine from Cultures for Health. If yours are dehydrated, follow the instructions that came with them to rehydrate before you make your first batch. Water kefir grains will multiply in the right environment, so after you get the hang of it you can pass along your extras to a friend.

As with any other home ferment or culture, clean non-chlorinated water should be used. If you don’t want to buy bottled water, fill a gallon jar with tap water and let it sit uncovered for 24 hours. During that time the chlorine will dissipate.

Water kefir grains are happiest in a mineral rich environment. Some people add well-rinsed pastured egg shells to the jar during the brewing process. I prefer to use mineral drops, mostly because I can’t seem to remember to not throw my shells into the compost bin. Again, there are many online sources for mineral drops. I like this one called Concentrace.

I make my kefir in a gallon jar and that makes enough for about a week for me. I like to drink it in the afternoons when I used to reach for a sugary soda. It helped my kick my Dr. Pepper habit. And I love the bubbles! 

A few notes before we get started. Water kefir is a fermented beverage. If you allow it to ferment too long it becomes an alcoholic beverage. Normally, your kefir will have less alcohol that a piece of over-ripe fruit, but it’s best not to forget that you have some brewing. The other note is that you need to keep your kefir at least 5 feet away from any other ferments or cultures, including your sourdough, to prevent cross-culturing.

Here’s what you are going to need:

Gallon jar with lid

Plastic strainer

Wooden or plastic spoon

Kefir grains (about ¼ cup)

Gallon of non-chlorinated water

¾ cup natural sweetener such as dehydrated sugar cane juice, Sucinat, or Rapidura (don’t use honey)

Mineral drops or pastured egg shells

Ok. I think we’re ready to get started now.

greyish-white, rubbery, blobish things aka water kefir grains

greyish-white, rubbery, blobish things aka water kefir grains

Put the sweetener in a small saucepan and just cover it with water.

Sweetener just covered with water

Sweetener just covered with water

Heat the water, stirring frequently, just until the sweetener is dissolved.

sweetener dissolved in water

sweetener dissolved in water

Then pour the plain water into your gallon jar until it’s about half full. Add the sweetened water and stir. Now continue to fill the jar with plain water up to the shoulder.

sugar water in the jar

Add your mineral drops or egg shells and stir. Now add your kefir grains.

add kefir grains

add kefir grains

You can either just toss them in the jar like I do, or you can put them in a muslin bag and toss that in. If you use a bag, make sure that it is big enough to let the grains multiply. Now take a coffee filter or clean cloth and cover the top of the jar.

now with a lovely frilly cap

now with a lovely frilly cap

Use a rubber band or some twine to secure your covering. As the fermentation process commences, the grains will convert the sugar to gas and some alcohol. The covering is to allow the gas to escape during the first fermentation as well as keep the bugs and dust and curious kitties out. Then set the jar in a warmish place (75F to 85F is ideal) and let it brew for 24 to 48 hours. The warmer it is the faster it brews. Taste it at 24 hours. It should be much less sweet than when you started. Keep tasting it until the sweetness level is to your liking. It shouldn’t take more than 48 hours, but occasionally when it’s really cold in my kitchen it has needed a little longer. At this point, you can bottle it and let it sit for another 24 to 48 hours to build up carbonation, or you can flavor it in a second fermentation.

For the second fermentation you need to strain the kefir grains out and add juice or fruit.

and now with grape juice added

and now with grape juice added

I usually put a plastic strainer in the top of another gallon jar and just pour the kefir into the other jar. Then I fill the jar to within an inch or so of the top with organic fruit juice. You can also use fresh or frozen fruit. If you use fruit, you need to change it out every day. Now put the lid on the jar. If it doesn’t seal well, put some plastic wrap over the top first before you put the lid on it. Put it back in the warm place to brew some more. After 24 hours check for carbonation and taste.

bubbles!!

bubbles!!

If it’s bubbly and tastes good to you, transfer it to your flip-top bottles. I like to put about a tablespoon of juice in each bottle before I fill them with kefir. Make sure that you leave about an inch of head room in each bottle.

leave room with the bubbles

leave room for the bubbles

You can refrigerate right away or leave the bottles out for another day to get really bubbly. I leave them out because I loves me some bubbles!

ready for more bubbles

ready for more bubbles

And there you have it. A flavor customized, healthy, non-sugary, non-caffeinated, probiotic, alternative to soda. Serve it with meals or drink it alone.

Ahhhhhh

Ahhhhhh

What flavor would you like to try?

 

A Nourishing Progressive Dinner for the Holidays

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November 19 Appetizers will be served by Katie B. of Simply Food and Danielle of More Than Four Walls.

November 26 – Shannon of Growing Slower will be creating a delicious salad to share with us.

December 3 – What meal is complete without sides? You are in for a double treat with the dishes Jackie of LittleOwlChrunchyMomma and Virginia of George Town, MN are whipping up! 

December 10 – Chara of Stiching Hearts Together and I will be sharing two delightful homemade breads.

December 17 – Katie S. of Nourishing Simplicity will be sharing a main dish that has been a family favorite for years. 

December 24 – Pour yourself a couple of glasses of the festive beverages being served by Virginia of George Town, MN and Sherry of Nourishing Faith and Family.

December 31 Dessert will be served by Mare of Just Making Noise and Sara of Simple Life Abundant Life

Come back here each week for updated links to each host’s contribution. We also want you to join us in the holiday fun. How does a real food recipe exchange sound? Each host will have a link-up live on her post where you can share your favorite holiday courses or grab some new recipes to try! 

Check out all the link ups here



Temptation, Thy Name is Biscotti

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Who can resist the crunchy, sweet, buttery goodness of fresh Biscotti?  Every year at Christmas I make batch after batch of an amazing chocolate chunk version to put in my goodie baskets.  It’s easier than you might think and way better than most of what you get at the store.  Of course, if it’s homemade it’s got to be better, right?  🙂  I put a bag of these beauties in a basket with some homemade cappuccino mix and some spoons dipped in melted chocolate, add a festive ribbon and, voila!  The perfect gift for the chocoholics in your life.

I looked at several different recipes before coming up with this one.  One of the things I love the most about baking is that you can customize anything to suit your own tastes.  And even though I’ve tweeked it to make it a little better for you, I do need to put in this disclaimer.  THIS RECIPE DOES NOT EVEN REMOTELY RESEMBLE, IN ANY WAY, A HEALTHY FOOD.  So, you know, pace yourself.  🙂

Now that you’ve read the warning label, let’s get baking!

Chocolate Chunk Biscotti Recipe

1 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups dehydrated sugar cane juice

4 pastured eggs

2 teaspoons homemade vanilla

4 1/4 cups flour of your choice*

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp instant coffee

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 pkg semi-sweet chocolate chunks (you can find soy-free semi-sweet chocolate chunks here)

*I have never used a gluten-free flour in this recipe, so I don’t know how well that would work

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Light and fluffy!

Light as a cloud!

Beat in eggs, one at a time.  Now beat in the vanilla.

Eggs and vanilla beaten in well

Eggs and vanilla beaten in well

Mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, instant coffee, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl.  Add to butter mixture a little at a time, beating well between each addition.  Add the chocolate chunks and mix with a spoon untill evenly distributed.

Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces.

Ready to pat out onto the baking sheets

Ready to pat out onto the baking sheets

Butter and flour 2 cookie sheets.  On each cookie sheet pat out 2 pieces of the dough into logs about 1/2 inch high, 1 1/2 inches wide, and 14 inches long (ish).  Make sure the logs are at least 2 inches apart.

Ready to go in the oven

Ready to go in the oven

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.  Put on a cooling rack and let cool for 5 minutes.

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Coolness is relative…

Put the logs on a cutting board and using a serrated knife, slice the logs on a diagonal into 1/2 inch wide pieces.

Cuttin' up

Cuttin’ up

Put the pieces back on the cookie sheet about 1/2 inch apart and put back in the oven for 10 minutes.  I don’t always get the very end pieces to fit back on the cookie sheet.  There’s usually someone around to take care of those pesky pieces, though!

Ready to go back in the oven

Ready to go back in the oven

Let cool completely and then store in an airtight container.  These also freeze beautifully.  Just take them out, let them thaw, and serve.

Ah, Biscotti

Ah, Biscotti

And if you really want to get wild and crazy, you can dip some of them in melted chocolate.  Oh my!  Sometimes my children just don’t know what to do with me…

What kind of biscotti is your favorite?  Let us know by leaving a comment below or click on the balloony thing at the top.

This post was shared at Real Food Wednesday, and at Ginger Jamboree.