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?

 

There and Back Again…

Hello everyone!  Wow, it’s been a looong time since I have posted on this blog.  My apologies to all of you who check in here frequently to see what’s going on.  In fact, quite a lot has been going on, I’ve just not been getting around to sharing it with you.  Here’s a quick rundown…

My son graduated from high school J, my daughter got married J (so now I have a bonus son JJ), 2 friends have had babies, I have started teaching sewing and crochet classes at a local fabric store, and as of a week ago I started converting the now empty bedroom into a sewing/crafting room.  Whew.  This week I am hoping to complete the transformation by moving all my fabric and yarn into the sewing room (although I have a LOT of fabric and I’m sure bets are being taken on this one) and getting my weaving loom out of the garage and cleaned up so I can use it again (for the 1st time in probably 15 years).  In about 3 weeks my son will be heading off to college and I’ll have another empty bedroom.  That one is going to be my guest room/office.  Kinda weird that all in one summer both kids are leaving and I’ll suddenly have the house all to myself.  And I’ll always know where the TV remotes are.  I’m excited to see this next season in their lives as young adults and where it’s going to take them.  I’m also equally excited about this next season in my life and what Father has planned for me.

Now that you are all in the loop, let me show you how to make this

into this.

 

Saturday was a good day for probiotics at my house.  I have been learning more about traditionally fermented foods and how amazingly healthful they are.  So far I have made sour pickles, water kefir, krauts, and chutneys.  On Saturday I started a new batch of water kefir, some Apple Cherry Pecan Chutney, and some kraut.  I even remembered to take pictures so I can show you all how easy it is to make.  The chutney was ready today so I thought I would share it with you now.  This made almost 3 quarts for me because I like big chunks of fruit.  The smaller the pieces, the less room they take up in the jars.

Just a note before we get started.  This chutney is fermented and uses a starter culture to get the process going.  You don’t have to make this as a ferment, you can just make it and put it in the fridge right away.  If you want to do that only use half the amount of sugar and only add enough water to get all the spices distributed evenly.  It won’t keep as long and won’t have any probiotic benefits for you, but it will still be really yummy!

 Apple Cherry Pecan Chutney

  • 6 cups coarsely chopped apples-I used 3 large Red Delicious
  • 2 cups pitted and quartered sweet cherries
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • ½ cup whey* or other started culture-I used some grape water kefir** that I had in the fridge
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup natural sweetener-I use dehydrated sugar cane juice but you can use any natural sweetener other than honey***
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

* The whey here is what is left over after making cheese, not the stuff you get in powder form at the health food store

** Directions for water kefir are coming soon

*** Because honey has anti-bacterial properties, it inhibits the fermentation process

Wash, quarter and core the apples.  Then chop them coarsely.

I like my apple chunks pretty big…

Put the apples into a large mixing bowl.  As you chop the apples toss them in the lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.  Next, wash, pit, and quarter the sweet cherries and add them to the apples.

The sweet cherries have just been amazing this year!

Now for the pecans.  I only used 1 cup because I am almost out of pecans and I use them in a lot of things.  Hopefully those pesky squirrels at my parents house have left some for us..

Mix all the rest of the ingredients into the fruit mixture.  Transfer to a clean jar or jars.  Pack down so all ingredients are submerged and at least 1 inch from the top of the jar.  Add more water if necessary.  Cover tightly. 

My big jar of chutney.

If you are using canning jars, the rings and lids work just great.  If you are using another kind of jar cover the top with plastic wrap before putting the lid on.  I used a gallon jar to ferment my chutney because I didn’t have enough quart jars that were clean at the time.  In order to keep everything submerged in a quart jar I usually add a small mouth jar lid on the top of the ferment and press it down.  That usually works pretty well.  However, for this jar I used a gallon baggie filled with water and just put it into the top of the jar.  While the baggie probably sealed it pretty well too, I still put plastic wrap over the top before I put the lid on the jar.  The weird color at the top is where some of the liquid migrated up between the baggie and the jar.  You need to let this sit out at room temperature for two or three days.  I put mine on top of the fridge so it’s out of the way, but I can still see it.  Still seeing ferments is a very, very good thing…Check the chutney daily for any mold growing on the surface and if there is just skim it off.  Everything below the level of the liquid will be just fine.  If the weather is very warm, fermentation may only take a day.  Burp the jar periodically to release the gasses from the fermentation process.  Please, please, please remember to do this.  Remember what happens when you don’t burp a baby?  Yup.  Just like that.  Just trust me on this…

There will be bubbles in the jar when you open it.  Kinda like this:

Bubble, bubble, bubble

This is looking straight down into the top of the jar.  Sadly, I have no natural light in my kitchen, so my pictures don’t always turn out very nice.

Taste it when you burp the jar and when it has reached a taste and texture you like, move it to cold storage or your refrigerator.  The longer it ferments the softer the fruit will be and the less sweet it will become.  This ferment will only keep for two to three weeks.  After spooning some out of the jar, make sure you repack it by pressing what’s left back under the liquid.

Because a lot of the sugar is used during the fermentation process, this is not overly sweet.  I eat it just by itself, but I think it would be good with yogurt or as a topping for pancakes or waffles.  Or maybe as a side with some grilled or roasted meat.  If you want to sweeten it up a little to use for dessert, drizzle with some raw honey or grade B maple syrup.  Or maybe even go a little bit crazy and put it on ice cream…

Enjoy!

How would you eat this yummy chutney?  Reply below and let us know!