Kefir is a popular, health-boosting drink made from the fermentation of kefir grains in milk. The origins of the name come from the Turkish word for pleasure (Keif); probably because when drunk daily, kefir promotes health and an overall good feeling. Its’ probiotic qualities are rumored to lead to longevity and have recently caused its’ growing popularity in Europe and the Americas. Those who are interested in bioactive foods and other foodies curious about traditional beverages have increasingly begun to ask ‘what is kefir.’
What does kefir taste like?
The finished product of kefir milk looks similar to a smooth yogurt drink, but has a slightly carbonated texture. Twenty-four hour fermented kefir tastes sweet and is more watery while after 48 hours kefir thickens and becomes tangier. This is the traditional kefir milk made by the authentic method using actual kefir grains and cows’ milk.
Kefir products are now available in supermarkets in North America, and other commercial supermarkets worldwide, with sweetened versions including strawberry, peach and blueberry. However, these products do not have the same health benefits as real kefir, which for now can only be produced in small quantities. It can not be mass produced due to the nature of the kefir grain itself.
Where does kefir originate?
Humble shepherds are believed to be the first kefir producers. Somewhere on the slopes of the Caucasus Mountains, which span the land between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea, the first kefir milk was made thousands of years ago. At that time the tribes would use cow or goat’s milk and let the kefir ferment for several days in a goatskin bag. Learning how to make kefir and the kefir grains themselves where an important part of the tribal culture which would be passed down from generation to generation.
There are also legends which link kefir to important stories from the monotheistic religions. Some believe that the first kefir grains were given to the Caucasian people by the Prophet Mohammed, who also first taught them how to make kefir milk. Some also say that kefir may have been the manna written of in the Bible, and thus a gift from God.
One can only be sure that, the true origin and first culture of kefir grains will probably never be known.