The next three days, I’m going to post some Q&A on subjects related to my recipe collection. These are questions some truth-seeking readers have asked:
Q: ABOUT KEFIR GRAINS: I understand they are “friendly bacteria” that “keep on giving.” They ferment milk into living organisms right? Therefore, do they live indefinitely, and can they be “killed” by certain processes (heat, cold)? Do they rate as probiotics? Can you eat too much? (I can easily drink a quart a day.) Am I supposed to be washing these grains periodically?
A: Kefir grains look like gelatinous blobs. They live indefinitely, and multiply, and can date back many years. (My mother gave me mine, which have grown and multiplied and provided grains to other families, and she said they originally came from Australia many years ago.) Yes, they ferment milk, preserving it with lactic acid. Fermentation predigests the milk proteins, making digestion easy and colonizing your gastrointestinal tract with the healthy organisms that keep the bad organisms at bay. You can kill kefir grains with excessive heat, but I believe you can freeze and thaw them at room temp.
Yes, kefir is very possibly the best probiotic, and unlike with yogurt, you can use raw milk with its enzymes intact. I don’t know if you can drink too much—a quart, wow! If your body responds well to it, do it. But for others reading, you don’t NEED that much; I personally have been putting 2 Tbsp. daily in my hot-pink breakfast smoothie. Those of you doing 12 Steps to Whole Foods, we will spend the month of August making and using fermented foods.
I wouldn’t worry about drinking too much, although I try to keep animal proteins under 5 percent of my family’s diet (per The China Study). No, you don’t need to wash the grains. Just scoop them out and keep them in the fridge until the next time you want to make kefir.