Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Symbiome Milk Kefir Starter Set

   Recently, I wrote about the probiotic marvel that is kefir. Powerful, easily made at home and unadulturated by chemicals, all you need is a jar, a sieve, milk and kefir 'grains', and from that you will have a never-ending supply and a highly inexpensive healthy habit.
   But finding good quality kefir grains - namely fresh, live grains that have not been dehydrated, but have been actively cultivated through the very act of making kefir - can be tricky. The general advice is to find someone nearby - friend, family, neighbour - who make kefir themselves and obtain grains from them. This is because you can't buy them in stores, even health food shops (except ready-bottled kefir milk, laden with added sugars to make them more palatable).
   But if you can't find a local source, you're not stuck. Some people do sell their abundance of kefir grains online, shipped quickly, safely, and in a small amount of milk so that the grains don't slow down, dry out or die in transit. And don't panic about the idea of day-old milk arriving in the post. As I said in my 'everything you need to know about kefir' post, the bacteria in the kefir actually stops the milk from spoiling, and they will instead arrive nice and healthily.


   I obtained my kefir grains through Symbiome, a fresh, Cardiff-based, small-scale company. They provide both water kefir grains and milk kefir grains, at £5.50 per 5g (which will make 250ml of kefir milk every 24 hours), which is ideal if you already have a plastic sieve and a plastic or glass jar (as stated in the previous post, metal reacts quickly to the acidic kefir), or if you used to make kefir and want to pick it back up again.
   They also offer a kefir starter set which includes the basics: a 1 litre glass jar, a plastic sieve, easy to follow instructions and 5g of kefir grains in enough milk to feed them through transit and a day or two after delivery. I opted for this, at £17.99. Shipping is also fast and free!

   Note: It's advisable not to risk leaving them to weaken and grow sluggish in the milk they arrived in, so get started the day it arrives. It is shipped quickly, so I would recommend buying a litre of whole (full-fat) milk (from cow or goat) the day after you purchase the grains or the package.


   It seems like a daunting prospect, the idea of cultivating a living thing, but it's actually quite straight-forward. I was nervous when I made my first batch, doubting all the while if it would even work (I'm very hit-and-miss in the kitchen, even when I follow instructions to the letter), but the following morning, when my milk had a distinctly different appearance, leaving me no doubt that the grains had done something, and I strained and tasted it, I was relatively sure (by evening, with no upset tummy) that I had succeeded. Thereby rendering the whole venture thoroughly pleasant and quite unintimidating.

   Making kefir, as I detailed in my last post, is very straight-forward, but I will go over it again here:
1. Empty the kefir grains from the innermost pouch into the sieve and rinse with your chosen milk.
2. Empty the grains from the sieve into a jar and pour more milk on top of the grains - 250ml for every 5g of kefir grains. I used a 500ml jar I had on hand with the intent on storing the finished kefir in the 1 litre jar.
3. Gently stir the milk with wooden/plastic utensils, then loosely set the lid on top so that the gas can escape during the fermentation process.
4. Place the jar out of the way and at room temperature, out of direct sunlight. Leave undisturbed for 24-48 hours.
5. When it's done - and you'll know because there will be pockets of clearer liquid at the bottom - stir it and strain it through the plastic sieve into another jar. At this stage the milk is ready to drink; you can either go right ahead, or screw the lid on and store it in the fridge to keep for 2-3 weeks.
   Then, either set the grains in another jar with 120ml of milk in the fridge for a week to keep them alive and slow their metabolism, or make another batch and pour it into the refrigerated jar to build up a supply.


   I've been using Symbiome's kefir grains for 2 weeks (including a 5-day rest) and made 1.5 litres of drinkable kefir, of which I drink 100ml first thing every morning. It's been one of the small daily efforts I've made to add more carbs and calories into my diet, following my recent admission of under-eating, and doing my body even more good with the probiotics. My hope is that they will help my digestion cope with larger meals, as well as put myself in the right, healthy, nourishing state of mind that has escaped me for so long. So far, I'm feeling pretty good!



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