Sunday, September 9, 2012

Fermentation Experimentation #1: Coconut Milk Kefir

Greetings healthy-food fans! I am feeling particularly good this week, as the weather here has been so beautiful this entire month, and the sunshine's giving me plenty of vitamin D to keep me smiling! :) :)

I am also excited to share with you my journey into the world of fermentation experimentation! (really like the sound of that)

Recently I've been introduced to a local raw milk supplier who is supplying everyone at my place of work with this delicious white gold!! As you may know if you regularly read my blog, I do not consume dairy products generally. This has been true for about two years now (since I quit eating dairy in July 2010) Read my final conclusions of my "Dairy-Free Me," experiment from 2010 for more info on that. So now, for an update update on that: these days I do eat a bit of raw cheese from time to time (once or twice a month if that), and surprisingly (or maybe not-so surprisingly) the raw dairy food does not make my skin break out! I am sure this is due to the fact that not only does this raw dairy not contain any traces of growth hormones, as none were ever used, or antibiotics, etc etc etc, but also due to the fact that because it has never been pasteurized, or flash heated, it still contains all of the enzymes needed to help digest it. The enzymes which are naturally occurring in dairy are what help the body to assimilate nutrients in the milk, such as calcium. Although, side note: eating dairy can actually cause the body to lose calcium due to it's acidity (pH) and the body's balancing reaction to it - leeching calcium from bones to help balance out and alkalize the overly-acidic system. This is why I only choose to indulge in raw dairy on occasion. However, some bodies do better with dairy than others, so working with a trained nutritional consultant or just doing your own experimentation and listening to your body can be helpful in determining whether or not you should be consuming dairy. Every body is different and has different needs. Anyway, the point is (back to the point, please!!), I was chatting with the raw milk lady the other day about kefir and how I've always wanted to try making it with coconut milk! I've heard of other people doing this, and of the amazing beneficial bacteria that live in kefir, and have always wanted to try it myself. I'd never had any kefir (apparently pronounced keh-FEAR, but I tend to say KEE-fur) but I was really excited to try this beneficial probiotic beverage I have read so much about!

To my amazing luck, the milk lady is in the habit of making kefir on a regular basis and had a lot to say about it! Not only that, but she hooked me up with some of her kefir grains to get working on my very own kefir experiment with coconut milk!! She had never tried this, but was interested to see how it went for me. According to other people's blogs and articles about it, using regular milk kefir grains works perfectly well with coconut milk, so I decided to give it a go! This is my journey...

What it is:
Kefir is a cultured substance usually made from milk, cow or goat, but can also be made from coconut milk, water, coconut water, and probably a slew of other things that can ferment.

Why it's healthy:

Because kefir is cultured, it is packed full of beneficial bacteria. These friendly bacteria aid the body in digestion, help to boost immunity, and help your body to make certain vitamins. According to Dr. Mercola's site, the word kefir actually means "feel good" in Turkish! Awesome!

Ok, so now that we got introductions out of the way...on to the experiment!! :)

I happened to already have some coconut milk chillin in my fridge, so I had all the tools I needed to get started! To start with the kefir grains she gave me were sitting in raw milk, so I had to drain them...but before I did, I took a little sip just to see what "real" kefir tastes like. In my humble opinion, not too tastes like (and basically is) sour milk. Milk is not my favorite flavor anyway to start with, so this I could easily leave behind, and happily move on to my coconut alternative...which I did! 

These are the kefir grains after I drained off the milk. They are kind of spongy whitish-yellowish things...interesting for sure. Next, I just added the coconut milk to the mix and stirred it up.


Apparently you are not supposed to use a metal spoon or strainer when you are working with kefir grains because metal is reactive and can harm your grains, or potentially kill them or change them or something (you like that scientific explanation there?), but I was unaware of this when I started, so I strained them off in my metal mesh strainer and stirred it up with a metal spoon. Ah well. 

So I just continued on, set the lid on the jar very loosely, and set it in the cabinet to do it's thing!

I let this sit in my cabinet for the appropriate 24 hours (24-48 hours is best), and was so excited when I found it the next day looking thicker, and separated a bit. I found after this first batch that the lid was not the best idea as it tightens when the milk is culturing. For the next batch I just covered it with a towel and rubber-banded it on. This worked perfectly.

I researched different recipes a bit online and decided I would make a sort of cinnamon smoothie-ish drink out of my kefir. Here are the ingredients I used: 


  • Coconut Kefir (1-2 C)
  • 2 T Mesquite Powder
  • 1 T Maca Powder
  • 1-2 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp - 1 T Raw Honey
That's it! I tried stirring in the ingredients at first, but should have known the cinnamon wouldn't mix up so...

Mix it up in your blender! I am still using an old-school Crushmaster (don't yet have a fancy Vitamix) but it worked beautifully! 

And share with your friends/roommates/family or who ever's brave enough to try! It turned out surprisingly sweet and tangy, but super tasty especially with the other ingredients added in. 

I actually just did another batch using the canned coconut milk from Thai Kitchen. Apparently you want to use the full fat type as it ferments better than the low fat. This seems so much more natural and obvious as coconut meat is full of good healthy fat...why would you want to remove that?! But anyway, this next experiment went really well and actually better than the first! I like that the canned coco milk is thicker and thus produced a thicker, more yogurt-like kefir. You can use it in place of sour cream, yogurt, as a base for smoothies, substitute for milk in coffee, topping for fruit, as a base for coconut milk ice cream, or just dress it up with ingredients (like in this recipe) as a fancy drink!

My Tips in Coconut Milk Kefir-ing:

  • You want to put the grains back into regular cow's milk or goat's milk about every 2-3 batches to "refresh" them. I am planning on getting more raw milk this week to store the grains in between batches. 
  • The smell is a bit sour and a bit tangy, but don't be afraid!! Give it a taste, it is surprisingly sweet!
  • You can purchase grains from stores which will, from what I hear, work for a few batches but not indefinitely, or you can find other people who make kefir and ask them sweetly to hook you up with some grains, which will apparently last forever if taken care of properly. A good place to start asking around is people who have dairy cows or drink or purchase raw cow's milk. Also health food stores may have the packaged cultures you can buy, or know where you might find some. 
  • Try it with young Thai coconuts, making your own coconut milk first by blending together the water and meat of the coconut. This is the ideal method which I would be doing myself if I had a more high-powered blender. Look for that in future blogs. ;)
  • Last tip: have fun!! Don't sweat the details, just jump in and start trying it yourself! 
So that's it for today chill'ens...happy experimenting and I hope you enjoy these beautiful last days of summer, as I know I am!! Thanks for reading...cheers! :)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this information. I'll have to give it a try.