To understand what kefir is you must first understand the grains used to make kefir. Kefir, pronounced as keh’-feer, alternately known as “Grains of the Prophet Mohammed”, “Drink of the Prophet”, “Tibetan Mushroom”, “Balm of Gilead”, “California Bees”, “Snow Lotus”, “Kombucha”, “Tibcos”, “Yogurt Plant”, “Yogurt Mushroom”, “Japanese Crystals”.
Kefir grains are combinations of yeasts and bacteria living on a substrate made up of a variety of dairy components. It is a fermented, enzyme-rich food resembling yogurt filled with friendly bacteria, known as probiotics. Probiotics are live microorganisms, such as bacteria or yeast, that provide health benefits when consumed. Scientists who studied kefir grains were surprised to discover that there is not a single trace of bad bacteria in the grains. They even injected Escherichia coli, bacteria that commonly inhabitant the intestines, but these were killed by probiotics. It seems that pathogenic organisms cannot exist anywhere near kefir. These live kefir grains look a little like cauliflower florets and are somewhat gelatinous in texture. Live kefir grains cannot be made or manufactured! Like yogurt, kefir is a cultured milk product with a tart and even sour taste, but the two foods have some differences as well.
Kefir (pronounced kee-fer) originates from the Caucasus Mountains in Eastern Europe. It’s believed that the name comes from the Turkish word “keif” which means good feeling. The exact details of their origin is not known although there are many stories ranging from the grains being the actual manna from heaven during the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years or a gift from Allah to the Prophet Muhammed. In any event, the grains were closely guarded secrets because of their health giving properties until the early twentieth century when a Russian spy was able to get some and then they quickly proliferated in Russia and Eastern Europe and now throughout the world.
Kefir’s flavour is naturally sweet and slightly bubbly, and mild but a bit tangy as well.