Author – Dr. Kevin Arlett
Continuing the theme on fermented foods, I thought I would follow on with yoghurt and Kefir. Yoghurt is a well known food in Australia, Kefir less so. These are both fermented from Milk but are quite different in consistency and taste.
Yoghurt is well known and this is usually eaten as a semi-solid food. The natural yoghurt is quite sour due to a higher concentration of Lactic Acid from the fermentation process. Yoghurt is fermented by a “Thermophilic” Bacteria, often a Lactobacillus species, which means that the bacteria needs a higher heat to produce the yoghurt. Home yoghurt makers are usually insulated to maintain the heat, however some are heated, using an electrical current. The yoghurt produced at home is rich in probiotic bacteria, and you can use some of the last batch to produce a new batch of yoghurt, but the strains tend to not last forever, so need replenishment every so often. Once the yoghurt has been produced, it can be eaten as is, flavoured with fruit or honey etc., or incorporated into smoothies etc. Any of these forms will give you your daily dose of probiotics.
Kefir is also fermented from milk, but can also be made from Coconut milk, other milks and there is even a Water Kefir variety that can be made from juices etc. I have personally only had the milk based Kefir, so cannot comment on the others. It is also a great source of probiotics but also tastes great. Kefir uses what is called Kefir “Grains” to ferment the milk. These are a collection of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts that come together into a matrix of proteins, lipids and sugars known as a SCOBY.
These grains look like a cauliflower head (or more cruelly perhaps they look a bit like frog spawn!) The grains operate in a mesophilic way, meaning they work at room temperature and don’t require heating to be applied. The grains are filtered out using a strainer and re-used to make more Kefir. These do seem to last forever if looked after and don’t need replenishing. In fact they reproduce themselves and have to be split off every 1-2 weeks. Kefir is a thick liquid that is usually drunk but may be incorporated into other foods or flavoured in a similar way to yoghurt. It often is slightly carbonated and tastes similar to a greek yoghurt. In ancient times kefir was made in a goatskin bag that was hung outside the tent (origins relate to the Caucasus mountains), where everyone going in and out of the tent punched the bag to mix it. Nowadays we make in a glass or plastic container.
Kefir grains can be bought online or in a kit form, or from someone who makes their own kefir. This last way is often the easiest as the grains reproduce regularly.
Try fermenting your own kefir or yoghurt at home, you won’t regret it and might find another way to get your probiotics.
© Townsville & Suburban Medical Practice, 2015.
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