yogurt and kefir!

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Gut health, probiotics and microbiome are becoming fashionable topics lately. And seeking to optimise my digestive health, I began making yogurt and kefir. And here you can learn how to make them too – with some step by step instructions.
Many of both yogurt and kefir’s health benefits are attributed to its probiotic content. Probiotics, or “good bacteria,” are living organisms that can help maintain regular bowel movements, treat certain digestive conditions, and support the immune system. What is remarkable is that there is also research pointing out how specific strains of probiotics can help with mental health.

Personally i find that the mix of protein and other nutrients, as well as being low in lactose (thus easier to digest) makes both kefir and yogurt great recovery food after cycling training rides. Added, making yogurt and kefir as i’ll explain below is both easy and fun – and you can add your own flair by getting creative with the flavors too! Try making them with fresh basil … a herbal treat!

A quick request …

This post and this blog is dedicated to my fundraising to end bullying. Please click on the link below to find out more and to make a donation or text HUGG47 £5 to 70070. Thanks! JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Eight benefits

Kefir and yogurt consumption is still being researched, but the potential benefits include:

  1. Improved lactose tolerance
  2. Gut healing properties
  3. Improved stomach and digestive health
  4. Improved mental health
  5. Increased nutrition
  6. Blood sugar control
  7. Weight control
  8. Lower cholesterol

In addition, kefir has a reputation for containing more health promoting probiotic qualities than yogurt.

So how do you make your own yogurt and kefir? Both are simple to make, and below i have popped in some instructions to help you get going

Making yogurt at home

You will need:

Heat the milk until it boils and begins to froth. Then let it cool until the temperature reads 110°F (43°C) on the thermometer.

Then pour half  the milk into the thermal flask. At that point, add the yogurt starter culture before adding the rest of the milk. Put the top on the flask, shake it once or twice to mix the started culture with the milk. Then leave it undisturbed.

After 8 to 10 hours open up the flask and voila! Yoghurt! Give this a thorough shake and then pour this into a sealed sterilised jar and pop it in the fridge.

Things to note when making yogurt

  • Use clean and sterilized equipment – wash all the equipment before in freshly boiled water before starting
  • The incubation temperature for the yogurt culture needs to be between 120°F (49°C) and 90°F (32°C). Above this temperature, the culture will be killed; below it will not grow)
  • You can use an earthenware pot or glass jar instead of a thermos flask – you just need to make sure that the temperature remains between 120°F (49°C) and 90°F (32°C) throughout the 8 to 10 hours of fermentation
  • Get creative and add flavors!
    • Add in flavors to the milk whilst it is boiling – such as dried lavender, fresh basil, rose petals, cinnamon and ginger.
    • Leave these ingredients in the milk whilst it is cooling to maximise the time they have to infuse their flavors into the milk
    • Added ingredients can be left in during the fermentation or you can sieve them out just before you add in the starter culture
  • Longer fermentation periods (than 10 hours) as well as greater amounts of starter culture will result in more acidic yogurt that may also separate (ie not set)
  • Yogurt will last for about a week in the fridge

Enter Kefir

The name Kefir comes from the Turkish word keyif, which refers to the “good feeling” a person gets after they have drunk it. Kefir has a tart and tangy flavor, and a consistency similar to a drinkable yogurt. Due to the fermentation process, kefir may taste slightly carbonated.

Making kefir at home

  • active kefir grains
  • your preferred type of milk
  • a glass jar
  • a paper coffee filter or cheesecloth
  • a rubber band
  • a silicone spatula or wooden spoon (non-metal stirring utensil)
  • a non-metal mesh strainer

Combine 1 teaspoon of kefir grains for every cup of milk into a glass jar. Cover the jar with the paper coffee filter and secure with a rubber band. Ensure you have a good couple of inches between the top of the milk and the coffee filter.

Store the jar in a warm place around 70°F (21 °C) for 12-48 hours, depending on your taste and the warmth of the room.

Give the grains a stir from time to time. Curdling will happen (the clearer and acidic whey will separate from the white curds). Just mix this together with a good shake and then listen – the grains will begin fizzing after a stir!

Once the milk has thickened and has a tangy taste, strain the kefir into a storage container leaving a couple of inches at the top. Cover tightly and store for up to 1 week. Keep the strained kefir grains for making new batches.

There are a few tips to be aware of when making kefir at home:

  • Use clean and sterilized equipment – wash all the equipment before in freshly boiled water before starting
  • Exposure to metal can weaken the kefir grains, so avoid metal utensils.
  • Temperatures above 90 °F (32 °C) can cause the milk to spoil.
  • Keep the jar away from direct sunlight.
  • The strained kefir grains must be put into fresh milk to keep them alive.
  • Store the grains in a little milk in the fridge until you are ready to make new kefir
  • Shake kefir if it starts to separate while being stored.
  • To make a fruit-flavored kefir, chop up fruit and add it to the strained kefir. Let it sit for an additional 24 hours. Re-strain if desired.

A quick request …

This post and this blog is dedicated to my fundraising to end bullying. Please click on the link below to find out more and to make a donation or text HUGG47 £5 to 70070. Thanks! JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Resources

A great little book about yogurt, its history, recipes and more is this – The Yoghurt book by Arto der Haroutunian. This has been my bible and go to resource for yogurt making since i came across a battered old copy in my mother’s kitchen!

Research article: Psychobiotics: A Novel Class of Psychotropic. Dinan, Timothy G. et al. Biological Psychiatry , Volume 74 , Issue 10 , 720 – 726

Research findings about effects of mental health summarised in an excellent article about the strains of bacteria identified in research that help with mental health

An article that appeared in Men’s Health magazine the details the link between mental health and gut health

Dr Axe – a very good article that lists the benefits of kefir, instructions on how to make it, and also compares the health benefits of kefir compared to yoghurt 

Cultures for health – an American company that supplies fermenting materials and provides great tuition about kefir including videos for how to make it

Healthline – a great article listing 9 key benefits of kefir and some great respurces for how to make it

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