Did You Know...?

My Cultured Life Carolyn Griffin

Kefir is a fermented drink first originating from the Caucasus mountain region on the border of Russia. Legend has it that Muhammad himself gave the first kefir grains to Orthodox Christians who were nomadic shepherds in that region. This is why kefir grains are sometimes referred to as the “Grains of the Prophet”. Whether the story is myth or miracle, there’s no denying the healing power and growing popularity of kefir. It’s arguably the easiest fermented foods you can make in the comfort of your kitchen and a popular starting point for introducing fermentation into your everyday life. In fact, this is how I started.

In ancient days kefir was made by pouring milk, often goat’s milk, into wine sacks and adding kefir grains into the mix. The bags were hung in doorways where passersby could jostle the bags throughout the day to ensure the combination of milk and grains was thoroughly mixed.

Nowadays we have modern science and food preparation practices to make kefir easier than ever. The first step is securing your own batch of kefir grains to start growing and using in fermentation.

There are two distinct types of kefir: water kefir (non-dairy), and milk kefir (dairy). However, another popular type is coconut milk kefir. It is non-dairy, but made with milk kefir grains.

A second ferment is done after the initial fermentation process. Once you remove the Kefir grains, the plain kefir will be ready to be flavored to your liking. You can use fresh fruit, citrus peel or zest, vanilla, or cinnamon…pretty much anything that your taste buds desire! Once flavored, cover the jar and allow it to sit out for 1-6 hours to “second ferment”. This is when the flavors will develop and the probiotic content will flourish because you added another source of food for them to feast on. The byproduct is a more effervescent and nutrient rich drink.

Kefir is known for producing probiotic bacteria that can be extraordinarily beneficial for treating food allergies and digestive disorders, increasing immune health, stabilizing metabolism, and even helping people with significant health conditions, such as tuberculosis and cancer.

How to Make Kombucha with Dr. Carolyn Griffin

At its base kombucha is a fermented green or black tea that includes bacteria, sugar, and yeast. Kombucha originated from the northeastern regions of China over 2,000 years ago. The tell-tale vinegar smell of kombucha along with its ‘bubble trail’ of effervescence make kombucha unmistakable to fermentation enthusiasts.

Kombucha is growing in popularity across the U.S. and more studies are underway to prove its healthy benefits.

Kombucha is also an easy-to-make fermented drink that requires a SCOBY or ‘symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast’. This ‘colony’ of yeast and bacteria are added into either green or black tea with sugar and set to ferment for approximately ten to 21 days (depending on the temperature of your home). A thin layer of bacteria forms on the top of the drink mixture. This is known as a baby SCOBY.  When the brewing period is over, the new baby SCOBY can be saved in a ‘SCOBY hotel’ or shared with friends so they can start their own batch of Kombucha. The remaining drink is ready for consumption as is or flavored and ready for a second ferment.

Note: the added risk of growing bacteria with yeast in potentially contaminated equipment can lead to some adverse reactions, including upset stomach and potentially metabolic acidosis. (Hepatotoxic Botanicals – An Evidence-based Systematic Review) With proper care and attention towards maintaining a sterile environment for kombucha to ferment, the healing properties are powerful.

Kombucha is typically fermented using either green tea or black tea. Stay away from flavored or herbal teas as some of the ingredients don’t always agree with the health of the SCOBY.

A second ferment is done after the initial fermentation process. Once you remove the SCOBY, the plain kombucha will be ready to be flavored. You can use fresh fruit, lemon and ginger, chia seeds, spirulina, or fruit juice…pretty much anything that your taste buds desire! Add the flavoring to the bottles first then pour the kombucha in leaving about 3-4 inches of headspace. The more “sugar” there is, the more active and bubbly it will get. Once the bottles have been capped, allow them to sit out of direct sunlight for 1-3 days to “second ferment”. This is when the flavors will develop and the probiotic content will flourish because you added another source of food for them to feast on. The byproduct is a more effervescent and nutrient rich drink. Be sure to “burb” them once to twice a day so too much pressure doesn’t build up inside the bottle.  

Kombucha is known as a longevity tonic and has many health benefits including: supports digestion, reduces stress, alleviates arthritis symptoms, normalizes bowel movements and improves skin, hair and nails.  

fermented or cultured vegetables with Dr. Carolyn Griffin
Fermented Foods

Fermented foods often refers to solid foods, not just drinks, that go through the fermentation process. A significant portion of fermented foods are vegetable-based. Some of the most popular fermented foods are yogurt, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, natto, tempeh, and miso, to name a few.

Fermented foods find much of their rich history in eastern Asia, namely China, Mongolia, and the Korean peninsula. The fermentation process uses active (‘live’) bacteria to feed off sugars that can help improve our digestive systems through naturally produced probiotics in the fermentation process.

There are a variety of ways to make fermented foods, many of which we share in our “Let’s Ferment” section. Follow the button below to start learning how to make tasty, good-for-you fermented foods in your own kitchen.

As mentioned earlier, yogurt, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, natto, tempeh, and miso are just a few of the more popular types of fermented foods.

Fermented foods naturally cultivate probiotics and digestive enzymes that can help improve gut health, aid with digestion, reduce sugar cravings, and fosters health bacteria for your body’s immune system.

My Cultured Life Carolyn Griffin

In case you’re wondering, no, the term shrubs does not refer to actual shrubs you see lining the outside of a house. ‘Shrubs’ are also called drinking vinegars and are used to infuse flavor and zest into cocktails and other drinks of choice.

This wonderful fermented beverage originated with the American colonists as a way to preserve seasonal fruits so that they could enjoy them year round.

Today, the shrub syrup, as it were, can be mixed with sparkling water making a great substitution for soda. The sky’s the proverbial limit when it comes to which fruits, herbs, berries, and other ingredients you may add to make this delicious fermented drink.

Shrubs are made from equal parts of fresh fruit, herbs, sugar and vinegar.  The mixture then ferments for 2 days up to 1 week. The end result is an infused syrup that may be added to virtually any drink to give a unique flavor.

Virtually limitless. Use your creativity! 🙂

Shrubs provide probiotics and digestive enzymes to aid with gut health and fortifying your immune system.