I'm finding myself really in love with this new plan of eating. I'm discovering my way quite well and am learning what works and what doesn't.
Lately what doesn't work, really does NOT work, and I've just added another to that list.
Dairy hates me and now it's painfully obvious that alcohol does not either.
I don't know what this crazy phenomenon is, but it's not funny.
Apparently all this clean eating is allowing my body to make it crystal clear that it doesn't like alcohol. I was going to Google search just what the what is going on. Like how all of sudden does one little gin and tonic give me odd flu like symptoms? Why does this glass of wine wake me up with stomach cramps, sweating and nausea? However, why do I need Google to tell me my own body just does not approve?
I've never been good at drinking, this is just reinstating what was already known.
So what is one to do in a self imposed dry county?
Embrace an alternative.
Water kefir isn't typically labeled as an alcohol replacement. In fact, I've never heard it mentioned as such. You try to tell yourself the things you try tell yourself to make yourself forget (name that tune). And I told myself that this is just as good.
Water kefir is nothing more than kefir grains (like the dairy kefir, but formulated a bit different for diary free use only), and sugar water. The kefir grains are fermented in the sugar water for 48 hours. Then I like to add something for flavor and do a second fermentation so it becomes carbonated naturally.
Yes, there is sugar involved, but after the fermentation process this is turned to pretty much pure fructose. About 1.4 % fructose. I look at my water kefir as I did alcohol, a little here and there is a perfect treat.
Speaking of alcohol, the alcohol in kefir is less than 1%, so it's really benign and not considered an alcoholic beverage and just fine to feed to the masses.
I also see it as a great soda replacement for the kids. Not that we drank a ton of soda here, but it was a treat and now it's all but banned. Water kefir is just the right sweet and fizzy, with the added benefits of probiotics.
We've had this brewing constantly for the last month and I've gotten used to what works, and have been experimenting with lots of flavors.
The one above is flavored with watermelon. It was clean crisp and perfect for summer.
Water kefir is really easy and produces more often than Kombucha, which makes it great for the kids.
I purchased my grains from Cultures for Health and I was really impressed with their customer service and support. I was worried to have the kefir shipped with the extreme temperatures we have in Arizona, but they assured me they would be fine and urged me to let them know if they weren't.
I ordered the kit because the tap water here is such that we actually buy reverse osmosis water for palatability. I needed the liquid minerals and I have no idea which kid found and destroyed my plastic mesh strainer, but it's gone. Once you buy your grains, that is it. They will continue to be reused and reproduce more grains. Sort of like a gremlin.
The grains came with terrific rehydrating instructions and oodles of kefir information. It took about a week for them to hydrate and to produce drinkable kefir. Now, my kefir has grown and I can brew 2 quarts at a time and even have some to give away.
Some may think it's a pain to have to reset and brew every other day, but really it takes me about 10 minutes and I've got plenty of great tasting kefir.
Cultures for Health has great info on how to make kefir, and what to do if things go wrong. This is just the simple process, but they are truly experts.
I start with 2 clean mason jars that both hold a quart. The recommended amount of sugar is 1/4 cup per quart and I stick to that. I use organic non bleached sugar. Honey is not recommended as it's antibacterial, but many other alternative sugars are just fine. A lot of people use rapadura, I've never heard of it until recently, but people use it with great success. I'm going to try my coconut palm sugar when I get some extra grains.
I must add, that I had some regular white sugar left and decided to use it up in a batch of kefir water. That batch was a dud. It didn't taste fermented and didn't fizz at all. The site says it's ok to use, but mine was no bueno.
I add just enough hot water to dissolve my sugar, then I fill the rest of the jar with cold water. Then I add 5 drops of liquid minerals.
Minerals are very helpful for your kefir to grow and remain active so I like to use them. Then I add paper towels or cheesecloth to the top secured with a rubber band. You need to let air in, but keep icky things out.
Then you let the kefir rest for 48 hours. The kefir water will look a little cloudier and it will taste much less sweet. It is completely ready to drink at this point, however I don't care for it much at this stage. It's a little like coconut water in that it's sort of flat. It's sweet, but not. It's sour, but not. It's just odd. So I take it to the next step.
I've been just reusing my store bought kombucha jars for the second fermentation. You can buy some cool jars from Cultures for Health or just use something with a tight fitting lid.
I add a small amount of fruit or juice then fill the rest with water kefir. Make sure to leave about an inch on the top.
I've been buying organic juice when it's on sale. Most places recommend staying away from any fruit or juice that's t0o acidic. Pineapple juice doesn't work too well and I've heard that some cloudier juices are not good.
Once you add the fruit or juice simply seal the lid and place it somewhere to ferment for a couple of days. I've found that one day of this second fermentation is fine. It is hotter in the house this time of year so perhaps in the winter 2-3 days may be the norm. I have had some over flow when I open them because I left them for too long. You'll start to see bubbles forming on the top and that's your clue to move them to the fridge.
One of our favorite add in is cherries. I use the ones that have gotten a bit old and no one wants them. It turns the water kefir a bright pink and tastes amazing.
I don't strain the fruit before putting it in the fridge only because we drink those immediately. I think it's a good idea to strain the fruit if you're planning on leaving it refrigerated for more than 2 days.
You can add flavoring during the first fermentation and Cultures For Health has a great PDF explaining this more. I would like to make lemon water kefir, but organic lemons are harder to find this time of year. I think since your fruit is steeping in this it's best to be sure it's the good stuff.
I've just been flavoring my finished kefir. Here's some of my favorite flavors and combinations:
- Raisins- sounds weird, but it's a flavor I can't describe. Not really grape, not really spicy. Some people add vanilla and say it tastes like Dr. Pepper. I'm not willing to go that far, but it's tasty.
- Cherry - perfect. I also like a bit of vanilla to this. It's like a cherry cream soda.
- Pomegranate blueberry - it's my favorite juice combo.
- Strawberry basil - outstanding. The kids are scared of it so this one is all mine.
- Strawberries and blackberries - the two together are really great.
- PEACH - by far my favorite. It reminds me of the New York seltzer waters that I used to get when I was little. It's clean and sweet and oh so good.
I do not recommend ginger in any scenario. I don't know what happens, but it tastes like something wrong. I don't know how else to explain it.
Another note: When you start any probiotics, it's best to go slow. I recommend small glasses for the first few days, then add more. It is bacteria and if your stomach isn't used to it, there will be adverse reactions. Start slow.
I'm looking forward to citrus season for something new. I'm going to try orange rosemary, and lemon and thyme together. There really is no reason to get bored with this drink.
I hope this helps. It's helping me put a drink in my hand, even if it isn't a white russian (oh how I love those).