A few years back, I began a personal journey to a simpler way of life by planning and creating a small homestead.
I spent hours upon days researching all that could be found on the old ways of doing things and kept coming across the word kefir.
After seeing it mentioned a few times, I decided to look further into what it meant and how it may aid my personal journey to simplicity and self-reliance.
Boy, am I glad I did! As well as being a really healthy option, packed with beneficial bacteria, it’s really easy to make at home and has a bunch of uses.
But what does kefir taste like? Probably the most obvious comparison is Greek yogurt. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the taste, texture, smell and uses for this versatile fermented milk!
What is Kefir?
The word kefir, often spelled kephir or keifier, dates back to 1884 in the Russian language, though it originally derived from a Caucasian-based language.
Kefir is a form of fermented milk that resembles a thin yogurt and is created by adding kefir grains to the milk of cows, sheep, or goats.
Homemade kefir was traditionally produced in bags constructed of goatskin hung near a doorway. When people passed through the doorway, they would knock the bag, causing the contents of milk and kefir grains to remain mixed sufficiently.
The finished milk product presents a white to cream color, which is somewhat fizzy. The milk has a viscous consistency and has a distinct sour smell.
What Does Kefir Taste Like?
Kefir is developed from grains formed through the mutual existence of yeast and bacteria in an isolated ecosystem that is referred to as a SCOBY – a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.
Kefir has a distinct sour smell, with a tart yet creamy taste that is reminiscent of buttermilk or drinkable yogurt. Some have gone so far as to describe the taste as ‘the champagne of milk’.
Most often, kefir – either flavored or plain depending on your taste and preference, is enjoyed as a beverage. However, it can also take the form of a soft cheese or yogurt. Kefir is delicious when blended with fruit, honey, or other types of natural flavorings.
What Does Kefir Smell Like?
Depending on who you ask, you might get several different answers to this question.
Most people describe it as a smell that lies somewhere between cheesecake and yogurt, with just a slight hint of vinegar or bread. Much like cheddar cheese, the smell of kefir can range from mild to sharp.
The smell is often dependent on the season as well. In the spring, you might notice that kefir has a somewhat sweet vinegar aroma, while in the winter, the aroma is more bread-like and mild. In the summer, kefir has the tanginess of sharp cheese.
If you choose to reuse the jars that had homemade kefir in them without washing them between uses, then the smell will be stronger. However, if you wash the jars before using again, the aroma will be noticeably milder during the next fermentation process.
What Is The Texture Of Kefir Like?
Kefir has a consistency reminiscent of buttermilk and will get much thicker in the colder months of winter or after being refrigerated. Kefir doesn’t have a solid consistency, as you would see with yogurt. During the summer months, or when stored out on the counter, the consistency will be much thinner – almost watery.
Kefir is very susceptible to its surroundings and, as such, can become agitated when introduced into a new environment. It can be affected by the change of seasons, a change in climate, or a swing in temperature.
The grains that make up kefir demand a stable environment with no sudden temperature changes. If the temperature swings over a few days from hot to cool, the kefir grain will become thin and grainy in texture. This change also applies to any difference in temperature between the day and the night.
If the kefir is grainy and thin, you can make it thicker and creamier by taking a few simple steps. The more productive the grains in the kefir are, the smoother and thicker they will be.
Essential to keep in mind is that smaller grains are more productive, as they have a more significant portion of their surface area exposed to the milk. You can also make the switch to milk containing more fat, ensuring the day and night temperatures are consistent, and not switching between milk brands or their percentages.
Most importantly, patience is key when there are occasional seasonal changes. Be prepared for the kefir to go through a short period of readjustment at these times.
What Tastes Similar to Kefir?
Kefir has a distinctive taste-slightly sour, creamy, and refreshing. The closest taste you could compare it to is Greek yogurt.
If you need kefir for a recipe, but have none to hand, it can be easily substituted with yogurt that has been watered and thinned down by milk. For this method, thin down ¾ cup plain yogurt with ¼ cup of milk for each cup of kefir needed.
How to Serve Kefir
Before opening a bottle or mason jar of kefir, make sure to give it a thorough shake. A fizz of effervescence will be created by shaking the bottle first, typical of traditional kefir. This fizz is oe of the ressons why kefir is frequently referred to by many as the “champagne” of yogurt drinks. The natural fizz is created by the CO2 that occurs in the yeasts of the kefir.
Blend the kefir with some fruit and honey into a delicious smoothie for those with a sweet tooth. An added side benefit offered is that not only does it take care of a sweet tooth, but it will also help in reducing any sugary food cravings.
Is Kefir Good For You?
Kefir is healthy, fermented food, loaded with healthy bacteria and probiotics. Several studies have suggested that it can boost immunity, aid in digestion, improve bone health. Some studies indicate it may also work to combat cancer.
There are eight known health benefits of kefir supported by scientific research:
- Probiotic – more potent than yogurt
- Antibacterial Properties – protect against infections
- Improve Bone Health – lowers the risk of developing osteoporosis
- Protective Against Cancer
- Help to improve gut health – due to probiotic bacteria.
- Low In Lactose
- Improve Asthma And Allergy Symptoms
Six ounces of low-fat kefir offers:
- Calories – 100
- Carbohydrates – 7 to 8 grams
- Fat – 3 to 6 grams depending on the type of milk used in the fermentation process
- Vitamin B12 – 12% of RDI
- Riboflavin (B2) – 10% of RDI
- Protein – 4 grams
- Phosphorous – 15% of RDI
- Calcium – 10% of RDI
- Magnesium – 3% of RDI
- Vitamin D – a decent amount
Uses for Kefir
Kefir is not only versatile in the kitchen but can also be enjoyed in various everyday recipes, including the following:
- Smoothies – blending with fruits, berries, and honey with tasty additions such as vanilla or cinnamon.
- Salad Dressing – used in place of yogurt, sour cream, or buttermilk, such as in a homemade ranch dressing.
- Popsicles – blend with favorite fruits and sweeteners and freeze.
- Ice Cream – substitute for dairy milk in both ice cream and yogurt.
- Cheese – strain overnight and use as a spreadable cheese.
Milk Kefir vs Water Kefir
So far I’ve only really talked about kefir made from milk.
However, there is another variety to be aware of – water kefir. Water kefir also uses kefir grains and undergoes the same fermentation as the dairy version.
The key difference is that it’s made using specific water kefir grains. As the name suggests, they rely on being used in water and will not work the same way in fermented milk or non dairy milk alternatives.
Whilst it doesn’t contain the same level of protein and calcium as milk kefir, water kefir is a great way to get extra beneficial bacteria if you’re vegan or lactose-free.
Water kefir isn’t as sweet as the dairy version however you can sweeten it up by adding sugar before consuming.