What are Kefir Grains?
The word ‘grains’ does not refer to grains as we know them. Kefir ‘grains’ are a symbiotic culture of live bacteria and yeast, living in harmony (symbiosis) together. They look like little florets of cauliflower! In order to survive, these beneficial bacteria and yeast need a source of energy. The naturally occurring lactose in milk provides a source of carbohydrates for the microbes. Through the process of fermentation, these powerful microbes enter the milk, creating the product Kefir. As they ferment the milk, they grow and multiply and can be re-used over and over again (as long as they are well cared for).
The origins of these kefir grains are something of a mystery! It’s not fully known how they came into existence. Kefir grains are believed to have originated in the Caucasus mountains between Georgia and Russia over 2000 years ago!
They were known as the “Grains of the Prophet” as it was believed they were given to the people from Mohammed as a gift from God.
Families passed them down from generation to generation and kept them secret because they were afraid the grains would lose their ‘magic’ if they were given away. They were considered part of the families wealth.The kefir was made from cow or goats milk in pouches made from the hides of the animals.
For many centuries the people of the northern Caucasus enjoyed kefir without sharing it with anyone. Stories began to spread of the unusual beverage which was said to have ‘magical’ properties; Marco Polo even mentioned kefir in the chronicles of his travels in the East.
Eventually a Russian official got wind of these magic kefir grains, and demanded to make kefir available to all the citizens of Russia! At the turn of the 19th century kefir became a household staple in Russia and it is still the most popular fermented drink in Russia to this day.
Food photo created by Racool_studio – www.freepik.com