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What is Kefir?


Kefir is an incredibly healthy milk based product. One of the earliest mentions of it is from Marco Polo, who in his memoirs about Mongol life wrote,

“They drink mare's milk subjected to a process that makes it like white wine and very good to drink. It is called koumiss"

Kefir and Koumiss are very much related. Webster's dictionary defines koumiss as:

"A fermented drink made from mare's or camel’s milk, common among peoples of the Central Asian steppes, the northern Caucasus, including the Tartars. It was and is used as food and medicine. It can be obtained from any kind of milk, and is now largely made in Europe."

What happens is that Lactic acid sours the milk, and gives yogurt, koumiss, kefir, and leban their distinct flavor. What is the difference between these 4 sour milk based products? Basically, the source of the milk and the method in making the dairy product is what separates them.

  • Koumiss is from a horse’s milk.
  • Leban is Coagulated sour milk diluted with water; A fermented liquor made with coagulated sour milk

  • Kefir is typically a combination of “good” bacteria and yeasts, and is from cow’s milk.

  • Yogurt is typically made from only a couple of types of bacteria, and sets up thicker than Kefir.


Etymology of the word, Kefir:
It comes from a Russian word that originally was "keif" and is now kaif. "Keif" originates from the Arabo-Persian "keyf" which means: opiate; intoxication; pleasure, enjoyment, which is similar to "Kef", meaning "a state of drowsiness or dreamy intoxication, enjoyment of idleness

In Turkey, "Keyif" is really the art of pure enjoyment. It's the ability to live in the moment, and enjoy what is hear today. A Turkish proverb says, "A guest brings ten blessings, eats one, and leaves nine behind."

This is analogous to Kefir, a slight intoxication, it continues to grow and multiply and can be easily shared.

So how can you obtain some live Kefir grains for making your own kefir?

Check back in February - I'll be making live Kefir grains, directions, and recipes available through the new Middle Eastern Culture store.
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Content copyright © 2014 by Rachel Schaus. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Rachel Schaus. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Rachel Schaus for details.

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