Kefir is a fermented milk beverage that has mythical origins deep in the Caucasus Mountains in Russia.1 The name itself is Russian in origin, and means “pleasure drink.” To create the drink, kefir grains, a live culture composed of healthy bacteria and yeasts, are mixed with milk, causing it to ferment. Today, it is enjoyed by millions of people worldwide, and can be easily prepared in the comfort of your own home.
What Is Kefir?
Kefir is the name of the fermented milk beverage made from “kefir grains.” What’s unique about it is that no other cultured milk product uses these grains, which is a special mixture of beneficial bacteria and yeasts that provide various health benefits. These grains appear like small cauliflower florets. Note that the word “grains” should not be taken literally. It is basically the name for the live cultures of beneficial yeasts and bacteria.2
The origin of these special kefir grains has been lost and forgotten. Legends say that kefir was originally a gift by Mohammed to the Muslim people who lived in the Caucasus Mountains, and if they were to give away the recipe, the drink would lose its power. As time went on, families passed down the grains and eventually made their way down the mountains to be used by the Russians.3
In 1909, Russians started making kefir by mixing milk and kefir grains inside animal skin bags that were hung over the front door of their houses. Throughout the day, family members were required to shake the bag whenever they would pass by it to help improve the fermentation quality. Eventually, kefir was mass-produced and has been a staple of the Russian diet ever since.4
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