Craft drink expert Emily Han creates unique flavors in Wild Drinks and Cocktails(Fair Winds Press, 2015). Han teaches you techniques you need to know to craft your own infused waters, syrups, vinegar drinks, spirits, wines and sodas — each with powerful health benefits and a sentimental nod to drinks of another era. In this excerpt you will learn how to make water kefir, a delicious fermented drink.
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Water kefir grains need steady attention, but once you get the hang of it, making water kefir can become an easy part of your regular routine. To flourish, the bacteria and yeast need unchlorinated, unfluoridated water and sugar. They also need minerals — and that means avoiding distilled water and, perhaps, giving them a little mineral supplementation. An unrefined sugar, a bit of molasses, or a little unsulfured dried fruit will give your water kefir grains the minerals they need. Don’t use honey, coconut sugar, agave, or sugar substitutes, though. Honey has antimicrobial properties and coconut sugar is very rich, so they can weaken water kefir grains, while agave and sugar substitutes don’t contain the nutrients that are necessary for the water kefir grains’ survival. Keep in mind, too, that darker sugars will make a water kefir with a stronger flavor.
Basic Water Kefir Recipe
• 1 quart unchlorinated, unfluoridated water
• 1⁄4 cup cane sugar, such as white sugar, raw sugar, turbinado, or sucanat
• 2 tablespoons water kefir grains
• 1⁄2 teaspoon blackstrap molasses, or 4 unsulfured raisins, or 1⁄2 unsulfured dried fig
1. Combine the water and sugar in a 1/2-gallon jar.
2. Cover the jar with a lid and shake it until the sugar dissolves.
3. Remove the lid and add the water kefir grains to the jar.
4. Add the molasses.
5. Loosely cover the jar with a coffee filter, cloth, or hard lid.
6. Store the jar at warm room temperature, out of direct sunlight, and let it ferment for 48 hours. (If left longer than 48 hours, the grains may starve and disintegrate.) As it ferments, the water will turn cloudy and slightly bubbly, and it will start to taste less sweet than the original sugar water.
7. Prepare a new jar of sugar water, repeating the steps above.
8. Strain the fermented water kefir through a fine-mesh strainer into a jar.
9. Transfer the water kefir grains to the new jar of sugar water.
10. The finished water kefir is now ready to be flavored and turned into soda.
NOTE: Water kefir grains can react with metals such as aluminum, so always use nonmetal or stainless steel strainers and other utensils.
Handling multiplying water kefir grains: After a few batches, water kefir grains will start to multiply. This can be exciting, but if they multiply quickly, it can be overwhelming. To keep the grains healthy, use no more than 1⁄4 cup of grains in 1 quart of water. You can start a new jar of sugar water for the extra grains. Share them with friends, throw them into smoothies, or compost them.
Putting water kefir grains on hold: If you’re going on vacation or want to take a break from making water kefir, you can put the grains to sleep. To store them for up to 1 month, place the grains in a new jar of sugar water, cover the jar with an airtight lid, and refrigerate. To store them for up to 6 months, rinse the grains in unchlorinated, unfluoridated water and lay them on a piece of parchment paper to dry for a few days. Transfer the dried grains to an airtight container and refrigerate. To reactivate the grains, transfer them to a new jar of sugar water and proceed as usual; it may take a few batches for them to wake up fully.
Learn more about Wildcrafting for Gratifying Drinks and Cocktails.
Reprinted with permission from Wild Drinks and Cocktails by Emily Han and published by Fair Winds Press, 2015. Buy this book from our store: Wild Drinks and Cocktails.