Recently, I took a gander at the ingredient list on a box of Edensoy Extra soymilk—my preferred nondairy milk every since becoming a vegan in June 2010. Originally enamored by its minimal processing and title of the first soymilk to comply with the Non-GMO Product Standards, I never questioned my daily cupful of the heart-healthy beverage enriched with vitamins D and B12, which the vegan diet often lacks. However, I never considered that Edensoy would prove problematic for my gluten-free diet—indeed, it includes wheat and barley extract, both of which trigger gluten sensitivities.
Since my disappointing discovery, I’ve began blending up a batch of homemade nut milk every few days based on Sayward’s instructions (aptly named “Do Nuts Have Nipples?”). Concerned, though, of my homemade milk’s lack of vitamin D and B12 fortification, I joyously realized that culturing the milk into kefir with the help of the Body Ecology Kefir Starter Kit from The Raw Food World would transform it into a powerhouse of B vitamins (including the elusive B12) as well as vitamin K, amino acids, and a whole host of beneficial bacteria to balance intestinal flora and keep the ol’ digestive system good and clean. As a bonus, the kefir also qualifies as raw since you never heat it above 92°F.
Each powder packet of the six included in each Kefir Starter Kit can culture up to seven batches of kefir. Simply use it to make your first batch, then replace it with 6 tbsp of kefir leftover from your last one. After doing this seven times, use another packet of powder, and repeat this cycle until all your packets run out.
You can improve the nutritional qualities of any nondairy milk with the Kefir Starter Kit, including commercial soy, rice, and (coco)nut milks, as well as your own homemade versions. It can also culture coconut water.
I realize that the Kefir Starter Kit is somewhat of a specialized product and verily understand if you’re not willing to shell out $26.95 plus shipping to produce your own probiotic beverage. If you’d like to scout for some alternative kefir-making sources, simply Google “kefir grains”, search Craigslist, or visit the Kefir Lady, of whose kefir granules I’ve heard rave reviews. You’ll notice that most other of these kefir starters do not come in powder form, but rather as tiny cream-colored crystals. Sayward also gives a tutorial on how to make water kefir from these crystals, if you’re interested.
Nut Milk Kefir (Raw, Soy Free, Oil Free)
Makes a little less than 4 cups.
- 1 cup nuts of choice (I’ve had good results with almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, and sunflower seeds thus far).
- 4 cups water + additional to soak
- 1 packet kefir powder OR 6 tbsp leftover kefir from a previous batch
- Small bowl for soaking nuts
- Medium saucepan
- Large glass sealable mason jar
Place the nuts in a small bowl and cover with an ample amount of water. The nuts will expand slightly, so make sure you add enough water to keep them covered during the entire soaking process. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and let soak for 8-24 hours.
After soaking, drain the nuts and place them in a high-speed blender along with 4 cups of fresh water. Blend for about 2 minutes until very smooth.
Line a medium saucepan with a double layer of cheesecloth. Pour the entire contents of the blender into the pan and gather up the edges of the cheesecloth to form a satchel of sorts (remember those red-bagged sticks cartoons used to carry while they hitchhiked?).
Now squeeze with all of your might to extract every possible drop of milk from those nuts! Afterwards, you will end up with a pan full of creamy white nut milk and a ball of nut pulp. You can freeze this pulp and use it in baked goods, raw desserts, smoothies, and as a substitute for almond flour in recipes. But whatever you do, don’t throw away that valuable stuff!
At this point, you have a batch of perfectly delicious nut milk and can stop following these instructions if you would not like to turn it into kefir.
Set the saucepan full of nut milk over a burner set to medium-high heat and warm to about 92°F, keeping a close watch on it since the friendly probiotic bacteria will die at temperatures much higher than that, plus the kefir will no longer be considered raw if you heat it above 114°F.
Turn off the heat, empty the kefir powder packet or the 6 tbsp leftover kefir into the milk, and stir well to dissolve. Pour the newly cultured milk into your large glass mason jar and seal it tightly. Place in a warm area (about 72°F) for 8-24 hours. The milk will separate during this time, so give it a good shake before using. Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Ta-da! You now have a batch of your very own probiotic beverage that you can blend into smoothies, pour over granola, or drink straight up for a healthy dose of intestinal flora maintenance.
Tutorial submitted to Wellness Weekend.
Comment Provoking Questions: Do you drink kefir? Do you make your own nondairy milks? What brand of nondairy milk do you prefer?
Until next time, Ali.