But not for much longer! I have been able to cut my soda intake waaay down. And to be quite honest, the number one reason for that is having the will power not to buy it. Simple, right? (Not.) Anyone that gets a severe craving (don't we all from time to time?) knows will power sometimes needs a little help.
So I'm going to share a three-part series of posts detailing what I have been able to use in place of soda to combat my cravings. I've titled the series For the Love of Carbonation because that is one of the top things I miss when trying to replace soda with another beverage. The other is sugar, but that can be a whole other dragon to slay. The replacements I'm going to share, however, do all have sweeteners. They are just of the natural variety.
First up, is water kefir. Don't worry, you are not about to endure a lengthy dissertation on this beneficial beverage. I'll leave that to others who are far more intelligent than I on the subject. Basically, water kefir is a symbiotic colony (or culture) of bacteria and yeast that ferment a certain liquid (usually sugar water). The scoby is in the form of "grains," the word used for describing the look of the culture. Ingesting this fermentation adds to the good bacteria in your body (it's probiotic).
And that's all I have to say about that.
Oh! One more thing. I think the proper pronunciation is keh-FEER, but I always say KEE-fur. So if you ever hear me do that, feel free to laugh.
Water kefir is real easy to get started, but I'm going to try not to take up too much space (we'll see) with the process. Just a quick rundown with a few added things I learned along the way.
When you first get water kefir grains, they will likely need to be rehydrated. Soak them in water for 3-5 days. After that's done, get the ball rolling by adding 1/4 cup organic cane sugar to a quart size mason jar, or similar vessel. (I've read that plastic might be ok, but glass is usually recommended.) Add enough warm water to cover the sugar and stir to dissolve. Fill up the jar the rest of the way with cool water. (I use filtered water.) Add your rehydrated kefir grains, and top it off with half a lemon. Loosely cover the top of the jar so air can get in, but bugs can't. I use a coffee filter held down with a rubber band.
About that lemon. I honestly don't know if it's "necessary" or not. From what I've read, the lemon helps with the pH balance. It took a while for my grains to get started even after the rehydration period. I'll bet I brewed at least four batches before I could tell things were really happening, and I initially began with nothing more than sugar water. In my opinion, the lemon seemed to help. Now that things are established, I don't need the lemon. Or the warm water. I dissolve the sugar in water from the previous single fermented batch. Take that experience for whatever it's worth.
The average time advised for the first ferment is 48 hours. Temperature plays a role in that, though. Warmer = quicker. I learned to tell when mine was done (in addition to a "cloudy" appearance) by noticing whether or not all the sugar was gone. If I strained out my grains too soon, I would see a bit of residue left in the bottom of the jar. Waiting just one extra day would "clean up" the rest of that sugar. But remember! No sugar means no food for your grains. Leave them too long like that, and they will starve. With a bit of practice, you'll learn what's best for your taste. I know I'm going to reintroduce sugar in the second ferment, so I try to let the grains eat it all in the first cycle.
Finally. The second ferment. For the love of carbonation. This was the hardest thing for me to get down. Now that I'm doing it, I don't know why it was so hard. Here's my experience.
A lot of recipes I found for the second ferment said to simply add a 1/4 cup of fruit juice to the strained (grains removed) water kefir and place it into an air-tight bottle / container for an additional 24-48 hours. But that didn't work for me.
I tried it first in a standard lidded mason jar, even though it is not truly air tight. I'm pretty
cheap frugal, and didn't want to spend money on flip-top bottles when I have a load of mason jars all around me. But I got little to no carbonation, so I broke down and bought a couple of those bottles. That helped a bit, but not enough to my liking.
Then I tried fresh fruit. BINGO! It works fantastically. I get serious bubble action, folks. Highly effervescent, slightly stingy carbonation.
And with the fresh fruit, I returned to the mason jar. After a day or two, I strain the "finished" kefir and pour it into the flip-top bottles to store in the refrigerator, where the process continues at a slower pace. This has turned into my best practice. (I now consider the flip-top bottles worth the purchase. I have two - I think 24 oz. each - bottles in rotation.)
I've used strawberries, blueberries, apples, lemons, and pineapples. I started adding dried spearmint on a whim, and now won't be without it. I discovered that I'm not fond of the blueberries as flavoring by themselves, or in any mixture (though I adore them fresh and in baked goods). And my favorite combination thus far is pineapple mint.
Just remember to "burp" your concoctions at least once a day. I haven't had an explosion, thankfully, but I have had overflows upon opening the flip-top bottles. And I've had oozes using mason jars.
I know this wasn't a traditional how-to, but I hope it provides you with some tips and ideas for getting your second ferment of water kefir to a taste of your liking. And maybe, if you're like me, it will help to cut down your intake of bad-for-you soda without having to give up the love of carbonation.
Stay tuned for parts two and three (they might be a bit shorter). Sign up now to be notified of each new post by email. You can also find and follow me on facebook and feedly. From my mountaintop to yours!
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