Kefir is a drinkable cultured milk product that is similar to yogurt, but don't get the two confused. A kefir lover is likely to snatch their bottle of fermented dairy deliciousness right out of your hand if you refer to it as its bacteria-laced cousin.
The drink is popular in Eastern Europe and Russia, where it is referred to as "sour milk," and it contains many of the live cultures found in yogurt. Many people pound the stuff looking for a good way to end digestive problems because, unlike yogurt, it is said to be loaded with certain yeasts that kill other unhealthy yeast and bacteria in the body, can strengthen the intestines, help the digestive process, and keep the colon happy.
Fans also say that kefir fortifies immune systems while providing anti-aging and antioxidant properties. Hey, what doesn't this stuff do?
Get our guinea pig's response to kefir after the jump.
The hippie history: Kefir was discovered in ancient times by nomadic shepherds who left milk in their leather pouches for too long, creating a fizzy, fermented drink. They liked the funky milk so much they developed a method of making it with cauliflower-esque kefir grains and milk, and hung the leather pouches filled with the potent combination in their home's doorway, where it would be knocked around and kept well-mixed.
The crunchy conclusion: To someone who is not big on dairy (like yours truly) kefir is just weird. The bottle screams, "SHAKE REALLY WELL BEFORE DRINKING!" which gives off a slightly fearful pretense. The smell is identical to that of yogurt, giving the comfortable feeling of familiarity but the sourness from the first taste will make your mouth water. It is similar to drinking a very thick blend of sour cream and yogurt - and leaves you looking at the bottom of your white-coated glass thinking, "Why did I just drink that?"
Kefir can be found in the dairy section of most health food markets like Whole Foods and Sprouts. Believers say to drink it in the mornings on an empty stomach - but be warned: because your "tolerance" to the elixir's healing powers may need to build up a little bit, start small before you go taking pulls straight from the jug.
Stick it to the man and make it yourself: Order a kefir culture online, put on your old tie-dye and get fermentin'. All you need is the culture (aka grains), some cow's milk (or goat's milk, or coconut water will work, too) and a jar for making kefir magic. And in case you decide to go absolutely kefir-crazy, there are also recipes for homemade yogurt and cheese.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.