Fermented Milk Products from All Over the World • Kefir and the original tale (Russia, Ukraine, Bela
Kefir, a popular beverage based on fermented milk, is extremely appreciated in Russia and widely consumed not just in the country, but in its surrounding neighborhood countries as well. In fact, Russians love kefir so much that they even consider it their national drink. Back in the days, kefir was one of the most important foods of the Soviet Union, so it was often served in canteens, as it believed that it is highly beneficial for workers to have this drink, in order to maintain a good state of health. Kefir originates from the Caucasus area and it is not known for sure how it reached Russia. There are many stories about kefir’s beginnings in the country. Since one needs kefir grains to prepare the beverage, which is an incredible communion between bacteria and yeasts, you can’t prepare kefir any other way. The Russians heard about the miraculous powers of this drink and wanted to know how to make it as well. But, it wasn’t that easy, as the families that prepared kefir in the Caucasus kept their kefir grains as a family secret and transmitted them from generation to generation.
It is said that a famous Russian dairy manufacturer, Nikolaj Balandov, sent one of his most beautiful employees, Irina, to charm the Prince of Caucasus and get the much-wanted kefir grains. The Prince was indeed charmed by the beautiful girl but refused to give her the grains. Falling in love with her, he wanted to marry Irina, but she declined. Thus, the Prince kept her against her will and started preparations for the wedding. Balandov heard about it and sent agents to rescue Irina. The agents managed to succeed and the Prince of Caucasus, facing prosecution for kidnapping and keeping Irina locked, had to give the Russians their famous kefir grains. So, in 1909, the production of kefir in Russia started. If you want to make kefir at home, you can do so without kefir grains. You just need fresh, high-quality kefir from the store, and add 50 grams of kefir to 1 liter of fresh milk. Don’t forget to boil the milk first and allow it you cool down close to room temperature, so it won’t be hot when you add in the kefir. Then allow the milk to sit in a warm spot for 12 hours and your homemade kefir will be ready.
This rather liquid dairy product contains, besides lactobacillus bacteria, yeasts as well, which trigger the production of ethanol and carbon dioxide as they multiply in the favorable environment provided by milk. Thus, kefir is slightly more carbonated than yogurt and has a small quantity of alcohol as well. Fresh kefir can have up to 1% alcohol, so be careful if you drink kefir and drive right away. The alcohol content in your blood when driving a car in Russia should be of 0.15 or less. So, if you drink kefir and start driving, and the police will pull you over, you will fail the alcohol test.
When you consume kefir, you should wait a half or a full hour before driving.