Kooky Grape Kefir~ My recipe for Concord Grape Water Kefir

A Concord Grape Kefir recipe.

Hello, my name is Tamara Hoerner and I am a sodaholic. That’s why, about 18 months ago, in an effort to break my addiction, I decided to try making my own gut friendly soda, otherwise known as water kefir. I quickly discovered that this was the exact thing I needed get away from soda and get my body, and gut, back on track. It’s bubbly, like soda and best of all it cut my sugar cravings! It’s also a wonderful way to get reluctant family members to consume probiotics!

I stopped making water kefir at the beginning of 2020. We were preparing to sell our home and move across the country, from Virginia to Colorado. Now that I’m settled, I decided it was absolutely time to make some kefir again. I missed it. I mean what better way to get healthy probiotics into your gut than with homemade soda?

Kefir starter or kefir grains?

Back when I first started making kefir, I discovered 2 ways of making it. The first way is with active kefir grains, which can be purchased from Cultures for Health. These grains are a living microbiome that are mixed with prepared water to make it into kefir. The main benefit is the number of microbes. There can be as many as 30 or more different strains of microbes. These grains are similar to a sourdough starter, in that, you can make an infinite number of kefir batches with them, as long as you keep them alive, by feeding it sugar water on a regular basis. These grains grow and can be “gifted” to others, just like a sourdough starter. The fact that this microbiome must be maintained is also a negative, as many people don’t want to bother with it.

Another downside… water kefir grains only make water kefir. In order to make dairy kefir, you need an entirely different set of grains. This also means, if you want dairy kefir, you now have 2 microbiomes to maintain. Things can get really complicated if you also have a sourdough starter! It’s almost like having pets in the house! With that said, if you plan on making a lot of kefir, it might be worth the time and effort, as this microbiome is diverse and like a whole food.

The second way is with a kefir starter culture. This is a powder sold in packets that can be purchased from Body ecology. Once you’ve made one batch, you can make up to 6 more batches on a single packet, by adding kefir from a previous batch to the new batch. This type of kefir culture can contain from 7 to 9 different strains of microbes. The starter is also a wonderful way for beginners to get their feet wet with kefir. It’s super easy to use and there’s no grains to maintain. You can also use this same starter culture to make dairy kefir. I find this to be a huge bonus. While this starter definitely has its perks, the microbiome is more processed and less diverse than the grains.

Combining 2 methods into one kooky recipe

My investigations into the 2 types of kefir starter also included 2 different methods of making this healthy beverage. The first one I stumbled upon was when I took some classes with the Traditional Cooking School by Gnowfglins. (TCS) This recipe is a 2 stage process using clean filtered water, sugar, kefir grains and an egg shell (for added minerals. The bugs love minerals). The first stage ferments the kefir for 3-5 days. During the second stage, juice is added for “flavor” and to further ferment the kefir, along with aiding in the creation of carbonation. The second one, from Body Ecology, using the powdered kefir starter, is a simple one step process that uses pure, fresh coconut water and the kefir starter to make Coconut Water Kefir.

For my recipe, I decided to combine these two methods. I call it Kooky Kefir because it was kind of an accidental kefir that actually turned out phenomenal. I used 1/2 clean filtered water and 1/2 coconut water. I opted for the kefir starter over the grains. This was mainly because I had the starter on hand, and didn’t want to wait for the grains to arrive in the mail, plus go through the activation process. I normally like to use sucanat for the sugar, but again, didn’t have any on hand. So, I decided to use regular organic cane sugar. I also added the egg shell. I mean, why not? During the second phase, I added organic concord grape juice from Kedem.

The “accidental” part came when I realized I had the wrong kind of coconut water. (thus the name Kooky Kefir) You see, coconut water kefir normally requires pure, fresh unpasteurized (raw) coconut water. Pasteurized coconut water won’t ferment properly (I’ve also used Harmless Harvest coconut water, which is unpasteurized.) Instead, I purchased Naked coconut water. I thought it was raw, but it turned out to be “lightly pasteurized.” Since I was using only 1/2 coconut water, and I was adding sugar, per the TCS recipe, I theorized it would still work, and it did. See for yourself in the video below!

So there’s my story into my Kooky Grape Kefir creation. Here’s the recipe and step by step instructions. Let me know if you try it or if you have any questions.

Concord Grape Kefir

  • Servings: Makes 5 1/2 quarts (45 - 4 ounce servings)
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A bubbly fermented beverage, reminiscent of grape soda, but healthy! This bubbly beverage is packed with probiotics!


Credit: Tamara Hoerner

Ingredients

  • 1/2 gallon clean, filtered water
  • 1/2 gallon coconut water (see recipe notes)
  • 3/4 cup sugar (preferably sucanat, but use what you have on hand)
  • 2 packets kefir starter culture (Body Ecology) OR active kefir grains (Cultures for Health) OR 1 cup from a previous batch of kefir
  • 1/2 of a clean egg shell (adds minerals to the water)
  • 48 ounces Organic Concord Grape Juice (I used Kedem Organic Grape Juice)
  • A 1 gallon glass jar
  • An instant read thermometer is helpful, but optional
  • 6 swing top glass bottles with rubber stoppers (optional-but these help create the fizz in the kefir. See recipe notes for more info)

Directions

  1. Put the sugar in the gallon jar and cover with about 1 cup boiling water. Stir until sugar is dissolved
  2. Add remaining water and coconut water to the jar and stir.
  3. Check the temperature of the water. It should be above 75 degrees but not hotter than 92 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, test the water with your finger. It should feel warm, but not too hot.
  4. Add the kefir culture, whichever one you’re using. I recommend using a starter culture if you’re new to kefir making. If you’re a kefir making expert, use your active kefir grains or some kefir from a previous batch. Stir well, but gently, so as not too overly disturb your little bug friends.
  5. Drop in your egg shell, allowing it to fall to the bottom.
  6. Taste the liquid. This is so you’ll know how sweet it started out, which helps you determine when it’s done, later on.
  7. Cover with a cotton cloth held to the jar with a rubber band. set aside. Leave it alone for at least 3 days, then start tasting it. When most of the sweetness is gone, it’s done. My batch took about 5 days. The kefir can actually be consumed at this point. You can move it to swing top bottles and refrigerate OR move to phase 2!
  8. It’s time for PHASE 2. Put 1 cup (8 oz) of juice into each of the 6 swing top bottles, then fill to the shoulder of the bottle with your kefir. Seal the bottle and let set on the counter for 1-2 days. (If your using kefir grains, don’t forget to rescue them from the jar first!)
  9. After 24 hours, check for carbonation. You should be able to see bubbles forming on the top. You can also check by opening the seal of the bottle. CAREFULLY! If it’s to your liking, and some of the sweetness from the juice has diminished, it’s done. If you let it sit longer than 2 days, burp the bottles every 24 hours. TRUST ME ON THIS! I once had a bottle explode…rookie mistake that will never happen again.
  10. RECIPE NOTES:

    ~ This recipe can be made with all water or all coconut water or a combination like mine. If you use 100% coconut water, make sure you use fresh coconut water, or it won’t ferment. If you’d like to buy bottled coconut water, you MUST use an unpasteurized brand such as Harmless Harvest. Most other brands are pasteurized and won’t ferment.

    ~ If you don’t have swing top bottles, you can use 6 quart jars instead. The kefir won’t be as fizzy, but will still taste good.

    ~ I recommend storing the finished product in the fridge. The cold air tames the activity of the microbes. It will still be fizzy, but you don’t have to worry about bottles exploding.

    ~ After 2 days with juice added, the initial flavor will still be a bit sweet. Over time, the sweetness will dissipate as the microbes eat the sugar from the juice. The longer it sits, the less sweet it will be.

    ~ If 8 ounces of juice in each swing top bottle is too much, adjust the amount of juice to your liking. Just remember, the microbes will eventually eat all the sugar in the bottles, if left long enough. This is what creates the carbonation in the kefir. Your’e not going for the sweetness here as much as the flavor.


Closing thoughts

There are pros and cons to each type of kefir culture. For beginners, my recommendation is to use the kefir starter powder from Body Ecology. This will give you an idea on the process and help you decide if you even like kefir. Then, once you get the hang of it, you can get some grains and start your own microbiome at home.

Until next time… Bon Appetit! Namaste my friends!

Make your own Greek yogurt at home!

Earlier this week I published an article highlighting 10 probiotic rich foods and why to eat them. Yogurt is definitely one of those fabulous foods, and YOU can make your own!

I’ve been experimenting a lot lately with traditional cooking techniques and fermentation, including fermented dairy. I’ve dabbled with piima milk, sour cream, and kefir. I’ve even made my own soft cheese, See this video below:

I’ve also made delicious water kefir, such as the concord grape water kefir in the video below. Isn’t it fun!

So far, it’s been fairly easy, as long as you have the patience to wait several days for the product. When it came time to make my own yogurt, I wasn’t worried too much. The process was a bit more complicated than kefir, piima or even sour cream. But I was convinced I could handle it.

I discovered making yogurt, at least for me, wasn’t as much fun as the other fermented foods with which I experimented. Though I used my instapot slow cooker to keep it at the proper temp, I still over fermented the yogurt once before I got it right. See the final result below:

INGREDIENTS & EQUIPMENT

For one quart jar of yogurt

  • 1 quart of non-homogenized milk (AKA: Cream top) I used THIS brand – You want to use “cream top” milk, as it’s much healthier than ultra pasteurized versions. Do not used the “ultra pasteurized” milk found in most grocery stores. It won’t ferment properly
  • 1 packet of Starter culture or 2-3 tbs yogurt from a previous active batch. I used “Cultures for Health Greek Yogurt Starter Culture” FOUND HERE, for my first batch. Even though I “over fermented” my first batch, the cultures were still good and active for my second and successful batch. You can even use store bought. If you use store bought yogurt, make sure you buy ORGANIC, GRASS-FED YOGURT WITH ACTIVE CULTURES or it won’t work. (the less processed the better)
  • A clean jar. Or a clean Instapot, if that’s what you’re using. I used an instapot. Personally, I don’t think it was any easier with an instapot. I’m planning on using my dehydrator next time.
  • Thermometer
  • 4 cup size liquid Measuring cup
  • A way to incubate the yogurt, if you’re not using an instapot. You’ll need a yogurt maker, dehydrator or other way to keep the yogurt at a constant, 110 degree temp. If you don’t have a yogurt maker, instapot or dehydrator, here’s a tip:

Wrap the slow cooker insert in a large towel and very carefully transfer the slow cooker to your oven. Make sure your rack is placed low enough that the slow cooker or at least the slow cooker insert and lid will fit. You don’t want to be knocking it around. Turn the light on in your oven. This will keep the temperature nice and warm so the milk can make that magical transformation into yogurt….tada

https://www.momontimeout.com/how-to-make-yogurt-in-a-slow-cooker/

Step by step:

(For Instapot: simply follow instructions in the manual)

  1. Heat milk to 160 degrees in a pan on the stovetop
  2. Pour milk into a 4 cup glass measure and allow to cool to 110 degrees
  3. Add starter culture or yogurt previous batch and GENTLY stir
  4. Pour yogurt into yogurt maker, or a 1 quart glass jar and incubate for a minimum of 5 hours and up to 12 hours. Trust me when I say you’ll want to check every 30 minutes after that 5 hour mark to prevent over fermenting the milk. It’s done when the yogurt is thick and “pulls away” from the sides of the jar. You’ll know if you over fermented it if the milk solids separate from the whey. This simply means the probiotics are out of food and hungry. It’s still edible, but may taste bitter. I used my over fermented first batch to make my 2nd batch
  5. Allow to cool for 2 hours, then refrigerate for 6 hours prior to eating.
  6. To make a thick, Greek yogurt consistency, you’ll need to drain off the whey like in the above photo above. To do this, line a mesh strainer with cheese cloth or a cotton dish towel and place over a bowl. Pour finished, chilled yogurt into the lined strainer and allow to sit for 1-2 hours or longer, depending on the consistency you want.

Greek Yogurt Demo

from Cultures for health

Closing thoughts!

Save the liquid whey!

The liquid whey that is a result of the draining process should be saved. It is a probiotic powerhouse and can be used in dressings, mayonnaise, baking, or even probiotic lemonade!

This is a wonderful way to get reluctant family members to eat probiotic food.
☑️In a 1/2 gallon mason jar add 1/2 cup sugar, and a bit of hot water to dissolve the sugar.
☑️ Add 1/2 cup lemon juice and fill the jar 3/4 way with clean filtered water.
☑️ add 1/2 cup of liquid whey.
☑️ let sit covered for about 3 days. Taste after 2 days. It’ll be done when most of the sweetness is gone.
I recommend 1/2 cup a day.

For more ideas on what to do with the whey, follow this link to the article: 43 Surprising Everyday Uses for Whey That Will Blow Your Mind

Let me know if you try it! Bon Appetit! Namaste my friends!