Our websmaster, who spends a good deal of time in Russia, is a great kefir enthusiast so when Sue Cane (our gluten-free beer expert) offered us some kefir grains to ‘grow our own’ I thought he would be very excited.
For those of you who have never heard of it, kefir is the Superman version of yogurt, a living culture which grows in milk (or water), fermenting the milk to superfood status and, it is said, ensuring for those those who consume it, a long and healthy life… These consumers live mainly in the Northern Caucasus mountain where is believed that the Moslem tribes-people were gifted kefir grains by the Prophet Mohammed.
So what is so big deal about it? Well, to quote from the Seeds of Health website:
Microorganisms present in the grains include lactic acid bacteria, Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis, Streptococcus thermophilus, Lb delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, Lb helveticus, Lb casei subsp. pseudoplantarum and Lb brevis, a variety of yeasts, such as Kluyveromyces, Torulopsis, and Saccharomyces, acetic acid bacteria among others. They give kefir excellent keeping qualities by keeping putrifying bacteria that might otherwise colonise the milk at bay…….. In addition to beneficial bacteria and yeast, kefir contains many vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes. Particularly calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, B2 and B12, vitamin K, vitamin A and vitamin D.
Its generous allocation of tryptophan, calcium and magnesium are all thought to calm the nerves while its abundance of enzymes mean that, if taken raw (cooking kills the enzymes) it can be tolerated by those who are normally lactose intolerant. Enthusiasts believe that it will improve almost any health condition, including candidiasis as the beneficial yeasts in its structure will help kill off the harmful yeast, candida albicans.
Kefir grains are remarkably tolerant and very vigorous and, given a decent bowl of milk to live in, will ferment, grow and multiply like good ‘uns. However…. If you live in the UK or any other ‘hygienised’ western country, you will only be able to buy pasteurised milk whereas, if the kefir is to do what the Good Lord (or at least His Prophet) intended it to, it needs the full spectrum of bacteria to be found in fresh, ‘raw’ milk to work on, not the few that remain after the milk has been heated to kill off the bad ones.
Serious kefir enthusiasts might well consider buying a cow; for the rest of us, unless we just happen to live next door to a farm selling green-top to milk, we have made do with an inferior pasteurised version. But, things are looking up. The number of farms selling raw milk is growing fast and some of them are now running mail order services.
The Natural Food Finder site has a very useful page on raw milk suppliers around the country. Even better, a few of the suppliers can deliver across the UK.
One of these is Hook and Son at Langley’s Farm in Hertfordshire. (Feed: grass silage in the winter that has been made from lush spring grass and clover. An organic pea bean and wheat mix is also fed to the cows to supplement their grass diet). You can purchase on line and they will deliver across the UK.
Delivering milk around Suffolk and to designated collection points in London is Espace Farming in Woodbridge (currently farming to organic standards although ‘no longer willing to keep certified due to the ethos of the current organic industry’).
Beaconhill Farm in Herefordshire (no routine use of antibiotics; the farm follows organic farming principles, but does not hold certification) can also deliver nationwide.
And, John Scott tells me that you can get raw unpasteurised cow’s and goat’s milk from Hollypark Organics delivered by Red23, ‘specialists in Organic Health Food, Superfoods and Therapeutic Food based Supplements.’
Even if you are not up for making kefir, there are those that believe that raw milk is infinitely more nutritious and easier to tolerate than pasteurised anyhow and that, given the enormous improvement in dairy hygeine etc, pasturisation is no longer necessary. While this may indeed be true for a relatively small farm with good welfare standards, pasteuristation will no doubt remain a necessity for large, intensively farmed herds whose basic health and welfare may always remain in question.
For more on raw milk and raw food in general see Jill Jacobs article, Wise Traditions and a old article on the FoodsMatter website, Unpasteurised and proud of it by Sir Julian Rose, one of the pioneers of green top milk.
You could also sign up to the Campaign for Real Milk:
Over the last few years milk has become more and more denaturised by the supermarkets and large dairies and the public have been left in the dark about what has been going on. The Campaign for Real Milk is here to expose the true facts to you – the consumer – and to let you know where you can buy milk as you used to drink as a child and how you can help to turn back the tide of homogenisation and long life.
You might also be interested to follow the raw milk story States-side where the battle rages a lot more fiercely and where, despite the best endeavours of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) whose position is that ‘raw milk should never be consumed’, the sale of raw milk is legal within 10 states, but not across state borders. The latest standoff has been between the FDA and an Amish farmer in Pennsylvania who has just been taken to court by the FDA, after a year-long sting operation, to prevent him selling his contraband goods to willing customers in the Washington area. Read the report in the Washington Times….
11th July 2011
It has just been brought to my attention that the current UK regulations state that there is, in fat, no restriction on the sale of raw goat, sheep or buffalo milk, or on the sale of raw cow’s milk cream.