Monday, December 14, 2009

Meet Therese, Our Pet Kefir

Months ago, I posted about my soda recipe to break my husband's soda addiction. Since then, we have bought water kefir grains. Water kefir grains are small masses of bacteria and yeast that ferment sugars. Although we call our kefir Therese, she is actually a community of many organisms.

When we first got Therese we had to rehydrate her in sugar water for a few days, then she was ready to get to work. Every day or two, Dan pours out the fizzy fermented sugar water. He then fills her jar back up with water and feeds her a few more tablespoons of sugar.

The sugar water she has fermented he then turns into a soda-like beverage. For something like sprite, he adds some lemon juice and lime juice. For cream soda, he just adds vanilla. For a cola-like beverage, he adds vanilla, cinnamon and lime juice.

You can also make fruit sodas by allowing the kefir to ferment juice instead of sugar water. There's a free eBook with kefir recipes from Cultures for Health. It has mostly milk kefir recipes, but it has some water kefir recipes toward the end that use fruit juice.

When I found the free eBook, I excitedly told my husband about all the kefir recipes: lemonade kefir and cherry kefir and grape kefir. He asked, "Did they have Mountain Dew kefir, or Dr. Pepper kefir?" No, they didn't, but if anyone has any suggestions on how I can make our kefir taste something like Mountain Dew, that would make my husband very happy, and in turn make me happy, too.

Kefir is not only a nourishing soda alternative, it is a money saver. We paid about $20 for our kefir grains from Amazon, but as long as we keep feeding them, the community will not die. The sugar we feed them costs less than the tonic water we used to use for Dan's soda. Pets generally are not frugal, but there are useful pets, like our kefir, Therese, who save us money.


Happy Hermit said...

I have a few useful pets too !! I seem to have been successful transferring milk kefir to water kefir , seems cane sugar and ginger even made it grow !!

I do a lot of ginger beer , and have been thinking about trying other syrups (still seeking a good DP clone)

Love the kefir!! great post.

crabcakes said...

Do you use regular tap water? I know with dough starters you have to leave the water out to evaporate the chlorine. This works fine straight from the tap?

Emily said...

No, we have a separate jar next to the kefir to where the chlorine evaporaates from the next days' water. The chlorine would otherwise kill the kefir.

Anonymous said...

Hi emily, I was just reading back through your archives and I noticed you thought you don't have eye or dental care. If you have MaineCare, you do! Have a look in your MaineCare booklet and it tells you so.

I am also wondering why you accept the EIC cash handout from the governement, but not foodstamps? We fund those programs to support children and families who need help paying for food, heat, transport, clothes, etc. They're there as a community service for your children, why will you use one but not the others?


Jen said...

I have those same grains sitting in my kitchen that I need to rehydrate! I finally got kombucha down, and my husband loves it as a soda replacement. So I haven't had an urgency to delve into water kefir. I need to get to it though, the grains are supposed to be rehydrated by January 2010.

Rachel said...

Emily, I bought some kefir one time and found it to be absolutely gross! I am always looking for something that will keep me from getting sinus infections. Right now I am drinking soy milk, and I like that.

Thanks for posting the Stevia fudege recipe. My dad just found out he is borderline diabetic, so I am going to make him some for Christmas.

crabcakes said...

To answer Justine's question, you can not "refuse" the EIC. When you file your taxes, they give it to you. You can't just say "no thanks".

We get the EIC because although we are married in MA, the federal government doesn't recognize it and treats us like single parents. They give us the EIC and we can't refuse it. To take it back or to not give it to us would admit that our marriage is federally legal.

It's stupid, but if the federal government doesn't want to recognize our marriage then it's their own fault for treating us like single parents.

(just my experience with the EIC)

crabcakes said...

Another alternative to Stevia and a little less processed is Agave nectar. It's not that expensive and it's very low on the glycemic index and it tastes super. Not at all like cactus! :)

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't the goverment recognize your marriage? Did you guys not file for a marriage license? Why not?

Elm Higgins

Clisby said...

"Pets generally are not frugal ..."

But will Therese curl up on your feet and keep them warm at night, so you aren't tempted to turn up the heat? Will she purr, so you have no need of a white noise machine?

Anonymous said...


You can refuse the EITC. You have to fill out a specific form to request it (or tell your software to do it).

Anonymous said...

Aren't you afraid to get botulism, salmonella, or other bacterial intoxication by doing all these weird things with food?

Anonymous said...

Ok, I have a question about your response to another question.... Why is your marriage not reconized???

crabcakes said...

Because we are two women. And yes we have a perfectly legal marriage license which our state, several others, and several countries recognize. And our children are each legally ours via birth certificates in all fifty states because a birth certificate is legal documentation of parentage no matter where you are. States can not refuse to recognize them, just marriage licenses.

But the federal goverment treats us like single parents with the EIC. And until they recognize our marriage, they'll keep giving it to us. We've asked about it many times and they will not remove it because to do so would acknowledge that we are in fact, fully married in the eyes of the fed.

I guess it's offset by all of the extra taxes we pay on health insurance. The fed taxes my portion as income. So it comes out as a wash in the end.

crabcakes said...

You can refuse the EITC. You have to fill out a specific form to request it (or tell your software to do it)....

No you can not. Trust me. We've tried it. When we were audited we were flat out told by the IRS that it was required for us to take it.

Trust me on this one.

Nikki said...

i loved this post... what a really cool idea!

Anonymous said...

I thought you'd stopped using/consuming sugar?

Anonymous said...

I've never heard of water kefir before just the dairy kind. Has the water kefir ever been exposed to dairy when you get it? Three of my kids are allergic to dairy so I've never done kefir but have been interested due to the health benefits. Thanks! Rebecca

Emily said...

Rebecca, Cultures for Health (the brand I bought) call the water kefir "a dairy-free alternative." This is what their FAQ page says, answering a question about if they're good for people with dairy allergies, "Yes! WKG contains no dairy (please note: WKG are processed in a facility where dairy products are processed)."

I hope that answers your question. (:

Anonymous said...

I think I'll trust the IRS website. You have to fill out the EIC worksheet or request the IRS to calculate it for you. It is not done automatically. Feel free to read Publication 596 page 24.

crabcakes said...

Yes, I guess I'll ignore my auditors and trust some random anonymous internet person instead. You must know way more about gay families, about the IRS, about the EIC, and about audits than I do. If life were so simple as a blurb of text on the IRS website, none of us would complain about taxes.

PS. My father is my accountant. He worked with his close friend on my audit who is one of the most respected CPA's in the country and one of the oldest IRS liaison's. Think I'll trust them.

Thanks for your opinion anyway.

Anonymous said...

"Yes! WKG contains no dairy (please note: WKG are processed in a facility where dairy products are processed)."

As someone with food allergies that made me LOL. How silly.

Anonymous said...


Why that recipe doesn't look biblical to me, Honey. My family follows a biblical eating plan and fermenting grains and sugars is one step away from the devils nectar, alcohol. That will turn a man from God quicker than a squirrel will eat my nuts. I have seen you are real fine on fermenting foods and Dear I worry. I will pray on this and see what I can come up with.

Toodles, Nelly

Paige said...

I'm kind of excited to try this. Soda is my one true vice--it's al diet but that's all chemical/caffeine infested but I love it so! I'm totally willing to give this a try.

Anonymous said...

@crabcakes - Yeah, right. Because being gay has so much to do with the EITC and you have to know so much about gay families and auditing to know that it is in fact possible to turn down a tax credit. I think you just don't want to be wrong and will mak up a bunch of random crap to make yourself sound credible.

@Nelly - Your sarcasm is unamusing and highly disrespectful. You don't have to prescribe to someone's beliefs, but you also don't have to undermine them.

Anonymous said...

Ahahahaha...I have to crack up at Nelly's comment.

You've got to be freaking kidding me with your "devil's nectar"...right? Seriously. Hahahah. Man, I'm going to have trouble sleeping tonight through my periodic "crack ups" over that comment.

Biblical Shmimlical. When the heck are so-called Christians ever going to sit down and actually READ the Bible and quit with the paraphrasing BS?

Wine is 'biblical'. Jesus made it for his peeps, yo. Period. End of story.

(and ps. no, I don't really say things like 'peeps' and 'yo').

Meg said...


Why that comment doesn't look biblical to me, Honey. My family follows a biblical commenting plan and fermenting sarcasm and meaness is one step away from the devils playground, trolling. That will turn a man from God quicker than a cat will roll in catnip. I have seen you are real fine on fermenting sarcasm and Dear I worry. I will pray on this and see what I can come up with.

Toodles, Meg

Lisa said...

Hi! My husband & I could have received the EIc for 6 years , when we did not believe in taking it. You can check the box on the tax form that says how much of your refund do you want to receive back or else doate to govt. to pay off debt. It's on there.You check it , they don't send you a dime & if you don't make any more than some of you on yearly incomes , you don't even have to file a federal form , unless you are wanting to get the EIC. Lisa

Lisa said...

Hi! I started searching the web for info on Kefir grains& here is a site I came up with .She sells the water Kefir grains for $9.50 in the Us postage paid. It's a little more grains than you get from the site you posted , which is the Amazon seller.Her site has articles & patterns on cloth diapering,sourdough & devotions , if you want to read them. It's a very interesting site with lots of good info. Lisa

Happy Hermit said...

Milk kefir and water kefir come from different base animals (or organisms)

occasionally people like myself try and bring milk kefir over to water kefir (but not many have been successful) True water kefir may never have touched milk .
here are some useful links:
on milk kefir :
on water kefir:
Ginger Beer Plant (a water kefir that has been used for generations in finger bee , which is not so much beer as lacto fermented soda , but can turn into alky beer given time))r :
and lastly my latest mad scientist exploration of frugal soda replacements , (because I am a big soda geek) , loacto fermented sodas:

My race to find a soda replacement has cultured (lol) some good and bad flavors to be sure , but ginger beer and ginger soda have been a stale at my house becuse it works better far better than sprite when people are ill.

Hope you find it helpful. I love trying to find a NATURAL way of making soda by far.

Angie said...

I have no idea what this stuff is or what purpose it serves-except that it looks totally unhealthy and disgusting. Yes, I am well aware that most of our processed food and even whole foods, i.e. meat, starts out in a rather questionable state. But seriously, Emily, let's get real here! I mean, who really wants to see that sitting in a jar in their kitchen, let alone, EAT it?! I like reading about all the strange things you do, however, you are one weird girlie! I kind of feel sorry for your kids, and for people visiting your home. It's one thing to go against the norm, but you may have some deeper issues.

Clisby said...

Are you saying you don't know what kefir is? Even my entirely mainstream Publix supermarket carries it. Or are you just unfamiliar with people making their own?

angie said...

Clisby, no I am not familiar with the substance. What I do know is that this stuff is nasty looking and if I walked into someone's home with it sitting on the counter, I would be a bit uneasy. Sometimes I just don't think Emily is very sanitary.

Meg said...


This sounds interesting. Would this be the same principle as with a sourdough starter or something?


I had never heard of kefir either. But I'm sure there are plenty of things I've never heard of, nor tasted. That doesn't make it a bad thing.

What is so horrible about trying new things? People need to know how to do a wide variety of things. They may need those skills to survive one day. All the prepackaged food we buy in the supermarket may no longer be there and if we don't have at least some knowledge of how to make our own food from scratch we won't survive.

Kefir may not be your "cup of tea" and that's fine, but why do you feel the need to say such hurtful things to Emily? Is this how you talk to everyone you personally know, or just Emily and anyone else on the internet?

Sometimes we can get brave hiding behind a computer when we're not face to face with someone and say very mean and hurtful things. But there is no excuse for hurting someone intentionally. Emily is a real person with feelings, just like you. Please remember that and if something she does creeps you out, ignore it and don't make such a hurtful comment.

If you like to argue, why don't you find a political board? This is just a blog about being frugal. I don't understand why it's making some people so upset.

Anonymous said...

A chest freezer is, hands down, one of the best investments that I've made. I was able to pick up a couple of turkeys at Thanksgiving (organic, free range birds) for $1.25 a pound, and I plan on doing the same with ham when it goes on sale at Christmas. And with corned beef when it goes on sale around St. Patrick's get the idea. Also, flour keeps a lot better when its kept in the freezer, which allows you to take advantage of occasional good deals on flour. It also lets you freeze vegetables and fruit that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to store.

Briar said...

You really know how to bring out the loons, Emily. It's part of the reason I love your blog so much. =0) No matter what you do, there will always be people who object to the way you try to live your life, or I, mine.

Have you tried fermenting apple juice? It's the most cola like taste I've ever been able to achieve with water kefir. Apparently, that was once the original taste cola was trying to mimic.

Clisby said...


Here's some information:

Now, when I said I could buy it in my grocery store, I meant the already-made drink. I doubt Publix carries kefir grains. But kefir is not some weird thing Emily dreamed up. I first heard of it (the milk kefir) years ago - a cousin and her husband got hooked on it during a trip somewhere in Europe (Greece? Turkey?) where it's very popular.

Organizing Mommy said...

I have KEFIR grains in my pantry. I had no idea you could make soda with them! How fun is that? I think I'll do this! The whole milk thing sounded gross to me. This sounds yummy.

Anonymous said...

Hi Emily
When making your kefir soda, did you need to purchase special bottles for this project? If so could you share where to get these? Thanks, Carmen

Emily said...

Carmen, I didn't, I just used old salsa bottles with the caps on tight. It worked for us, but Cultures for Health sells the special bottles.

Anonymous said...

Hi Emily,
Thanks for such a quick response; I'm sorry but I only know how to use the anon. profile to send and wasn't sure you would get the question. Another question I have: if I need to take a break from using the started kefir how do I keep it viable? I know you can freeze yogurt and liquid friendship starter for quite some time.Can you do this with kefir also? Or is there another way to keep it fresh? Thanks, Carmen

Emily said...

Carmen, I'm pretty sure you can just refridgerate it and it will slow down the fermenting and it should be fine, but I'm not sure. Cultures for Health has a great FAQ section that you might find helpful.

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