Aurel Chaoul taught me how to really make water kefir a couple of years ago. One beautiful Beltane evening in the River of Herbs orchards, he showed a bewitched group of us how to set up a batch. He added chewed over apple cores, squeezed out lemons, bits of ginger, a liberal amount of caster sugar and whatever else felt good at the time. I have been hooked on it since and my recipes have become more experimental as I gained confidence with those little living grains. Ginger, Turmeric and Lemon is a firm favourite, reminding me of a Balinese Jamu but taking far less time to prepare. Ginger and lemon, is rather like ginger beer and basil tastes great with most fruits. Stinging nettle infusion, fed to kefir without any sweetener is another top experimental result in this house. It tastes rather like nettle beer and can be made overnight. It’s a complete bargain, especially if you like a slightly beery taste but not the alcohol. The nettle does tend to stain the kefir grains though, not really a problem unless you don’t want nettle in your next kefir batch.
My autumn 2015 favourite is made from foraged rosehips, quince, lemon and honey. The rosehips here have been drying out whole over several weeks, on my dining room table. They looked so pretty when I harvested them and I didn’t feel like scooping out the itchy seeds for rosehip honey this year. So they sat around a candle and shriveled up gracefully. When added to the kefir brew, they perk straight back to life and look gorgeous again. Quinces are exquisite old fashioned fruits which I don’t find often in Amsterdam. However they are currently hanging in a perfectly pluckable state on a grand old tree in Frankendael orchards. Each time I garden there, I take a few home and invariably forget to cook them. They dry slowly in my fruit bowl and release an amazing pear-y fragrance, which is no bad thing. The Lemon is left over from mealtime wedges and the honey is because the kefir grains love a little sweetness to get them going. I find the combination a real pleasure to drink and it always goes down well with the orchard project volunteers.
If you enjoy experimenting with water-kefir and you like to forage, I’d love to know what your favourite combination is!