Thai-Inspired Kefir Water (Tibicos) Mocktail

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During the indulgence of the holidays, do yourself a favor and add a kefir water mocktail to the rotation of boozed up eggnog and spiked hot chocolate. Not only is this choice better for your liver, but it boosts your gut health (which is especially crucial when  eating hard to process foods) and may even boost immune system and cancer cell response, and be anti-inflammatory.

What Is Water Kefir?

Sometimes called “tibicos,” water kefir is fermented sugar water. Even simpler to make than kombucha or jun, water kefir has all the benefits of naturally occurring yeasts and probiotics without the caffeine of kombucha or jun, and without the dairy of milk kefir or yogurt. Instead of a “mother” culture or scoby, however, water kefir is brewed using kefir grains, which contain the sugar-consuming bacteria necessary to cause fermentation to occur.

Why Choose Water Kefir Over Other Cultured Beverages?

If you are vegan or sensitive to dairy, water kefir is a great alternative to milk kefir or yogurt. As it is caffeine-free, it can be consumed any time of day or night, and is a great choice for those who are sensitive to the effects of caffeine. It may even contain less sugar in an 8 ounce glass than the average kombucha or milk kefir. (In short, the longer you allow your water kefir to “culture,” the longer the bacteria has a chance to eat up the sugar in the sugar-water solution. This translates to less sugar in the final product.) Water kefir also takes less time to ferment than kombucha or jun, clocking in at 24-48 hours of fermentation time, as opposed to cultured tea’s fermentation period of 7-30 days.

Making Water Kefir At Home

Water kefir is simple to make and easy to maintain. To brew, all you need is:

  • sugar
  • water free of chlorine; hard, highly mineralized water is good
  • a 32 ounce mason jar
  • a coffee filter
  • a rubber band
  • a wooden spoon
  • a fine mesh strainer
  • activated water kefir grains
  1. Pour 1/4 cup of sugar into your jar.
  2. Add 1/2 cup of hot water and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  3. Add 3 cups of cool water to the jar and test to make sure it is between 65°F-86°F.
  4. Add activated water kefir grains. Cover the jar with a coffee filter secured by a rubber band and let culture 24-48 hours.
  5. To flavor the kefir, separate the grains from the liquid using a strainer and reserve the kefir. Add fresh fruit, ginger root, fruit juice, coconut water, etc to a clean jar, add kefir water, cover with a lid, and let sit at room temperature for several days. Relieve the pressure building in the lid every day by cracking the lid open, otherwise your jar could become dangerously pressurized! The kefir water is ready to refrigerate and drink when it is lightly carbonated.
  6. Repeat the above steps to continue making water kefir. If you would like to take a water kefir “break, repeat steps 1-3, add water kefir grains and cover the jar with a lid, then immediately refrigerate. Kefir can survive in the fridge up to 3 weeks before it must be fed again.

Sugars Compatible with Water Kefir Culture

  • refined white sugar
  • cane juice crystals
  • turbinado, demerara, or raw sugar
  • brown sugar
  • rapadura or sucanat

It is important to check a source like this one from Cultures For Health to make sure your sweetener is aligned with the health of the water kefir’s culture. For example, agave and maple syrup are undigestible for water kefir. Ingredients like molasses and coconut sugar can be used in small doses, or combined with any of the sugars in the bullet list above. Honey has its own bacterial culture and is not recommended, as it may be very damaging to water kefir grains.

Stick to the list of approved sugars, however, and your culture should be very happy! The good news is, each sugar in the bullet list above has a unique flavor profile, which means water kefir can taste quite different depending on the sugar you choose to feed it.

Where Can I Buy Water Kefir?

Of course, you can find water kefir grains on Amazon or other third-party vending sites. Or, you can buy directly from companies like Cultures For Health and receive their water kefir starter kit. Happy Gut has kefir grains for sale and boasts a collection of flavor additives you can purchase at checkout. Alternatively, there may be someone near you who is cultivating water kefir. Kefir grains do multiply over time, and perhaps they would share a few with you.

Why Water Kefir Is A Mixologist’s Dream

Water kefir can be fed many kinds of sugar and therefore can take on different flavor characteristics. It can also be flavored after the ferment using fruit, chopped roots, herbs and aromatics, juices, coconut water, and more.

The Diageo Bar Academy has some thoughts on what makes a quality drink. They say:

A good cocktail has tension. Tension exists in the balance between the elements: alcoholic strength, sweetness, sourness, bitterness, saltiness, temperature and texture. Flavour alone is not enough to make a good drink great.

With that in mind, water kefir can be manipulated into many “textures” or levels of carbonation, many levels of sweetness, and even levels of sourness. As it is a fermented beverage, it adds a trace layer of alcohol to any mixed drink, though it alone would have to be consumed in massive quantities in order to feel the effects of alcohol. (Most folks recommend drinking 16 ounces of water kefir a day.)

Incorporating water kefir into a crafted drink (with or without alcohol) is a great way to add complexity and a touch of sweetness or sourness to your beverage. Simple or very lightly flavored water kefir also makes a great replacement for tonic or soda water in a mixed drink. In short, starting with a quantity of intentionally-brewed water kefir means most of the heavy lifting for creating a drink is done. Simply add fresh fruit juice, some herbs, and maybe some alcohol, and you have a refreshing (even healthful) drink on your hands!

Simple, Thai-Inspired Kefir Mocktail

With fresh, simple ingredients, it’s hard to go wrong.

With a simple kefir water flavored only with white sugar and coconut water, this drink was complex and delicious even before it was fully assembled!

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Thai-Inspired Water Kefir (Tibicos) Mocktail

This curated beverage contains trace amounts of alcohol, but not enough to feel its effects. Enjoy in lieu of a cocktail; or, add a splash of tequila, white rum, or vodka if desired.
Course Beverage, Cocktail, Happy Hour, mixed drink, Mocktail
Cuisine American, Healthy
Keyword are water kefir grains reusible, Cajun, can water kefir make you drunk, celebrate, cocktail, cocktail recipes, crumbs, crumbs on crumbs, crumbsoncrumbs, cultured beverage, cultures for health, easy recipes, feel good food plan, fermented beverage, festive, happy gut, holidays, how much water kefir to drink per day, how water kefir grains, intuitive chef, intuitive cook, intuitive cooking, intuitive cuisine, intuitive eater, intuitive eating, intuitive eats, intuitive food plan, intuitive recipe, kombucha, mocktail, mocktail recipes, scoby, simple recipes, tibicos, water kefir, water kefir recipes, what are water kefir grains made of, what does water kefir taste like, what is water kefir culture, what is water kefir good for, what's water kefir, when water kefir is ready, where do water kefir grains come from, where to buy water kefir, where to buy water kefir grains, which is better water kefir or kombucha, why water kefir is good for you, winter festivities
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 1 drink

Ingredients

  • 0.5 ounces fresh ginger root, peeled with the edge of a spoon
  • 1/2 cup turbinado or raw sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 5 large basil leaves
  • 8 ounces coconut kefir water
  • 0.5 ounces fresh lime juice
  • lime wedges, for garnish
  • coarse mineral salt, for garnish

Instructions

  • Roughly chop peeled ginger and place in a small sauce pot along with raw sugar and water. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve sugar. Remove from the heat and let mixture steep until it is cool to the touch, 20-30 minutes.
  • Strain ginger and reserve the simple syrup.
  • Cut a lime into wedges and rub the top of a large glass or jar with the cut lime. Turn the glass upside down on a plate with coarse mineral salt until the lip of the glass is heavily salted.
  • Muddle 4 of the basil leaves in the large glass or jar along with lime juice. Fill the vessel with ice and stir until ice is coated.
  • Remove bruised basil leaves from the jar and add kefir water, along with 0.5 ounces of the ginger simple syrup. Stir.
  • Add remaining basil leaf and lime slices to the glass as a garnish. Serve immediately.

 

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Boeuf Bourguignon!

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Having made traditional boeuf bourguignon via Julia Child’s recipe, when I encountered this version on the New York Times’ cooking page, I was all in: there’s that slow-cooked beef that you crave with traditional boeuf bourguignon, ample wine added to the roux, mushrooms, and onions–but the recipe is dramatically simplified, and spiced very sparingly. I also found the wine flavor in the traditional version to be overpowering, whereas in this recipe, the positive flavors in the wine come through, but only just. In short, the beef is really taking center stage, as beef is wont to do.

I think all meat-eaters can agree, there’s nothing like slow-cooked meat. When meat is falling-off-the-bone tender, packed full of flavor and juicy, it’s terribly hard to resist. (So why would we? The answer is, we don’t.)

Of course, we can’t eat meat like this for every meal. Aside from being labor- and attention-intensive, meat like this isn’t always the most holistically nutritious thing we can put in our bodies for dinner. I wouldn’t say it’s bad for us, per se. But a head of broccoli probably has a little more to offer in the “nutrients” department…(I’m sure there are some meat fans out there ready to argue with me. Shower me in your meat stats, you carnivores!)

Additionally, and I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this, reader, but it’s not the best for the environment. Unless you buy locally-sourced, organic, grass-fed-and-finished beef (costly and often not quite as convenient as the grocery store standard), it’s a little challenging to negate your carbon footprint on some delicious, delicious beef brisket.

I will say I could not find organic brisket at the grocery store. If you really want “guilt free” brisket, this may be an occasion to stop by your local artisan butcher! Support local, eat local, reduce the carbon footprint. Rock on with your bad self. Rock on!!

In summary, a dish like this really calls for an occasion. In this instance, my sister and I ate this together before I take off to move across the country; this, of course, made it taste all the better.

This is one of the most comforting dishes I have prepared in a long, long time. Warming spices, slow-cooked beef, and mashed potatoes–I didn’t even make a vegetable to go along with dinner! It was all meat and potatoes, all dinner long. Who is complaining about this? I ask you!

Of course, if it’s not your bag to eat just meat and potatoes, add some green stuff on a separate plate. The world is your oyster! (Whatever that means.) But tuck in for a cozy, candlelit dinner with someone you love, maybe with a bottle of Beaujolais or maybe with some Amber O’Douls, and feast on the fruits of this 4.5 hour dinner. The wait is definitely worth it. Trust me.

i was really pleased with this beef broth i found at the grocery store–it’s made with grass-fed beef bones and tastes great. i even bought some of their lemongrass and ginger beef bone broth, which makes a great medium for a simple soup. don’t forget to heat low and slow, so the broth doesn’t boil and ruin all that wonderful collagen!

I seasoned the brisket with salt and pepper, trimmed a small layer of the fat cap, and cut it into cubes to be browned in vegetable oil in my cast iron.

Meanwhile, I sautéed chopped onions and mushrooms in rendered beef fat in my Le Creuset, then added spices, thyme, wine, broth, and the browned beef…

i’ve really been pushing the le creuset to its maximum volume capacity lately; somehow, this reduced with minimal spillage. thank you, guardian cooking angel

About 3 1/2 hours over low heat later, aaaand:

cue “heart eyes” emoji

Yes. Yes to all of this!! I was stuffed after one serving, but still wanted more…leftovers just got a lot more exciting.

yep, the only green on my plate came from the ceramic itself, and chives. oh, and those are cheesy mashed potatoes, in case you’re wondering

[This recipe adapted from Pierre Franey of the New York Times.]

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Boeuf Bourguignon!

Serves 6-8

  • 4 lbs beef brisket, trimmed to 1/4” fat cap and cut into 1 ½” cubes
  • Reserved brisket fat, for rendering
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 c chopped onions (about two medium onions)
  • 5 heads of garlic, pressed
  • 1 lb fresh mushrooms, preferably bella
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ¼ c all-purpose flour
  • 1 bottle Beaujolais wine (Beaujolais Villages is a great low-cost bottle)
  • 1 c low-sodium beef stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 whole allspice

Generously season brisket with salt and pepper, and rub spices into the meat. Heat vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and add the meat cubes in a single layer, with the fat side down first to render the fat. This will take several batches. Drain browned meat cubes on a plate lined with paper towels. (The point here is not to cook the meat all the way through, but to sear it on the outside.) 

While meat is draining, heat reserved beef fat in a heavy bottomed cooking pot, like a Le Creuset or cast iron kettle, until you have several tablespoons of liquid fat in the bottom of the pan. Toss fat chunks or feed to a lucky dog.

Add onions, garlic, and mushrooms to the first cast iron pan used to cook the meat cubes, and sautée about 5 minutes, or until onions become translucent. In the second pan with the rendered beef fat, add the flour and cook over medium heat, stirring well, for about 1 minute.

Add wine, beef stock, bay leaf, cloves, allspice, thyme, sauteed onions, garlic and mushrooms, and beef cubes to the second pan. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat and cook, covered, over very low heat for about 3 and ½ hours, or until the meat is tender and falls apart when gently squeezed with tongs.

Remove bay leaf and serve with mashed potatoes, noodles, or rice. Red wine or dark ales are wonderful compliments to this dish.