The only food thing that I have really missed while living in Denmark has been the free access to the kefir. Off course, I can find yoghurts, buttermilk and sour milk readily available in the shops, but the thing that I didn't find till now, has been kefir. Well one of the reasons why it is so, could be linked to cultural traditions or lack of cultural traditions to make and drink kefir.
So what is kefir?
Some people see similarities to buttermilk. And yes, you can substitute kefir with buttermilk and vice versa, but it is not same on the taste wise. Wile buttermilk's taste profile is mellow, almost sweet, quite anonymous, kefir has punchiness, acidity, sourness, creaminess, umami and is definitely not anonymous.
Kefir is made by using kefir grains, which are small white bubbles or "kefir mushrooms" or "kefir's starter". So it is alive product, which is usually made from cows milk, by fermenting it over night. (Besides cow's milk variants you can also find goat's and sheep milk variants. NOTE: I have so far only tried the traditional cows milk variant, as even that version can sometimes be hard to obtain where I live). Furthermore by fermenting the lactose you are left with product that is sour, slightly carbonated (natural tiny bubbles) and slightly alcoholic. But don't worry, it is something of a 0.02 or something %. So no need to worry that you will be pulled over while driving or when giving it to kids.
Kefir's consistency on the other hand is similar to yoghurt and it is rather healthy drink containing calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium, copper, manganese, zinc, vitamin A, B- group vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, some essential amino acids and probiotics. So it is a good stuff :).
Kefir is getting global
While kefir has been and is still popular drink in Eastern and Northern Europe, it is also getting increasingly popular in Japan, the United States and rest of the Europe, because its healthiness. Also as an interesting side note, I found out from Wikipedia that Chile has also quite long cultural tradition of making and drinking kefir and at there is is called "yogur de pajaritos" (little birds' yogurt). I haven't tried it, but when I will happen to travel to Chilie it will be in my try list. as so far I have only tried Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, American, Danish, Finish and Swedish versions.
Kefir in Denmark
Yey, it is finally here. Kefir is landed in Denmark. So far only two brands/ types of kefir, but the situation is still better than year ago without any. Therefore, I felt it would be interesting and fun to taste test the kefirs, currently available in Copenhagen area to see what is the best. Time for little test :)
Firstly, as I have tried many buttermilks produced in Denmark and still felt that they are missing right acidity. Therefore, it was decided to disqualify that group of products, as we cannot compare apples to oranges.
Secondly, I have also previously tried kefir available in ethnic shops (Polish and Lithuanian versions), and while these are actual the right products, these were disqualified. Why? Because this little extra trip to the ethnic store and also their taste. (Also having 5-6 kefirs open in the fridge will take some space and we would also like to eat something else than kefir for rest of the week. Don't get me wrong I love kefir, but also need some variation and space is needed).
Thirdly and finally, I located two types/brands of kefirs available in supermarkets in Denmark and also Arla's kefir from Sweden. (Malmö is after all only 15 minutes from Copenhagen and they have had kefir available for years. Though only one brand/type).
So the contests entering to this taste test are Valio lactose-free kefir, Løgismose kefir and Arla's kefir. All will be opened same time and taste tested side by side.
Benchmark will be based on Gefilius Kefir, my favourite so far from Estonia and our taste memory. (I know that is very bias benchmark, but thats how it is ;) ). The things what we were looking were good creaminess and a good acidity (not to sour, but not flat.
Oh, and just before my academical side will kick in and starts to discuss about right sample size and standard deviation, let's see what the results.
- Arla Kefir (found in ICA, Sweden)
The closest to a kefir that I know. I think it is made by using the old style. It has some sour milk tartness, little bubbles and the acidity is rather on the milder side. Has some character, but could do with some more in my opinion. Taste profile is not anonymous, but mild. Medium thickness. Overall good, solid kefir with result of 3.75 from 5.
- Valio Kefir Lactose-free (found in Kvickly, Copenhagen; Natural version)
Well, yes it is not right to compare the lactose-free product with regular, but as kefir supply in Denmark is rather limited we are not picky when in search for a perfect glass of kefir. So as this kefir is lactose-free it has some strange sweetness. It has some bubbles and good acidity for kefir. Medium thickness. Overall good performance except this strange sweetness. Result of 3.5 from 5.
- Løgismose kefir (found in Netto, Copenhagen. Might require some search).
When I received a newsletter from Løgismose stating that they will be bringing their own kefir to the market from 2. April, I was really excited. Unfortunately, though, I was only able to locate one only on 7th of April, almost one week later than it was said it will be in the shops and more so to speak more ethnic part of the city. Still, I would say the supply is still unfortunately rather sketchy, but I have great hopes it will improve, if they are serious about the product and want to build kefir following.
It is only kefir in this sample that is produced in Denmark and it is more like a yoghurt and buttermilk cross over. Taste is rather anonymous, have a very little acidity and bubbles. Good in smoothies. Overall good try, but needs some more practice, scores 3.5 out of 5.
So to conclude the Round 1 in research, all available kefirs were missing something and had a room of improvements. Therefore, the Round 2 were hypothesis were produced - if all kefirs were missing something could we blend together perfect kefir from two contestants. So to test this hypothesis out we selected Valio and Arla, as Valio has nice bubbles and acidity, but have a sweetness which needs to be toned down and Arla because it is closest to the benchmark, but is bit on the mild sideand lacks some punch, which Valio can hopefully provide. So we blended equal parts of both kefirs together and the result was surprisingly good. Still not perfect as Valio's sweetness still shined through. Definitely, we were able to fill some gaps in their taste profile and by doing so in my opinion improve the taste but still the result was more of a 3.85 out of 5.
So to conclude I am still searching perfect kefir in Denmark, but till now I continue to amuse myself with these three contestants. And as a twist, I most probably will try more Løgismose kefir, when I manage to locate it.