I’m always on the lookout for new ways to get healing, immune building foods into my family. This Elderberry Kefir is my newest favorite way. With the probiotics of water kefir and the immune boosting vitamins of elderberries, this fizzy, delicious drink is a great addition to your diet.

Elderberry Kefir | dairy-free, sugar-free | RaiasRecipes.com

I was first introduced to kefir while living in Russia. My roommate, a German cook, was trying to make herself drink it every day “because the Russians say it’s good for you.” No reason why it’s good for you, it just is. (That’s how most of the nutritional/health reasoning seemed to go down in the Far East, but that’s a different story.) Come to find out, upon my entrance to the health-food realm, kefir actually is good for you! Thank you babushki. 😉

Though in Russia, and the majority of the world, kefir is made from fermented milk, it can also be made from water (yay for the lactose-intolerant!). Ever since I started focusing on healing my gut and cutting out all my known (and extensive) food intolerances, lactose being one, I’ve been enjoying the many benefits of water kefir. It’s very easy to make at home (see my how-to HERE), and you can flavor it however you like, resulting in an easy, healthy soda alternative.

Side note: if you’re a regular on this blog you’ve probably noticed that I use dairy frequently. Yeah… I’m a cheater. Sometimes I convince myself that the “momentary pleasure” is worth the end result. 

Elderberry Kefir | dairy-free, sugar-free | RaiasRecipes.com

Kefir is a delicious probiotic drink containing healthy bacteria and yeast that feed off the unhealthy bacteria and yeast in the digestive track, helping things balance out internally. It is made from fermenting sweetened milk or water with translucent little grains.

All you grain-free-ers: don’t freak out. They’re not actually grains. Kefir grains are actually little colonies of bacteria and yeast. All you sugar-free-ers don’t freak out either, the end result doesn’t contain sugar (if done properly), though the drink is naturally sweet. And if you’re struggling with a yeast overgrowth, kefir is actually said to help kill candida, due to it’s unique makeup.

Kefir offers more benefits than just killing un-beneficial yeast and balancing bacteria, though. It also contains high levels of vitamin B12, betacarotene, calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin K2, biotin, folate, and enzymes. Even though it can be made with either milk or water, the results are said to be the same, though the exact amount of vitamins and minerals will vary based on the milk used and/or where you live.

After fermenting, water kefir is usually sweet and slightly bubbly. Though I like water kefir plain, my family prefers to drink it after a second ferment with added fruits and/or spices. Not only does doing this add flavor, it can also add nutritional benefits, depending on the fruits used during the second ferment.

My husband’s current favorite flavor: elderberry

Elderberry Kefir | dairy-free, sugar-free | RaiasRecipes.comSince moving to the south, I was delighted to find that I have two elderberry trees in my backyard. My very own backyard! Every forager/aspiring herbalist’s dream. Unfortunately, I have to fight the birds for them.

It’s worth the fight, though. 😉

Containing amino acids, carotenoids, flavonoids, vitamins A, B and huge amounts of vitamin C, elderberries have long been used for their anti-viral, antibacterial, antioxidant and immune-boosting properties. Their bioflavonoids are even capable of destroying the ability of cold and flu viruses to infect a cell. Some studies have also found the antioxidant balance of elderberries to be greater than equal doses of vitamin E and vitamin C.

They’re amazing little berries, aren’t they?

During cold and flu season (right around the corner… sigh), I like to do all I can to keep my family healthy by drowning them in giving them doses of my homemade elderberry syrup. It’s super easy to make, and tastes delightful – my kids love it. 

Most uncooked berries from this genus are poisonous. But sambucus nigra (the variety of elderberry that is usually used for health benefits) is the only variety considered to be non-toxic even when raw. It’s still recommended that you cook the berries, though, as it enhances their taste and makes them more easily digested. For this drink I use dried elderberries, so if you use raw ones the finished product may have a more tart taste. 🙂

Elderberry Kefir | dairy-free, sugar-free | RaiasRecipes.com

Like anything fermented, water kefir does contain a wee bit ‘o alcohol. But the alcoholic content is usually less than a percent, making it pretty impossible to get drunk off of. But – in my opinion – that makes it a great option for a romantic stay-at-home date for mom and dad. 😉 

Elderberry Kefir
Free of gluten, grain, dairy, eggs, and sugar.
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  1. 1 qt. water kefir (how to make your own here)
  2. 1 T. dried elderberries (find them here or here)
  1. After the first ferment, pour kefir into a clean jar and add elderberries.
  2. Cover with an air-tight lid and set in a dark place to ferment again for at least 24 hours.
  3. Refrigerate.
  1. For added spice add a sliver of raw ginger root.
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