With warmer weather upon us, I have been experimenting with more water kefir flavours. The rising temperature makes it easier to bring this ferment to its final stages, producing a bubbly and tart drink in about 48 hours. All we need is a little flavour inspiration; we recently enjoyed a fresh pineapple and rather than tossing out the core, I included it in a batch of water kefir. Pineapple kefir? Yes, please!
When we moved into our new house last autumn, I had no idea there would be such lovely gardens waiting for us in the spring – including a patch of rhubarb. This plant always starts out so puny and shrivelled, but turns into a vigorous harvest in a matter of weeks. Our first stalks were ready for harvesting this week, and so my kitchen is busy chopping, freezing and simmering: frozen pieces for crumbles and pies, preserves to stir into yogurt or top muffins, and syrup for pancakes and water kefir.
I make rhubarb syrup as I would any fruit syrup: add an inch of water to the bottom of a large heavy saucepan, toss in chunks of fresh rhubarb, add raw sugar to taste. Cover, heat, and simmer till it’s mush. Taste and see if you’d like more sugar.
If you are making this syrup for water kefir, you won’t want to be separating kefir grains from rhubarb strands. So use a cheesecloth or kitchen towel lined with paper towel (for easy cleanup) to strain the sugar-water from the solids.
You can return this water to the stove top and continue boiling if you’d like to produce a thicker syrup for pancakes etc. However, for kefir’s sake it is not necessary to produce a thick syrup; we want to easily pour it into our jars! To combine this syrup with water kefir grains, I generally fill the bottle 1/4 of the way with syrup, the remainder with water, and add another tablespoon or two of raw sugar for the kefir grains (depending on how sweet the syrup is). Ferment as usual and enjoy chilled on one of those first really warm days of early summer. Store any leftover syrup sealed, in the fridge.
You can continue to develop these flavours by adding fresh grated ginger, chopped fresh mint leaves, a few vanilla beans or perhaps a stick of cinnamon to the simmering pot.