from Seven Stars of Summer by Jessica Prentice
This nourishing and delightful beverage can be made with either fresh or dried elderberries. The recipe involves three stages: making a basic water kefir, making elderberry syrup, then blending the two parts. You’ll want to save the water kefir grains for your next batch. Some people assert that metal harms kefir grains, so store it in glass or plastic.
Basic Water Kefir
Water kefir can be flavored with almost any juice or whole fresh fruit, such as summer’s blueberries, peaches, plums, raspberries, or apricots.
¼ cup water kefir grains
½ cup sweetener (sucanat or rapadura sugar)
7½ cups filtered water
Place the sweetener in a pot with 2 cups of the water and bring to a simmer. Whisk in the sweetener to dissolve it and then add the remaining water and allow to cool until just warm to the touch.
Place the water kefir grains in a 2-quart Mason jar, then add the sweetened, cooled liquid. Screw on a regular or airlock lid. I use an airlock, which my partner Jake makes by drilling a ⅝-inch hole in the middle of a plastic Mason jar lid (available at hardware stores), fitting it with the smallest-size airlock plug (which we buy at Oak Barrel on San Pablo) and an airlock, which gets halfway filled with water. Using a clear glass jar allows you to watch the drink bubble and ferment as it cultures for 2 to 5 days in a warm place. Theoretically, the longer you culture your kefir, the more sugar is converted into lactic acid, but also into small amounts of alcohol.
This healing syrup is good to have around for cold season. For that purpose I add slices of ginger root, a cinnamon stick, and a few whole cloves as I’m simmering the elderberries.
1 cup fresh elderberries or ½ cup dried elderberries
2 cups filtered water
½ cup honey
Place the elderberries and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cover and allow to cook over low heat for 30 to 45 minutes or until liquid has reduced significantly. Strain decoction into a measuring cup and allow to cool for about 15 minutes before you whisk in the honey.
Flavoring Water Kefir
Divide the elderberry syrup (or other flavoring) into 2 1-liter bottles. Then strain the kefir water into the bottles, dividing it evenly. Set aside the kefir grains to begin your next batch.
Add more water as necessary to fill the bottles to within ½ inch of the top. Screw on the lids tightly and allow to sit at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. Refrigerate and drink within 5 days or so.