The history of kefir is really rather fascinating and the fact that it is still part of many people’s daily diet across the world is testament to its potency and efficacy. While production scale may have increased the recipe which we use for Yorlife has not changed much from the early days of kefir. This week in our blog we thought you might all enjoy a brief history lesson of this miracle milk- don’t worry I will try to keep this as short and interesting as possible!
*Puts on glasses and serious face* “Ahem…”
Kefir originated in the Caucaus Mountains. Its roots can be traced back over 2000 years ago to the prophet Mohammed who, as the story goes, gave kefir grains to the Orthodox people. It is well known that at this time kefir grains were an extremely precious commodity, regarded as part of a family’s wealth and passed on from generation to generation. Kefir grains were so highly regarded that they were mentioned in the chronicles of Marco Polo during his adventures in the East.
For centuries it was little known outside this region and production was restricted entirely to private residences, or in many cases royal palaces. It was not until early this century that kefir started to be produced outside of the family home. Until then commercial or indeed any kind of production to scale had been almost impossible due to grains being so closely guarded. The story of kefir being brought to the masses is one of bold adventure and quite frankly may not be entirely historically accurate but hey, who doesn’t love a good story…
The health benefits of regularly consuming kefir had long been known and it is said that members of the All Russian Physicians Association set out on a mission to acquire kefir grains to produce and distribute kefir to the wider public for medicinal purposes. However grains were still closely guarded and generally reserved for the rich and powerful. So they sought to acquire grains from a prince called Bek-Mirza Barchorov. They decided to send in a covert agent, and, knowing the princes penchant for beautiful ladies sent their associate Irina Sakharova who was known for her beauty. Her mission was to persuade the prince to gift her some of his grains, however her powers of persuasion ultimately failed and he refused. Defeated, the team made to return to their home in Kislovodsk when they were accosted and Irina kidnapped by the prince who had decided to claim her as his wife. After a daring rescue mission, the details of which are somewhat sparse, Irina was rescued by the rest of the group and returned to her home. As penance the prince was ordered to pay her 10 pounds of kefir grains and so her mission, though not as planned was indeed a success. The Russian Physicians soon began to make and distribute kefir to their patients and in turn marked the start of kefir being available to the masses.
While the details of this story may have been lost or embellished over the years there must be some truth to the tale as in 1973 the Minister of the Food Industry of the Soviet Union wrote to the beautiful Irina to thank her for her services and for bringing kefir to the market all those years before.
While kefir is still not as widely known in the UK as it is in Eastern Europe it is starting to become much more widely recognised for its wide and varied health benefits as well as its pleasant taste and versatility.
So there you have it, a history as intriguing as the product itself. We hope you enjoyed our little history lesson, do let us know if you have any suggestions of what you would like to see covered in the Yorlife blog.