Chronic fatigue, mastitis, glandular fever and malaria left Aussie mum of two Felicity Evans bedridden and lethargic. She wanted, and needed, her energy and health back – fast. And so began her journey making seriously delicious gut-friendly probiotic drinks that transformed her health and life.
Here, Felicity shares her personal story from illness and motherhood to fermentation trials and errors before nailing the perfect brews and reaping the positive personal health results. Today, not only does felicity have her health back in spades, but her company imbibe stocks her water kerif in over 200 health stores! Here’s how it happened (plus, Felicity very generously shares a ripper basic water kefir recipe, which you can put your own berry, lemon, ginger or other flavour spin on)…
“Probiotic Drinks Transformed My Health And Energy.” Felicity Evans
“Probiotic drinks have ancient roots but they are a relative newcomer to the healthy drinks menu. They provide an amazing source of energy, can aid in detoxification and boost overall health, and their true benefits are only just coming to light. The brilliant news is that you can create these elixirs in your kitchen.
“My journey with fermentation and probiotic drinks has had an incredible impact on both my health and my family life. When I first started making probiotic drinks at home, I did so purely out of necessity. Having travelled the world with my husband on many amazing adventures, I battled with a string of diseases, including glandular fever, chronic fatigue and malaria. These left me bedridden and lethargic, and I was propped up by antibiotics.
“After the birth of my second daughter, I suffered long-term chronic mastitis, requiring many rounds of antibiotics, and my overall health went well and truly downhill. I started to ask questions: What grinch stole my mojo? Why I am so unwell when I eat so well? Will I ever feel normal again? And, most crucially, what can I do to get my energy back?
“I recalled an encounter with Guatemalan locals six years earlier where I tasted a sacred probiotic beverage – water kefir – known for its life-giving properties. It was fresh, slightly sparkling and not too sweet. And it made me feel amazing.
“So, with a young bub strapped to my chest and a toddler at my heels, I began my kitchen fermentation trials, hoping to re-create that magical probiotic elixir I had been blessed to receive all those years ago. These early trials gave me an interesting taste of the highs and lows of fermentation, but overall the highs outweighed the lows. After a slow and steady start, my energy soon returned and I saw the positive effects on my health.
“It was incredible to see my health being transformed from day to day. I fell in love with the fermentation process – the delight in hearing the bubbling and hissing, tasting the beautiful elixirs, the fizz on the tongue and the acidic zing – transforming the spices, herbs and berries into life-giving probiotic drinks through sheer alchemy. It was an exciting gateway into a new world.
“Affectionately dubbed ‘Queen Alchemist’, I realised I had a knack for the fermentation process, particularly with water kefir. I was invited to stock my water kefirs in a local health food store and from there Imbibe Living, my company, was born.
“Fermentation is so special to me. It’s like finding diamond treasures in your own home that you never knew existed. Through patience, trial and error, and the utmost of respect for ancient cultures, I’ve taught myself fermentation techniques and created these recipes that I’m delighted to share with you. By mixing some water, sugar and fresh ginger together you can create a refreshing, probiotic-rich, old-fashioned ginger beer. By stirring some honey and water together you can make your very own alcoholic honey mead.
“Through fermentation, you create a happy home for your gut microbes, the foundation of good health and wellness. And there’s a meditative rhythm to fermentation that I find satisfying to the soul. Like the seasons, you can lean in, embrace and connect to it. So carve out the time, start simple, connect to your senses and watch a whole new world open up. A pinch of patience, a spoonful of curiosity and a willingness to learn are all you need to be on your way.
“Fermentation has given me more than kitchen skills. It has given me a community, a way of life and a family tradition that I am proud to hand down to my children. I’m so excited to have the opportunity to inspire you to start your own home fermentation journey. Join me in transforming your health, one delicious drink at a time.” Felicity Evans, imbibeliving.com
Basic water kefir recipe
Although this is called ‘basic water kefir’, in my mind there is nothing basic about it. Think about the complex arrangement and symbiosis between the water kefir grains, transforming a plain sugar-water mixture into a bubbling, living probiotic drink.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Fermentation time: 1½–5 days
Shelf life: Refrigerate for up to 4 months Makes: About 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups)
3 tablespoons raw sugar
3 tablespoons hot water
1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) filtered water or springwater
pinch of sea salt
1 dried fig
1 dried date
10 sultanas (golden raisins)
¼ teaspoon molasses
3 tablespoons water kefir grains
Put the sugar in a 1.5 litre (52 fl oz/6 cup) wide-mouth glass jar. Add the hot water and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the filtered water, sea salt, dried fruit and molasses and stir well
Add the water kefir grains to the jar. Cover the jar with a piece of muslin (cheesecloth) and secure with an elastic band.
Place the jar out of direct sunlight at room temperature and leave the liquid to ferment for 1–3 days, depending on the temperature.
Scoop out and discard the dried fruit from the liquid.
Put a funnel in the opening of a 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cup) glass bottle with a tight-fitting lid and put a strainer on top of the funnel. Pour the water kefir liquid into the bottle through the strainer. Set aside the water kefir grains in the strainer to re-use or rest (see page 40).
Tightly seal the bottle lid and leave the bottle in a warm place to build carbonation. This could take anywhere from 12–72 hours, depending on the temperature. ‘Burp’ the water kefir daily to release some pressure by opening the lid slightly and then tightening it again.
When the water kefir is as fizzy as you like (this could range from a small spritz to a ferocious fizz), store it in the fridge
to slow the fermentation process, and enjoy cold.
Resting the culture
If you want to take a break from making water kefir or have an excess of culture, you need to
rest the water kefir grains that are not needed
in a sugar-water solution in the fridge to slow down fermentation.
220 g (7¾ oz/1 cup) raw sugar
250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) hot water
750 ml (26 fl oz/3 cups) filtered water
or springwater, at room temperature
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon molasses
2 dried figs
2 dried dates
- Put the sugar in a 1.5 litre (52 fl oz/6 cup) glass or food-grade plastic container. Add the hot water and stir to dissolve the sugar.
- Pour the cool filtered water into the container.
- Add the salt, molasses, figs and dates.
Add the water kefir grains to the sugar-water solution and cover the container with a piece of muslin (cheesecloth), a plate or a very loose-fitting lid.
- Store in the fridge for up to 6 weeks.
ABOUT: This is an edited extract from ‘Probiotic Drinks At Home by Felicity Evans’ (Murdoch Books RRP $27.99). All images, text and recipes our copyright.