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What To Do With Mandarin Oranges

By Guan Tan

 
Mandarin Oranges

Post Chinese New Year, mandarin oranges often go to waste. According to wellness practitioner Jaslyn Kee, mandarin oranges purchased from supermarkets and local fruit stores are safe for consumption. However, the ones hanging off decorative potted plants might be ladened with insecticides.

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1. Sugared Water

Preparing water kefir is simple. The first step involves sugared water–an environment for the various strains of bacteria and yeast to grow. "It's like Yakult," Kee explains in layman terms. The lactobacillus that is commonly present in commercial probiotic drinks is one of the major strains of bacteria in water kefir.

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2. Water Kefir Grains

Kee adds the water kefir grains into the jar of sugared water. While there are many home remedies out there, she recommends a simple ratio, "three tablespoons of kefir grains to three tablespoons of raw sugar, in three cups (250 ml) of water".

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3. Fermentation

Instead of shutting the jar, cap it with a piece of cloth. Leave it in room temperature for 24 hours in room temperature, away from direct sunlight. Here, Kee drops the jar in a bowl of tap water to prevent ants from reaching the water kefir.

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4. Draining

24 hours later, Kee empties the jar and sieves out the water kefir grains. "The grains are reusable," she adds. The water kefir is now ready for consumption. At this juncture, it should taste like honey water.

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5. Second Fermentation: Flavouring

For those who prefer their water kefir to be flavoured, there's another step involved. Here, Kee is using mandarin oranges, pictured alongside potential flavourings such as dried rose buds, Osmanthus, and Chrysanthemum.

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6. Bottling

Kee removes the orange peel, pith and fibre. As she drops the orange slices into the sterilised glass bottles, Kee squeezes them "so the flavour is infused".

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7. Bottling

Kee then pours the ready water kefir into the bottle.

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8. Fermentation

Kee leaves the flavoured bottles of water kefir in the fridge for another 24 to 36 hours. With citrus fruits such as mandarin oranges, the resulting water kefir will be naturally carbonated. "So you'll have to burp the bottles every now and then," Kee laughs. Photographs by Felicia Yap.

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"A lot of people are very interested in fermentation nowadays. It's getting more popular. I've got quite a bit of enquiries for this," wellness practitioner Jaslyn Kee observes. To her, water kefir fermentation formally gained traction in Singapore two years ago. Tickets to her monthly water kefir workshops have been constantly sold out, and that's aside from the private workshops that she runs too. "A few thousand actually," she sizes up the community. 

"It's like Yakult," Kee explains the probiotic drink in layman terms. There are a dozen strains of bacteria and yeast in water kefir. "The kefir itself is good for your gut... It detoxes, improves digestion and gut health." In the three years that Kee has been holding water kefir workshops, she's had individuals with ailments like eczema, irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion and bloatedness come through the doors. 

The making of a bottle of water kefir begins with water kefir grains. The exact origins of the kefir grain remains unknown, although there are various versions of how it came about. "They were from mountainous areas in Turkey and Russia. They had these bags to store goat's milk. When they poured it out there were little grains. And they left it there. That actually helped the milk from going bad." The milk kefir grains were later converted into water kefir grains. 

While milk kefir grains ferments dairy products, water kefir grains are used in filtered water and raw sugar. The resultant drink is filled with "good bacteria. In the process, [the bacteria and yeasts] eat up the glucose and sucrose and converts them into probiotics."

The preparation method is simple and fuss-free. There are barely a few steps involved. Kee takes 20 to 30 minutes to prepare a fridge full of water kefir each day. Yet, Kee notes that individuals shouldn't merely read instructions off the internet or Facebook groups, but they should always head down to a proper workshop. "You don't want the bad bacteria to grow," she explains. 

Take for instance, the bottles used in the fermentation process. Some might use plastic bottles, but Kee recommends glass bottles and jars, lest the chemicals present leech into the fermented drink. With the glassware involved, they should always be sterilised in boiling water prior to use. These seemingly minor details do make a huge difference in the crop of cultivated bacteria. 

To Kee, these are hygiene habits that individuals can easily drill into their kitchen practices. At the end of the day, it's a worthy habit to have. "Water kefir is a natural way to heal the gut. In the long run, it's more affordable [than medication]. For the children, the drinks have a fizzy effect, natural flavours and probiotics."