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Slow Pokes Coconut Milk Kefir

Apr. 25, 2017
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Kathleen McGlone, owner of Slow Pokes Local Food (1229 12th Ave., Grafton) store and café, was a pioneer in providing food for people with eating restrictions when she opened in 2006. As someone who suffered from health issues in the past, she wanted to provide nutrient-dense whole foods specific to vegetarian, gluten-free and paleo diets. However, her slow batch, dairy-free coconut milk kefir—a fermented drink rich in probiotics—has become a signature product that she’s been making since 2009.

Ideal for those with dairy allergies and sensitivities, the coconut milk kefir has numerous gut health benefits: colonizing the intestines with good bacteria, aiding in digestion, strengthening the immune system and more. The coconut milk kefir is rich and hearty, more so than dairy-based kefir. It can be consumed straight, but it’s excellent in smoothies, on fruits and desserts, or with granola. “We ferment it down to only one gram of sugar and 130 calories per serving,” McGlone noted.

There was a glitch in kefir production this past spring, said McGlone, causing her to temporarily stop making it and transition from the wild fermentation starter she previously used to a more reliable commercial starter culture. It took some trial and error to find a starter that met her standards, and as of March she had maple-flavored coconut milk kefir available again at the store. She plans to bring back the plain, lemon and cherry flavors, as well as the savory green onion and garlic, which is ideal as a salad dressing base. She may hold off with the blueberry and pumpkin flavors previously offered, as those require a more tedious fermentation process.

Slow Pokes coconut milk kefir was available at outlets including Beans & Barley, Riverwest Co-op and Good Harvest Market, and McGlone hopes to get back into wholesale production soon. “Beans & Barley is one of first places that carried it, and I hope to get it back there first,” she said.

Although Slow Pokes has become known for the coconut milk kefir, the store also sells other Wisconsin-made probiotic products such as Little Red Hen & Company kombucha and sauerkraut. Prepared foods for purchase include bone broth soups, which are collagen-rich to heal gut lining; paleo, vegan and gluten-free scratch-made bakery; salads; and wraps. McGlone said that for many years she held classes, workshops and meet-the-farmer events to help educate Ozaukee County about food allergies and nutritious food.

Unfortunately, making real food can be a long, slow and expensive process, and McGlone recently has had to put her building up for sale. She said that in the decade-plus that she’s been in business, she’s seen the interest in healthy and natural foods grow—which she said is good because people are more interested in real foods—but smaller businesses such as hers struggle against the competition. 

But the coconut milk kefir will stay, and McGlone is focusing on getting the kefir production back to full capacity. Regardless of what happens with the store, her passion for nutritious food will never wane. “Everything that’s real is a little more expensive, but you have to pay for good food; otherwise, you’ll be paying for medicine instead,” she said.

Store and café hours: Monday, noon to 6 p.m.; Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; closed weekends. For more information, visit slowpokesfood.com.

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