In this three part series I will introduce you to my latest adventures in food fermentation.
Lesson 1 Kombucha
Kombucha is a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast “SCOBY”. Originally from the Himalayas it has been consumed in Asia for Centuries and only recently gained popularity in the “West.” The fermented tea drink is packed with B vitamins, is good for a healthy belly and digestive aid, boosts the immune system and makes for a replenishing drink after heavy exertion. The tart and fizzy drink is an acquired taste, but the hardest part to swallow is knowing you’re drinking a big glass of mouldy bacteria. The giant floating monster that sits on the top of the jar and eats away at the tea’s tannins and sugars is fascinating but nonetheless unappetizing.
My first introduction to it was through Rod a family friend and sustainable organic farmer, who lives with his lovely wife Geraldine on Bold Point Farm, Quadra Island. He always had a 4-Litre jar of Kombucha sitting on the kitchen counter. I remember trying the drink as a kid and thinking it tasted a lot like apple juice. Full of life and healthy energy, Rod’s vigour is a sure tale sign of the drink’s healthy benefits.
The girls, including Angela who has recently started a food blog called Adventures in Food, and I acquired a few starters (SCOBYs, Mothers or Monsters) from a friend and set off on our own Kombucha making adventures.
Here is the recipe we used. I love the little anecdotes about the SCOBY’s individuality. The moral message is that each SCOBY mother and her baby are unique… so don’t fret if two cultures don’t look the same. How precious!
Ingredients (for 1/2 gallon)
- 1 Kombucha SCOBY
- 7 Cups filtered or boiled and cooled water
- 1/2 to 1 cup starter tea
- 1/2 cup organic or regular white sugar
- 6 tsp black or green tea (do not use earl grey or any flavoured teas)
- Glass jar (no lead based jars such as crystal or old lead glazed crocks)
- Wooden spoon for stirring
- Breathable cover such as a coffee filter, dishtowel, or two ply napkin
- Rubber band to secure the cover to the jar
- If you are not using filtered water, boil the tap water for 5 minutes
- Let the boil water cool slightly or heat the filtered water just until tiny bubbles form on the bottom
- Add the loose tea or tea bags to the hot but not boiling water
- cover and let steep for 10 minutes
- strain the loose tea
- add the sugar and mix with wooden spoon until dissolved
- let the sugar/tea mixture cool to room temperature
- add the kombucha SCOBY it may float or sink depending on its mood
- cover with the breathable cloth napkin and let ferment for 7-10 days depending on your ambient temperature it may take up to 14 days
- a second SCOBY the baby will form on the top. Sometimes it is connected to its mother and sometimes it forms on its own
- separate the mother and the baby SCOBY and share with friends or start two batches
Tips and Notes
- Large SCOBYs can be cut into wedges to accommodate smaller containers. The new SCOBY that forms will form over the surface area of the container you have provided for it.
- A baby SCOBY can begin to start forming after 2 days. It can look like a gel or a light cream coloured layer forming on the top of the brew or on the bottom of the mother SCOBY. Each one is different and this is ok.
- The baby SCOBY can also be attached to the mother… again, it’s ok
- Sometimes bubbles may form underneath the SCOBY and have a dark appearance. This is perfectly normal from all of the gases produced during the fermentation
- Taste your Kombucha after 7 days to see what the sugar level is. You can stop the fermentation early if you prefer a sweeter brew
- Compost extra SCOBYs
- If your brew is over fermented and it tastes like vinegar you don’t need to throw it out. Use it as your starter tea for the next batch and use the rest as a wonderful salad vinaigrette
- Only use glass and wood when working with Kombucha. It does not like coming in contact with metal.