Monday, November 11, 2013

Fabulous Fermented Foods–Kombucha

So there has been a whole lot of fermenting going on here over the last little while.  Fermented foods include, kombucha, kefir (milk, water), and sourdough.  You can ferment veggies too, a couple of the common ones are sauerkraut and kimchi.  I started with water kefir and sourdough last year and have moved on to milk kefir, kombucha and veggies (cabbage, carrots, beets and turnips). Oh I almost forgot beer and wine are fermented as well.
In all honesty the thought of Fermented or Cultured foods scared me.  I mean really, if you left milk on the counter for a day or so, I’m guessing you would throw it out not put it in the fridge and drink it….right?  Well I would still throw it out but that is essentially how Kefir is made with the addition of a culture. 
When I first heard about Kombucha a few years back, I wasn’t too sure I would like it.especially after seeing the culture that’s used to make it.  Then one day I saw some at the store and gave it a try.  I was pleasantly surprised how tasty it was.  Fizzy, flavourful and not very sweet.  The downside was the price, so I decided to try making it myself.  The starter wasn’t too easy to find around here so I bought a bottle of GT Kombucha to try and grow my own culture.  It was taking forever, so I gave up.  Patience isn’t my strong point.  Then I found a SCOBY at the health food store and my kombucha making began.
Kombucha is made by fermenting tea and sugar with a culture.  The culture is known as a SCOBY or mother.  SCOBY is an acronym for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast…. sounds awesome right? It is called the mother because with each batch a new scoby forms, so you have the original mother and the baby.  
kombucha2  kombucha3
The best teas to use are black and green.  Rooibos and white will work but are not the best choice.  Herbal teas or fruit flavoured teas are not recommended.
The sugar can be plain old white sugar or organic organic.  Honey is not recommended because of its antibacterial properties. If you are worried about the amount of sugar don’t, the sugar is the food for the culture so the finished product has very little sugar and is somewhat tart.
Not only does it taste good but it has a variety of health benefits as well.  Here are some of the reported health benefits of Kombucha. It contains loads of glucuronic acid.  Glucuronic acid binds to toxins and transforms them so they can be easily eliminated by the kidneys.  It is also made in the liver but quite often our liver can’t keep up with the demands put on it these days, and it is very important to keep our livers happy and healthy.  It contains lots of B vitamins aka “happy” vitamins and amino acids which are the building blocks of protein.  It also improves digestion, cleanses the liver, increases energy, boosts immune function and is a source of probiotics (healthy bacteria).
Basic Kombucha Recipe
  • 1 cup starter liquid
  • 1 culture (scoby)
  • 4 liters filtered water (not distilled and chlorinated water will not work)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 4 – 6 tea bags
  • large glass container
  • coffee filter or plain cotton cloth
  • wood or stainless steel spoon
  • small glass bottles
Bring water to a boil in a stainless steel or glass pot (do not use aluminum) boil for 2 or 3 minutes.  Turn off the heat, dissolve sugar in the water and add tea bags.  Steep for 10 to 15 minutes then remove the tea bags.  Let the tea mixture cool to room temperature.  Pour the tea mixture into your glass container, add starter liquid and culture.  Cover the top with coffee filter and secure with elastic band.  Store the container out of direct sunlight in a well ventilated area.  You’ll want the room temperature to be between 75 and 85 degrees.  The cooler the air the slower it will ferment. I use a heating belt (you can get them at wine making stores) on mine to keep the temp constant. 
kombucha  kombucha1  kombucha4
Now you just have to wait 7 –10+ days (depending on the temperature)  Check on it and have a taste after 7 days.  Your finished tea should not be sweet, but if you let it ferment too long it will have more of a vinegar taste.  It’s still ok to drink it just won’t taste as good.
kombucha5  kombucha7
Once it’s done transfer it to bottles and store in the fridge.  You can also do a second ferment to add flavour and more carbonation.
Since this post is getting a little long, I’ll talk about the second fermentation on another day.
Making my own Kombucha isn’t as scary of complicated as I thought.  If you have never tried Kombucha I suggest you pick up a bottle and give it a try.
Have a great week!!

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