kombucha- and how to make it

kombucha- how to brew it and how to look after your scoby || cityhippyfarmgirl

I hadn’t heard of kombucha before I started blogging. Then I started, and voila, really it was a whole new fermentation food world opening up before me.

I started making sourdough, and the steady supply of all things fermented slowly trickled their way in. There were experiments of pickles, mead and kefir. Whole hearted love for sauerkraut, ginger beer and sourdough, and sometimes there was just talk. Kombucha was one of those talks.

I talked and I talked, until I really had to walk my talk. Kombucha was one of my last men standing so to speak, because in my head I had made it far more daunting than all the others for some reason. I kept putting it in the all too hard to think about basket.

Then something flicked, the idea had fermented enough *ahem*. Water kefir and I had done our dash, ginger beer was already established and I really was ready to move on to another drink. Ready for a new fermentation project to get to know and bring into our family’s life.

Kombucha, lets do this.

scoby forming

scoby forming

I had two false starts initially. One with a cranky scoby, (I say cranky, because the person who gave it to me was a little distempered and it seemed the scoby had a similar temprament. The scoby didn’t do anything and seemed long past it’s useful date. The second attempt was no scoby and instead, growing it from scratch. This method could have worked, maybe even should have worked but it didn’t and it was time for me to move on.

Then stepped in the lovely Sarah from Remedy Kombucha. Listening to my tales of kombucha woe on instagram, she offered to send me a scoby, would I like one? Well yes, yes indeed I would!

I’d had some of their kombucha at a Sandor Katz talk earlier on in the year. I knew it was good. I knew they knew their kombucha and I also knew if I couldn’t get this funny sounding little fermented drink happening with their help?…well, I may well have to hang up my fermenters flag for a bit.

First up a little info…

What is it?

It’s a fermented tea drink.

Why would I want to make it?

Because it’s good for you, full of probiotics, and who doesn’t like a little science experiment on their bench top now and then.

What is that thing on top? That’s a scoby, and a rather amazing little gelatinous thing that keeps growing more and more layers as time goes on. You can pass them on to other fermenting enthusiasts as a starter, (go on they’ll love you for it.)

kombucha scoby || cityhippyfarmgirl

So did I get it work? Yes, yes I did, and have been happily fermenting and drinking batch after batch of kombucha ever since. Thank you to Sarah for being so generous, helpful and best of all sharing tips on kombucha brewing.

I think I’m rather hooked on this stuff!

REMEDY KOMBUCHA’S EXTRA HELPFUL TIPS

* 175g raw organic sugar

* 35g organic tea

* 3.85L glass jar

* Muslin cloth (and rubber band)

* MOTHER (i.e. Symbiotic Community of Bacteria & Yeasts) & feeder (500ml)

Directions (makes 3.5L of Kombucha)

  • Boil 1L of filtered water (let cool until water temp approximately 90 °C)
  • Add tea (steep for between 5 and 6 minutes)
  • Strain Tea
  • Add sugar and stir until dissolved
  • Fill glass jar with 2L of filtered water (room temp) *It’s important to use filtered water (including the water you boil)
  • Add tea / sugar concentrate (i.e. 1 L) to glass jar
  • Test temperature of full jar (body temp is perfect)
  • Add feeder & MOTHER culture (0.5L)
  • Cover with muslin cloth
  • Place jar in a well-ventilated and warm area (24°C is the perfect temp), out of direct sunlight (but not in a cupboard).
  • At around the 3 to 4 day mark a slight film (MOTHER) will have developed on the top of the Kombucha.
  • Leave for 4 to 5 days before taste testing (it’s important not to stir or mess with your MOTHER during these early stages!). An easy way to taste test is to use a straw (i.e. push the straw down the side of the jar past the MOTHER).
  • After approx 7 days the brew will be slightly sour but still fairly sweet (it will be perfect for drinking at this stage).
  • The longer the brew is left the stronger (more sour) it will get. It’s personal preference how long you leave it at this stage – please be aware that if left for a long period the brew will eventually become Kombucha vinegar (and not really suitable for drinking – but great as a vinegar!).

MOTHER ongoing: for the first couple of brews, transfer the entire MOTHER from the previous brew. After your 3rd or 4th brews (once the MOTHER looks healthy and approx. 2cm thick) you can peal the new MOTHER (BABY) that grows on the top of the older MOTHER and use this in your new brew. Alternatively you can just rip the MOTHER in half and add this to the brew (and donate the other half – or make a 2nd brew!).

 If you don’t have a scoby you can still grow your own-

To grow your own kombucha mother (scoby), pour a couple of bottles of Remedy Original (or another unflavoured brew) into a wide mouth bowl, cover lightly and leave on counter for a week or so. You will start to notice a thin film growing across the top of the liquid…that’s your new kombucha mother! You can then use this mother and the kombucha liquid to start another kombucha brew.

* I’m using organic green tea at the moment which seems to be working well. 

kombucha ready to go || cityhippyfarmgirl

Remedy Kombucha is on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter if you would like to know more about kombucha.

The book The Art of Fermentation is excellent if you want to really delve into the world of fermentation. It’s one of those forever books that I will always keep going back to.

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Do you brew kombucha? Would you like to give it a crack if you don’t already? 

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When you can’t stop saying the F word

water kefir grains || cityhippyfarmgirl

water kefir grains

It quite often brings on a wrinkle of noses, pouty lips, raised eyebrows and sometimes, just plain disgust. It’s a word certainly not to everyone’s taste, and yet…

I just can’t help myself.

I repeat the word again and again, while most people switch off. Sometimes there is a low mumble of vague fained interest, with their silent words screaming bloody hippy, and yet I still can’t stop saying it.

fermented vegetables || cityhippyfarmgirl

Fermentation.

See I said it again. I say it again with joy and amazement. Fermentation, it’s not the dirty word that so many us think that it is, I promise, it really isn’t. On the contrary it’s a word that brings life and excitement to a conversation, just as it does to our palate and gut health.

The joy of coming across another fermenter in everyday daily life and talk is beyond exciting. It’s a conversation of respect, excitement and happiness. One of curiosity and intrigue and a use of words that generally don’t get thrown around together in the after school pick up line. There’s an understanding and unparalleled enthusiasm to hear more.

I’ve seen it before in other conversational areas that are usually thrown to societies fringes, (as that’s where I frequently lurk), an excitement that truly is contagious. When you hear another person, mention the mere whispered word of kefir or scoby…

Ohhh, you’re talking FERMENTATION! Yes you are, yes you are!

sandor katz || cityhippyfarmgirl

Sandor Katz at a recent fermentation talk and Nick from Milkwood

So with that enthusiasm in mind, I will not curb my tongue and lessen the frequency in eliciting the F word. I will shout it loud and shout it proud, to anyone that cares to listen. I will drop the F word into conversation where ever I see fit and from this day forth I shall proudly say…

F#%* yeah! I’m a fermenter!

the Art of Fermentaion Sandor Katz || cityhippyfarmgirl

Fermentation Bible

For more rather exciting dabbles in fermentation see these posts-

sourdough– how to make a starter

ginger beer that will put hairs on your chest

how to make sauerkraut

pride of the pickles

 mead– not just for Vikings

Mead, not just for Vikings

plum mead || cityhippyfarmgirl

I’d never really paid much attention to mead. I had heard of it certainly, but had never tried it. Not because I didn’t want to, I just well…didn’t pay it much attention.

But then fermentation stepped into my life. Sourdough certainly. Sauerkraut became a staple. Pickles started appearing and then I got a box of plums.

See it was the box of plums that pushed me to the mead. I needed to process the whole box, but space (as always) was an issue. I couldn’t store that amount of jars of jam or chilli sauce, nor could I freeze a huge amount either. I went looking, flicked through the trusty bible, figuring there must be some other way of fermenting with plums I hadn’t thought of.

So that’s how mead stepped in.

I read, planned and hesitantly started. Within 24 hours there was fermentation action happening and that was just a little bit exciting. There are just three ingredients in there- honey, water and plums. That’s it, and then the bottle started bubbling like an excitable volcano. The excitement was contagious. I continually checked and stirred it. I thought it would take about a week for bubbles to ease off but it only took 5 days (Sydney, Australia summer time). Strained and bottled, the taste test.

It was good. I thought.

I say I thought, because at this stage, I still had no idea what mead tasted like, so had nothing to gauge it by. It’s hard to tell whether there is much alcohol content. The test would be to down the bottle on an empty stomach and see what happens, but that didn’t seem likely to happen.

Ten days into the fermentation, (second fermentation period) the mead developed a thin mould layer. It had a closed lid, so I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I did what any hack city hippy would do, and shook it in, ignored it and popped it in the fridge.

But not before I had a good smell of it. I have finally gotten to trust my nose. With all my fermenting experiments I always smell them along the way. Observing differences, subtle changes and really trying to identify when and where things start to change. I trust my nose and if I’m not sure, well I don’t use it- The Plum Mead smelt fine, and while several weeks later into the fermentation process the taste was fairly underwhelming, I am keen to try it again.

golden coloured mead || cityhippyfarmgirl

Next, I started on a Honey Mead, (or honey wine). Raw honey and unchlorinated water, that’s it.

Now according to Sandor Katz, (who I was lucky enough to hear speak recently) raw honey already contains abundant yeasts- with pasteurisation or cooking killing them off.

“The yeasts are inactive so long as the honey’s water content remains at or below 17 percent (as it is in fully mature honey). But increase the water content just a little bit beyond  that and the yeasts wake right up.”

And so I did. I woke those little things up with a ratio of 1:4, following the instructions, and intermittently smelling it. At the end of three weeks I have a lovely light (green) sweet tasting mead. I can’t liken it to anything else I’ve ever had, but it’s good and I think this could be the beginning of many more meads to come.

So what do my two experiments with mead making have to do with Vikings?

Well according to Norse mythology, mead seems to be heavily linked with the Norse god Odin and along with it, anyone that drinks mead may become a poet or scholar. I’m still waiting for poetic inspiration, but perhaps I simply haven’t made or drunk enough of the honey gold beverage?

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All of my mead making inspired by 

The Art of Fermentation- Sandor Katz

P is for Plums…and lots of them

plum jam || cityhippyfarmgirl

plum crumble

When a surprise box of plums comes home, there is a tiny pause then a lovely mixture of excitement and ooooh, what am I going to do with them all!

Despite my fervent wishing I still don’t have a walk in pantry, with darkened rustic wooden shelves of assorted heights to store all my preserved goodies on. On the other side of the pantry, I also don’t have a long fermenting bench where I can store all of my current fermenting goodness. What I did have was a box of plums that needed sorting asap, a crowded bench top for fermenting and a small portion of a dresser cupboard to store things in.

I also had enthusiasm, and that should never be underestimated.

So what was to be made with that of box plums?

plum mead || cityhippyfarmgirl

Plum Crumble

Plum Jam

Chilli Plum Sauce

and the most exciting of them all

Plum Honey Mead

Plum Honey Mead was such a great experiment. The picture here is of the mixture at 24 hours old. Already it’s started to bubble a little, which only increased- and almost volcanically. I was happily telling anyone that paused for longer than thirty seconds beside me, (which can be awkward at pedestrian crossings and other generally non chatty public places.) More to come on this intriguing stuff, so in the mean time how about a Chilli Plum Sauce Recipe? Dead easy and surprisingly versatile in what you can smother things with.

chilli plum sauce || cityhippyfarmgirl

Chilli Plum Sauce

8 plums washed, stoned and quartered

100g fresh chilli

1 medium brown onion

4 cloves of garlic

2 cups (420g) brown sugar

1 1/2 cups (375mls) white vinegar

2 tsp salt

Process plums, chilli, onion, garlic together in a blender and then into a pot. Add the sugar, salt and vinegar and bring to a gentle simmer. Keep it at this level until the sauce thickens. Pop into a clean glass jar and keep in the fridge, (or alternatively process and store as you would jam.)

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And to the winner of the little giveaway- Congratulations Zena from Twigs and Twine, I will be in touch shortly to get your address.

As for everyone else that took the time to comment on this post. I have to say, I feel so honoured to be a part of this online community. I know time is precious and there are thousands of incredibly interesting things to be looking at on the internet these days- so taking the time to comment here means a lot.

I also found it so interesting in hearing about what community meant to different people. I think in asking the question, it’s just confirmed things even more for me. Connectedness and a sense of belonging within a community (of any sort) is so incredibly important and so many of us within this small online space here- value that.

As I send virtual loaves of sourdough and little plates of biscuits to you all- again thank you. You all rock.