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Kombucha Me Baby

 

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Last summer I tried all sorts of lacto-fermented treats. I even started making beet kvass and milk kefir. But over this past winter I have discovered my favorite fermented beverage: kombucha.

I never caught on to the kombucha craze a couple of years ago. I thought it was just a hippie fad. But now that I have been making it and drinking it for the past few months, I am officially addicted.

Kombucha has all sorts of health benefits. It is made with a SCOBY-a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeasts. These are the beneficial bugs that keep the harmful bugs-like e.coli and candida albicans-in their rightful place. Kombucha is also chock full of B vitamins as well as several acids that work to strengthen the body, most notably glucuronic acid, which is a natural detoxifier. Our bodies produce glucuronic acid in the liver to help flush toxins out, and it can be depleted by high levels of environmental toxins such as BPA, as well as alcohol consumption, so adding kombucha to your diet is one of the best ways to combat all the toxins in our modern environment.

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Kombucha scobies chillin’ like a villain

 

In order to brew kombucha, you need a scoby and some sweet tea. We got our scoby from a helpful craigslist poster-they reproduce quite readily, so if you find someone brewing it you can easily buy one off of them. Then make some strong black, green, or oolong tea. It can’t be a kind with essential oils, such as Earl Grey, and it can’t be herbal tea. The natural compounds and acidity of tea is what we want. I use plain black pekoe or a sencha green, or a mix of the two.

Steep your tea is boiling water for at least ten minutes. You want one tea bag (or one teaspoon loose-leaf tea) for each quart of water. After the tea has steeped, stir in 1/4 c of sugar per quart of water. Allow the tea to cool to body temp before adding the scoby. I have been using larger jars I got from goodwill that are 2-4 quarts each, so I will steep 2-3 tea bags in one quart of boiling water, then add 1/2 c sugar, then combine that with a quart of cold filtered water, which brings it to just the right temp and sweetness.

kombucha 002When you add the scoby, you will also need to add about 1/4 cup of kombucha from a previous batch. If you get a scoby from someone, they should have transported the scoby in some kombucha. If they neglected to do that, or you bought a dehydrated one, you can add raw apple cider vinegar. The important thing is to have the right acidity in the mix.

Now comes the hard part-you have to let the kombucha brew. Cover the jar with a thin towel and set in a warm dark place for 7-10 days. The scoby likes it around 72 degrees, so if you have a colder house, it may take longer to brew, or you might want to wrap the jar in a towel. A new scoby will begin to develop on the top of the kombucha. At first it will just look cloudy, and then a white film will form. This film will get thicker as the days pass, until it is a nice rubbery pancake floating on top of your tea goodness. When the brew is done, you can remove the new scoby and the old scoby (which will likely be stuck together) pour the finished kombucha into glass jars to be put in the fridge, and start the process again.

kombucha 001As you can see in the photo above, I like to put chunks of fruit in the bottom of my jars to flavor the kombucha. Here you see half a mango in a quart jar. I fill it with kombucha and then cap it tightly and allow it to sit out an extra day before moving it to the fridge. This intensifies the flavor and carbonates it slightly. The wait is well worth it. I’ve had fun with flavor combinations: berries, kiwi, mango, pear. You could even try some candied ginger or some fruit juice. Just don’t put more than an inch or so of fruit or juice in the bottom, to keep the ratios right.

Kombucha is refreshing, energizing, and most of all, delicious. It’s a fabulous alternative to all that HFCS-laden pop and juice drinks out there. The scoby eats up the sugar you feed it and gives you a tasty fizzy beverage in its place. I highly recommend adding it to your kitchen!

 

This post is part of Foodie Link Love

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2011 in Things Edible

 

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Just Beet It

beet-root-bspGrowing up, I hated beets. They had a funny flavor, worse texture, and stained everything on your plate. Of course, the beets that I was eating came out of a can, so they can hardly be called beets. It wasn’t until I was an adult, out on my own and sharing an organic produce box with my roommates, that I discovered beets could actually be cooked in a tasty way.

I still wouldn’t list beets as my favorite vegetable, however. And when I first read in Nourishing Traditions about Beet Kvass, I put that recipe on the “probably won’t try” list. But the more I read about the benefits of this tonic, the more I realized that I should probably make it part of my kitchen routine.

What are these benefits? Besides being a lacto-fermented beverage providing loads of probiotics for healthy intestine function, beet kvass is a rich source of vitamins and minerals, a natural multivitamin, if you will. Most importantly, it supports the liver, which is sadly much abused in our modern world. The liver is our primary cleansing organ, filtering out the toxins in our food and the chemicals we are exposed to in our everyday life. When the liver gets overburdened with toxins, the body responds by either storing the toxins, causing long-term problems, or they look for other methods of getting rid of those toxins, such as through the skin. Acne and eczema can both be results of an overtaxed digestive system.

I can tell that drinking beet kvass regularly helps with my skin issues. If I am feeling itchy, a glass of kvass will calm my system. When I was ill over the holidays, my blood tests showed that my liver enzymes were elevated, a sign that my liver function was impaired. As soon as I got home I started drinking beet kvass every day, and when I went back to the doctor for my follow-up, my liver enzymes had begun to drop, and a few weeks later all my tests were normal.

It may take awhile to get used to the taste of kvass if you are not a fan of beets.  Sally Fallon admits that “you wouldn’t serve it to guests.” But I’ve found that I don’t mind the taste when it is mixed with filtered water or fresh juice or kombucha. And you can also add in carrots or ginger with the beets to give a different flavor if you like. The recipe is very simple, but it is truly worth your time.

 

Beet Kvass

from Nourishing Traditions

2 medium beets

1 Tbsp. sea salt

1/4 c homemade whey* (or an extra Tbsp. of salt)

 

Peel and chop beets into one inch chunks. Don’t cut it too small, or the fermentation will occur too quickly and it will turn alcoholic. Place beets with salt and whey in a quart mason jar and fill jar with filtered water. Cover and let sit on counter at room temperature 2-3 days, then transfer to refrigerator.

Drink a few ounces each day, either straight or mixed with filtered water. When most of the liquid is gone, refill the jar with water and let sit out on the counter for another 2 days, After the second batch, discard beets and start again.

If the kvass gets thick and slightly syrupy, that is normal-it means you have a good batch! Just thin it out with filtered water when you drink it.

 

*Homemade whey provides a starter culture and can be made from yogurt fairly easily. Line a sieve with cheesecloth or a coffee filter and place over a bowl. Put one cup of yogurt (whole, plain, with active cultures and no fillers) into the sieve and allow to drain for several hours or overnight. You will end up with whey in the bowl, and the yogurt will have become thick like Greek yogurt or a soft cream cheese.

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2011 in Things Edible

 

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