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Monday, October 4, 2010

Anti-recipe #14 Kombucha

a kombucha "mother" culture
Kombucha. There are a lot of opinions out there. Weird. Trendy. Icky. Tasty. Miraculous. Hokey.

You can buy it (Synergy is one brand) in almost any health food or upscale grocery store.

I mean, Lindsay Lohan drinks it. (although these days that isn't saying much. Poor LiLo.)

Trendsetters, foodies, health nuts, everybody is getting in on it. Don’t you feel left out?

We have been drinking kombucha tea in our house for years. Since little man was a little babycakes. Its good stuff and a snap to make. I drink it with juice or plain or make smoothies for the kids with it with yogurt or kefir. My kids love it.

Here is what it is:

A cultured drink, made with tea, sugar and a kombucha “mother” culture (also sometimes called a scooby or a mushroom). You mix it all together and let it sit for up to two weeks. The resulting drink has slightly fermented taste like beer and a nice effervescence

Here is why people drink it:

Basically kombucha is a probiotic. It puts good stuff back in your gut. It helps your body run more efficiently. It boosts your immune system. Lots of good things.

Here is what some people say it is good for:

Detoxifying your body
Replaces your urge for a fizzy carbonated (chemical-laden) soda
Indigestion relief (the only thing that helped me when pregnant!)
Improved digestion
Improved skin tone
Eczema/psoriasis relief
PMS/bloating relief
Migraine relief
Fighting cancer (!)

Read more here.

So yea, like with anything there are naysayers. Read some naysayer comments here. Mainly "They" say that the claims are hyped up (ie, “curing” cancer) and that home brewing is “dangerous” if not done properly (we all know the same can be said for home canning, but people still do that!)

For me, its good stuff. I like the taste of it. It’s good for you. I can feel the difference when I drink it more regularly (energy, digestion, etc).

So, assuming you agree with me and not the naysayers…

Here is how you make it:

First, you need a mother culture. Some places where you can get one: local foodie yahoo groups, Craigslist (you can get ANYTHING on Craigslist these days) or me!

Ok. You back?
my little helper holding up the bag with our mother.
incidentally, this is the face he makes whenever i ask him
to pose for a picture lately. lovely, no?
Now that you have your mother (a gelatinous placenta looking substance) here is how you can tell if she is healthy. Has a sharp vinegar but not unpleasant smell. No growth! (ie, fuzzy or black mold). Young mothers are creamy, older mothers are dark on one side with “babies” on the top. Each batch you make will produce a “baby.” Give it away or, be like me, let it just add on to the mother. My mother is HUGE. Big mature mothers make for tastier and fizzier kombucha.

On handling your mother. Keep her pure! You need to wash your hands before handling your mother. (HA HA HA. That sounds terrible.) I never touch mine with my hands. Ew. Keep reading to know how I do it with minimal ew. DO NOT HANDLE HER WITH METAL SPOONS, TONGS, etc. and don’t ever dump her in a metal bowl. She doesn’t like metal at all. Don’t put juice directly in with her to brew. Juice can be added in the final bottling stage, keep reading.

clean your jar and
just dump it right in!
On storing your mother. I use a large size ziplock bag. Stick her in there, with some kombucha to keep her fresh, and put her in the fridge. Pull her out when making your next batch. Let her get up to room temperature first by setting her out on the counter for a few hours (KEY). Then when a-brewing time comes just dump her and all the juicy goodness straight from the bag into your large class jar. See? No touching involved!

So. Now you need a large glass jar. I use a glass gallon jar stolen from my mother’s kitchen. You can also use any glass jar (for ice tea, etc, with a spout on the bottom if you want to drink it straight out of the container, which lots of people do, I bottle mine, keep reading.)

Clean your jar and rinse with really hot water.

tea steeping. mother in jar, ready to go!
Brew up some strong tea. I use regular Lipton 6-8 bags. Add 1 cup of sugar. Stir sugar to dissolve, let cool BEFORE DUMPING IN YOUR JAR. Your mother will die if you dump hot water on her. Respect your mother.

Once tea has cooled remove teabags and dump into glass jar along with your mother and spare kombucha that you had kept in the bag with your mother. If this is your first batch or if you forgot to set some aside you can use regular distilled vinegar, maybe half a cup or so should be enough. Add water to fill the jar (not too cold).

Put a clean dishcloth over the jar, secure with a rubberband.

Put the jar in a cool dark place.



kombucha a-brewing.
After about a week taste your brew. You shouldn’t be able to taste any sweet or tea. But it also should not taste like vinegar (it will if you let it sit too long).

I usually brew mine for about 10 days. Two weeks tops. I admit it depends on when I remember and have time to bottle it up.

When it tastes good to you, prepare your bottles. I use old wine bottles, old lemonade bottles with stoppers, and bottles from Ikea with stoppers ($2 each!). Wash well and rinse with really hot water.

Use a funnel to pour from your jar into the bottles. A turkey baster works too, I did this for ages until little man lost it playing. Hence the funnels. It’s good to have someone hold the funnel in place so you don’t dump kombucha all over your kitchen. This is little man’s job.

Now, the yummy part. You can add just about any pure fruit juice to kombucha. I love apple cider (no added gunk, Juicy Juice brand is really pure, but I love to add hand-pressed cider from my parents farm) I DO NOT recommend adding OJ. Seriously ick. I have tried dried candied ginger. Eh. I really just like the apple cider.

I pour in kombucha from the jar and fill up the last third of each bottle with apple cider.

bottles of kombucha.
the red one is the gross OJ added
concoction. YUCK.
 Now you let the bottles sit out for 3-5 days for a final fermentation. This is when it gets really fizzy. (Warning, really good kombucha will fizz like champagne when you first open it, especially if you use a bottle with a stopper. Open cautiously over a sink!) If you don’t want to add anything you don’t have to but it wont be as fizzy and tasty, in my opinion, maybe add a pinch of sugar to each bottle at least.

Store in the fridge or in a cold room (I just put mine down in my cold storage room.)

Drink and enjoy!

Oh, to get fancy you could brew a batch, (using a baby culture!) with green tea or some flavored tea but you then have to throw that culture away, because it will be tainted. I have never tried this.

So that is it! Below are reference sites. Any questions?

Reference sites

this has nothing to do with the making of kombucha
but look at how pretty these rows of home canned
pickles and sauce look?!
i love it.
i dont know if we will even eat these. but i still love it.


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