Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Thirsty Homesteader, Part 1-Kombucha

I like the comfort of routine. As soon as I wake each morning, without fail, I stumble into the bathroom and brush my teeth. I let the chickens out, feed the cats, give the dogs a little breakfast, and pour myself a glass of homemade kombucha with cranberry juice and mineral water. When I am home, this is what occurs each and every morning. The routine grounds me, establishes my bearings, and sets my course for the day. 

My adventures in kombucha home-brewing came after purchasing one too many jars of the pricey, albeit delicious, Synergy Gingerberry kombucha beverages. I decided then and there that I could make kombucha at home, I just needed a S.C.O.B.Y. (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria & Yeasts), aka the "mother culture". Kombucha is a tonic beverage, rife with enzymes, probiotics, amino acids, antioxidants and a host of other beneficial nutrients. It's been consumed around the world for centuries, making its way west in the past few decades and into the larger cultural landscape over the last few years. Kombucha works on the blood, liver, and digestive system, balancing ph levels, increasing metabolic function, and helping in detoxification. Composed of water, black tea, sugar and the mother culture, this tonic beverage can be made at home for considerably less cost than incurred purchasing it pre-made. 

Admittedly, kombucha's sensory properties make it the sort of beverage only a "mother" could love. Reminiscent of old beer and vinegar and looking like a slab of human skin suspended in a murky solution, overcoming the olfactory and visual impact of kombucha is a bit daunting in the beginning. It's sour and puckery and fizzy all at once. I find it sublime. I pour out about 1/3 c. into a large pint-sized glass, add about 3 Tbsp. unsweetened cranberry juice (to support kidney and bladder health), and top everything off with sparkling mineral water. I have friends who like their kombucha straight, though. Everyone finds their preferred means of imbibing the twangy elixir and customizes it accordingly. It's your thing, do what you wanna do, right? 

If you've never tried kombucha before, I invite you to give it a go. Perhaps purchase a bottle first, to determine if the flavor is one which you enjoy. If so, follow the recipe below and start brewing S.C.O.B.Y. snacks yourself. Before you know it, kombucha might just become part of your morning ritual, as well! 

The Goods: 
4 organic black tea bags
3 qts of filtered water
1 c. organic white sugar
1 kombucha culture (can be purchased or sourced from a nearby friend who brews kombucha themselves; the latter is how i scored mine-thank you Beth!!!)*
1/2 c. starter liquid (this will either come with the culture, should you purchase it, or you'll need to take a bit from your friend's batch, along with the culture)
*If you are fortunate enough to source a S.C.O.B.Y. from a nearby friend, you'll need a sterilized glass jar with a lid for transporting it home. Don't use plastic, as food debris or flavors trapped inside the plastic can compromise your culture and starter liquid. 

The Deal: 
1) Bring 3 quarts of water to a low boil; add the sugar. Stir until completely dissolved.
2) Remove from heat, add tea bags and steep for 15 mintues. 
3) Remove  tea bags and allow the tea to cool to room temperature.
4) Pour the tea into a large, sterilized glass container (I use a square glass canister found at a home goods store). 
5) Add the starter liquid. Place the culture on top of the tea, with the more shiny side facing upwards. 
6) Place a folded up kitchen cloth or napkin over the top and secure it on firmly with a rubberband or string. 
7) Transfer the container to a dark, room temperature area (I use my pantry). Allow to culture for 2-3 weeks, depending on how intense of a flavor you desire (longer culturing time results in a more sour, carbonated kombucha, my preference!). 
8) When ready, transfer most of the kombucha to a lidded container and store in the refrigerator. Keep the mother in the culturing container, along with at least 1/2 c. liquid. Begin another batch of tea, cool, and add to the culturing container. Continue doing this for a constant supply of kombucha. 

*Over time, your mother culture will begin producing "babies," visible secondary layers. Remove those layers and give to friends. Otherwise, you'll need to add them to the compost pile, in order for the mother to remain strong and viable. In the photos above, I'm clearly due for adopting out some babies! 


Anna said...

Thank you for this post! I love the bottled kombucha and I have been wanting to make my own. Not sure how soon I'll find some to start with, but its great to have this info!

sk said...

I've always wondered how to make this! Thanks for sharing your info. I liked the way drinking Kombucha made me feel, but after a few days of drinking it I always get a sore/red area at the corners of my!? Maybe I should try drinking less...

Renai said...

I am trying to wean myself off of buying the commercial stuff and actually starting to make my own... I've seen other blogs written about it, but they've always scared me off. I think you just sold me on it, though. Thank you for the wonderful post!

Gray Skies said...

Thanks for this! My husband has been begging me to make kombucha, and now I have no excuse not to, since you just explained how!

Courtney said...

I'm not going to lie, I am one of those people who is terrified to even look at Kombucha. But my boyfriend's mother loves it, and it sounds like it might do my body some good. Thanks for the cranberry juice tip - that makes it sound a little less intimidating!

Sparkless said...

I bought a bottle of the stuff once and could not drink it. But that never deters me for long so thanks for the reminder of how good this stuff is for you. I'll have to look into flavouring it differently so I can drink it.

Jane said...

Now this sounds like some stuff that I need! I'm going to have to try it and then make it.

Peldyn said...

This just sounds scary, and since I can't have tea or anything carbonated I am not sure I could handle it.

ashley english said...

Peldyn-it's far from scary, but it is, admittedly, an acquired taste, one that many people acclimate to pretty quickly.

Gena @ Girl Gone Domestic said...

If you don't have a friend who has scoby babies to give away, I grew my own scoby from a bottle of GT Dave's original. I found the directions here:

Really enjoying your blog! Found you through a friend on Twitter.