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A friend of mine recently turned me on to Kombucha, and man do I love it. Kombucha is a tangy, refreshing, and fizzy drink that is professed to be good for your health. There’s a myriad of claims about the drink: it’s supposed to be good for digestion, detoxify your body, and raise your energy levels. I’m not here to attest to any of those claims, but I do think it is an amazing beverage.

Kombucha BrewKombucha is fermented sweet tea that is cultured with a solid mat of yeast and bacteria known as a scoby (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) or sometimes refereed to as the kombucha “mother.”  The Kombucha “mother” is a wonderfully icky thing that looks a lot like a jellyfish. The bacteria and yeast feed on the sugar and produce acid, so the final product is not sweet but tart.

There are several commercial brands of Kombucha on the market, but they’re pricey, usually $3.50-$5. After doing some reading on the subject, I decided to brew my own. Home-brewing Kombucha isn’t a complicated process. Once you acquire a scoby, all you need is sweet tea and some glassware. In my first batch, the Kombucha paid for itself. ($16 dollars of equipment for 7 bottles!)

Finding a scoby is a little tricky, I searched a few weeks before I found someone on craigslist to give me one (I traded a scoby for a painting.) You can order them online but I preferred to find one locally. Every time you brew a batch of Kombucha the “mother” culture forms a “daughter.” So after you finally hunt down a “mother” and begin brewing, you’ll end-up with more cultures than you can give away. The cultures propagate so quickly a friend of mine joked that he suspected Kombucha is actually an alien conspiracy to take over the world. (You really have to see these things, the scoby does look like a weird science experiement. My boyfriend doesn’t like to stand too close to the jar that’s brewing in our kitchen.)

If I haven’t scared you off,  here’s what you need to brew your own kombucha:

  1. Scoby or “mother”
  2. One gallon glass jar (Never use metal!)
  3. One gallon of good water
  4. Six tea bags: black, green, or white. (Don’t use the flavored stuff.)
  5. One cup sugar
  6. Cloth to cover the jar
  7. Bottles for the brewed Kombucha.

Here’s how ya’ do it: Make sure everything you use to brew and bottle is clean, clean clean!

How to do it

There are a vast number of tutorials and how-tos on the web, if you’re ready to brew. The Happy Herbalist has detailed the ins-and-outs of brewing. If you’re in the Bay Area, I’d be happy to share one my scobys with you! Just shoot me an email.

Have a great weekend everyone!

lacto fermentation

Back in the days before refrigeration and processed foods, folks preserved their vegetables through lacto-fermentation. Lacto-fermentation is a pickling process that uses beneficial bacteria to keep food from rotting. Believe or not you’re probably already acquainted with this process. Lactobacilli are used to make make yogurt and sauerkraut. Remember these guys from a few posts back?

lactobacilli

So it goes down like this:  you soak vegetables in salty water or you cover them with salt and this creates an ideal environment for lactobacilli. The lactobacilli do their thing, consuming sugars and producing lactic acid as a by product. This creates an acidic environment which kills off the bacteria that spoil food.  These bacteria are pretty good for you too; they help you digest the vegetable and promote a healthy flora in your intestines.

Lately, I’ve really been getting into lacto-fermentation. Since I’ve joined a CSA, I’ve had an abundance of veggies in my fridge and making pickles has helped me save them for later. This is essentially what our ancestors did whenever they had a harvest. So far, I’ve made diakon radish pickles, kimchi, preserved salted lemons, and yogurt.

veggies and milk

You can use this process to preserve any firm vegetable or fruit that doesn’t have too much water. So radishes and carrots are in; watermelon and tomatoes are out. You can add any spice you want, or throw in garlic and ginger if it strikes your fancy.

The kimchi and diakon radish pickles are wonderfully tasty. I’m really looking forward to trying the preserved salted lemons. They take a few weeks to ferment. I’ll let you know how they turn out!  In the meantime, if you want to make some for yourself here’s the basic guidelines:

Preserved Salted Lemons:

  1. Gather enough thin-skinned lemons to fill the jar you’re going to pickle in. (Citrus is ripe here in the Bay Area – I foraged the lemons I used from trees on my walk to work.)
  2. Wash the jar and clean the skins of the lemons.
  3. Quarter the lemons and liberally coat them in sea salt.
  4. Smash the lemons into the jar, sprinkle more salt between layers.
  5. When the jar is full, squeeze additional lemon juice into the jar to cover the slices.
  6. If you want to spice it up, add a cinnamon stick or a few peppercorns. Heck, why not both?
  7. Screw the lid on tight and sit in dark space for about a month.

preserved salted lemons

When it’s done, you eat the rind and use them like olives. Check out the Sprouted Kitchen’s beautiful post about preserved salted lemons. She has a more detailed how-to and links to recipes.  Happy Pickling!

 

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