Sunday, February 28, 2016

Making Kombucha

I LOVE Kombucha! Either plain or flavored, this fermented tea is a delicious way to quench your thirst. And, it's very easy to make a batch, or in my case... two!
The ingredient list is short, and the recipe is simple. You'll need a scoby (often referred to as a mushroom, though it isn't really a fungus!), well water (or distilled water), organic sugar, and a combination of organic green and black tea. You will also need to purchase a cup or so of plain, unflavored raw kombucha from a health food store or grocer. I get Aqua Vitea Kombucha | Kombucha on tap in kegs and in bottles brewed in Vermont on tap at Healthy Living in Wilton, NY or Middlebury CoOp in Vermont.

Unless you know someone who makes their own kombucha, you may have a hard time finding a scoby. For the record, scoby stands for Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast. It's a bit time consuming, but you can grow your own, and it will continue to grow and provide you with a jarful if you feed it and keep it healthy.
To grow your own scoby, purchase about a cup of kombucha. It is important to get plain,unflavored, raw kombucha; do not use the kinds with colorings, flavors, or chia seeds in it.

Once you've purchased the kombucha, you're ready to start the process of growing a scoby. In a stainless steel pot, bring about 1 and 3/4 quarts of distilled water to a steady boil over medium heat. Then, turn heat off and stir in 1/2 cup organic sugar; mix til it's all dissolved. Next, add 2 bags of green tea and two bags of black tea, and let brew til the water reaches room temperature. Remove the teabags, squeezing gently, and in a half-gallon sized glass jar, pour the kombucha in and fill the remainder of the jar with the cooled tea-and-sugar mixture. Make certain, the tea has cooled to room temperature... do not pour hot tea mixture in or you will kill the kombucha ferment!

Cover the top of your jar with cheesecloth, secure with a rubber band, and let sit in a warm, draft-free space in your kitchen, undisturbed, for 3 to 5 weeks. When your scoby first starts forming, it will be very thin... it tends to look like a scum forming on top of the tea. Just leave it and it will continue to grow. When it is about 1/4 inch thick, you can use it to make another batch of kombucha.
To make a gallon of new kombucha when you already have a scoby and about a cup of purchased starter kombucha, bring 3/4 of a gallon of water over high heat to a strong simmer. Remove from heat, stir in 1 cup of sugar, and steep 3 green tea and 3 black tea bags in the hot sugar water. Let mixture cool to room temperature. Gently squeeze out teabags. Place your scoby and about 1 cup of starter kombucha in a 1 gallon glass jar (no plastic!) Carefully pour the cooled sweet tea into the jar. Cover with cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band. Set in a warm draft-free spot on the counter and let ferment for a week or two... until the tea is fizzy and pleasant to taste. Some folks like to ferment it til it's less sweet and very fizzy and somewhat strong; I prefer it mildly fizzy and still somewhat sweet. (The fermenting process eats up most of the sugar) When it tastes good to you, remove the scoby and pour your finished kombucha into a glass pitcher, cover and refrigerate.

Now, you can do two things here; if you want to start another batch of kombucha right away, remember to reserve about one cup of kombucha to add to your newest batch. (You won't have to keep purchasing store-bought kombucha if you do this!)Simply follow the directions again for making kombucha above. If you don't want to make another batch right away, place your scoby in a glass jar and barely cover it with some of the kombucha you made. Add about a tablespoon of sugar to it and mix gently. Store in the fridge until you want to make more kombucha.

Or, if you want to grow a bigger scoby, keep this jar on your counter and feed it about a teaspoon of sugar every week or two. The scoby will grow thicker, and you will be able to peel it into layers. Each layer becomes a new scoby to share! Soon you will be overrun with scobys; I store them all in one jar, covered with kombucha, and try to remember to feed them a teaspoon of sugar now and then. I've read that folks dehydrate their excess scobys and give them to their dogs like jerky treats; I have not yet tried this.
You can also flavor your finished kombucha; however, don't try to flavor it as it's fermenting... wait til the process is complete. I love adding ginger pulp to my pitcher of kombucha in the fridge. I've also cut it with a bit of grape or pomegranite juice. Experiment, and have fun! Cheers!