How I learned to love the blob

I have some pretty serious tactile issues. Some things I just do NOT want to touch. Like slimey things.. or gooshy things. This is the reason I refused to even consider trying to make kombucha. I mean..

Look at this

Kombucha Scoby

This is the “pretty” side.

just … look at it.

Kombucha Scoby

It’s got… bubbles and layers and … stuff

That’s a kombucha scoby. Scoby is an acronym for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. It’s a leathery, sort of floppy disc and sometimes it has stringy thingys hanging off of it… like a jellyfish.. a jellyfish that makes stuff you drink… on purpose. srsly.

I’d heard about kombucha before and I’d even seen people get really excited about getting their hands on a scoby to make it at home. (Yes, Christine, I’m talking about you.) In fact I think it was at that same food swap when Christine got her scoby that I had my first taste of home brewed kombucha. It was mango and it was delicious… and I wanted to make some.. but…

That scoby does weird things.. like makes these yeasty sluggy glooby things…

GLOOOBY THINGS

GLOOOBY THINGS

I didn’t even seek out a scoby. I would buy kombucha and drink it because.. YUM. It’s definitely an acquired taste. If you like vinegar.. and I do, then you can develop a taste for the ‘bucha. Basically, that glob of a scoby sits in sweetened tea, eats the sugar and makes an acidic tea loaded full of probiotics and other kinds of interesting stuff some of which is really good for you although evidently the jury is still out.

The only reason I have a scoby at all is because someone I know from Instagram commented on my milk kefir grains (that’s a future post) and offered to trade some for some water kefir grains (that’s ALSO a future post) and insisted that I take a scoby as well. These cuture things like to grow and grow and grow. At the time of this writing, I have three scobys.. scobi… scobies.. whatever the plural of scoby is.

I really expected to just toss the kombucha scoby away and use the water grains only. Boy howdy was I wrong. After I poked the thing a few times, I sucked it up and picked it up.

It’s not nearly as gross as it looks. So I figured, what the hell.. I’ll try it. It wasn’t love at first fondling but after batch after batch of amazing kombucha I’ve learned to love this thing. (Not enough to make a scoby facial .. I mean that’s a Hippy line I’m not willing to cross)

Why even make the stuff when you can buy it? Money dahling.. a bottle of booch is something like $4.00. I can make this at home with plain white sugar and this

That's right, non organic, commercially  grown tea by Lipton.   Nothing fancy.

That’s right, non organic, commercially grown tea by Lipton. Nothing fancy.

There are a lot of methods out there, but I tend to take a few shortcuts. I’m not saying that my way is the best way, but knowing how I tend to forget to do things ahead of time, my way works for me. Some people would be horrified…HORRIFIED to know I use Lipton tea bags, store brand sugar and Albany City water (filtered). I left a Facebook group that was practically worshiping their scoby.. there were lots of reference to Jesus and the evils of commercial products and it was kind of getting on my nerves… they were all judgy face about my choices so.. buh bye.

Sugar and Tea

Anyway.

HOW I MAKE KOMBUCHA TEA

I heat up 2 cups of water in the microwave (yes, the dreaded microwave) and when it’s boiling, I drop in 4 lipton tea bags and cover it. While that is steeping, drop 1/2 cup of white sugar into a 1/2 gallon mason jar. After the tea steeps for at least 15 minutes, I pour the tea into the jar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Then I add cold water to make 6 cups in the jar. That quickly cools it down.

Jar of sweetened tea next to the existing batch of 'bucha

Jar of sweetened tea next to the existing batch of ‘bucha

The sweetened tea may still be warm so I let it chill out until it’s room temperature. Then I pick up the scoby from the existing batch and plunk it into the new jar. Then I pour one cup of the kombucha from the old batch and add it to the new batch. This helps prevent molding because you’re keeping the environment acidic.

The other thing I do that freaks people out? I use a lid. Now, the scoby needs oxygen so my lid isn’t tight. I used a screw on plastic lid from the ball jars but I leave it very loose. This way I’m not using coffee filters or papertowels that I would be throwing out with every batch. I’ll be interested to see what happens in the summer when the fruit flies are out. I guess they love this stuff.
I usually leave my kombucha scoby to ferment for about a week. That’s the right acidity for me. You can leave it longer and make it more vinegary, or less time if you like it sweeter. It will also depend on the external temperature as well.

When your ‘bucha is as fermented as you like then the fun begins. It’s time to FLAVOR!

Bucha is good by itself, but add a secondary ferment under pressure and you get a fizzy yummy drink. You can add dried or fresh fruit, or other tea leaves or even dried flowers. I also have used flavored sugar syrups.

That there is some mushed up strawberries and basil.

That there is some mushed up strawberries and basil.

This is a little fancier. Hibiscus in Oolong tea.

This is a little fancier. Hibiscus in Oolong tea.

After two days, I strain that stuff out and bottle it and leave it at room temperature for a few days.

Bottles

This I made with the orange syrup left over after making candied orange peel. I added water to the syrup and boiled fresh ginger in it.. delish!

The thing that nobody tells you about homemade bucha? It’s a living food.. which means it wants to make more goobies..

Sometimes even the bottles grow goobies.

This was in my hibiscus oolong.. YEASTY GLOOBY

This was in my hibiscus oolong.. YEASTY GLOOBY

And the plain oolong that I didn’t flavor at all? It grew a scoby.

It's alive... ALIVE

It’s alive… ALIVE

So, about that Kvass…

Beet Kvass

That’s my Fire Cider shot glass. Awesome, yes?

So, about that beet kvass… I’m actually enjoying this in small doses.

It’s pretty salty, though. I’m hoping that after it continues to ferment a bit in the fridge it will mellow out a bit. Next time I’m going to try sea salt.

But will I drink it? Yes!  I have a second ferment going right now with the original beets since they still smelled “beety”

What’s Kvass?  Here is my original post on the subject.

I like beets so I really hope I like this kvass

I like beets.. no really I do. I like them pickled, mostly.. and sometimes I like them roasted.. but mostly pickled.

I bought a bunch of beets from my last trip to the Co-op and had intended on making an apple and beet salad from “Whole Grains for a New Generation” (which we are reading for the From Scratch Club book club by the way and if you haven’t entered to win a copy of this book go do it NOW because today is the last day to enter! )

Anyway, I ended up not making the salad as I ran out of time, and I didn’t really feel like pickling them as my canning enthusiasm tends to wane in the winter months.

Somewhere it the back of my brain, a little thought bubble popped up and said “what about kvass?”

I really can’t remember where I first saw kvass unless maybe when I was at the Hawthorne Valley Farm for a cheesemaking class. I was (and am still) really into sauerkraut so I was eyeballing all the lacto fermented stuff. Chances are I got an eye on their kvass.

Kvass is essentially fermented beet juice.  Supposedly, it’s a blood tonic and of course any lacto-fermented stuff is good for you.  Most of the recipes I found said to NOT peel the beets. This is because the veggies have a naturally occurring lactobacillus on the outside and that is what causes the fermentation. That’s the reason things get sour, bubbly and yummy.

I couldn’t do it.. I wanted to peel them.. I compromised by not rinsing them after I peeled them, allowing the cross contamination from the knife cutting through the peel to stay with the beet. (yes I washed the dirt off first with cool water). These were organic beets so I probably could have just keep the skin on but.. .. I couldn’t.

Besides, if I didn’t peel them, I wouldn’t have the wonderful opportunity to quote one of my favorite plays.

Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him ~ Lady MacBeth

Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him ~ Lady MacBeth

After peeling the beets and leaving them in big chunks (about 3/4 inches) I popped them in a half gallon wide mouth jar with some peeled sliced ginger.

I kept the ginger pieces pretty big.

I kept the ginger pieces pretty big.

Now, I’m a math geek. Maybe it’s part of my bread baking history but I like to have an idea of what I’m doing. I’m not a fan of the “add 2 tbsp of salt to x amount of water to make a brine”. 2 Tbsp of salt? Canning salt? Kosher salt? Sea salt? They will all measure out different amounts because of their grain size.
Jar-of-jewels

Me no likey.

Here is the thing. I want my stuff to come out right the first time. You need a high enough salinity to keep the bad germos from thriving but not so high that the lactobacillus keels over too.

I want numbers, people!

Thank heavens for Google and the awesome people over at Pickl-it who posted this fantastic chart on how to make a 2% salinity brine. (and yes, smarty pants, I could do the math for a 2% brine but I didn’t KNOW I needed a 2% brine until I read the chart, mmmkay?)

So I made my brine and added it to the jar until it was about an inch from the top, gave it a quick stir and slapped on my Pickle-pro

I promptly stuck it up on top of my cabinet, which is the perfect place to stay out of the sun and be relatively undisturbed by temperature changes.

I have to leave post-it notes because I seem to have little sense of time passing

I have to leave post-it notes because I seem to have little sense of time passing

The next day, because I cannot leave things along… ever.. I took it down to give it a peek.

Ermahgerd!  Berbles!

Ermahgerd! Berbles!

So cool! it’s already fermenting! yay!

Here is the jar on day one and day two side by side.
Day One next to Day two

I know the light is different here but take my word for it, it’s darker and bubblier already.

Damn, after all this build up I hope I like it.  I guess I’ll find out in about three weeks.

Hat tip to all the following bloggers who posted their kvass recipes which I totally copied in one way or another