Kombucha, baby.

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Okay folks, here is the recipe. It is so fun to make and pass on the starters as they multiply.

I gave my sister two starters, and she’s making batches to double them and pass them on to our family and neighbors so they can have their own Kombucha farms too! The Kombucha is brewing in her closet right now so it doesn’t scare our dad.

It’s natural to be a little shy of Kombucha at first. A lot of our food is alive, or rather was, before we started making artificial substitute food. Sauerkraut, yogurt, beer, wine, mead, vinegar, yeasted breads, cheese, sour cream, kimchi, kefir, pickles, kvass, and lots of other foods are made with living cultures.

So what is Kombucha? It’s fermented tea. The creature that does the work is a ‘symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast’ (hence ‘SCOBY’) that was found in Russia centuries years ago, became popular in China and spread through other parts of the world.

Why would you want to make it and drink it?
It has nutritional benefits like lots of B vitamins and amino acids. It’s tasty, and it’s a little carbonated so if you need a soda fix, it’s a healthy alternative. With any cultured food or beverage, just try a little at first to introduce it to your existing mix of internal flora and let them get used to each other, and it can cause a detox reaction. Also, it’s fairly acidic so if you have an ulcer it might not be for you.

It’s easy and low cost to make at home, while commercially bottled types are pricey.

There are a lot of fun flavor variations to try. This Portland-based Community Supported Kitchen offers several each week in their box, read about them here: Salt, Fire and Time

How to Make Kombucha

Ingredients
SCOBY (aka your Kombucha baby)
1/2 cup to 1 cup sugar (organic cane sugar, unrefined works fine)
4 to 5 teaspoons of green or black tea or mate (or 4 teabags)
3 quarts water
2 cups Kombucha or 1/4 cup distilled Vinegar

Equipment
Large glass jar
Tea kettle to boil water
Cloth or paper tea bag
Clean dish cloth
Rubber band or string
Labels
Small or medium jars for bottling

Wash jar with soap and hot water. Always use clean hands and tools when making Kombucha. Avoid using metal utensils as they can leach chemicals into the acidic kombucha.

Measure sugar into large jar. Add 1 quart boiling water and stir to dissolve. Add 2 more quarts boiling water and the tea and let steep 15 minutes or more. Cool to room temperature (a few hours or overnight). Strain if you didn’t use a tea bag. Once cool, add the Scoby and the Kombucha, cover with a dish cloth and secure around jar mouth with rubber band or string. Adding 10% Kombucha to each new batch makes sure the pH is low enough to discourage other organisms from growing.

The Scoby may float on top or lie on the bottom, either way is fine.

Label the kombucha with the kind of tea used and the date. Mark calendar with a note to check it in one week and set the jar in a dark place. The best temperature is around 70 – 80 F, but room temperature is fine. It just might take longer. The Scoby will eat the sugar and tea and grow.

Check the kombucha – it’s ready when it smells like apple cider vinegar and the scoby has grown a full new layer. The taste should be tangy but still slightly sweet. If it’s not ready or you want a stronger flavor, check again in a few days to a week.

When it’s ready, use clean hands to lift the scoby on to a clean plate and separate the baby. Now you have 2 Kombucha starters! You can make 2 batches or share with a friend. Each scoby can produce batches of Kombucha and a baby many times, maybe 8. When it gets dark it’s worn out and can be composted. If it gets brown strands around the edges, just rinse them off with cool water.

To bottle your Kombucha, pour it into glass bottles and cap. Let it sit for 3 to 5 days at room temperature to ferment. This is when the effervescence happens. Then refrigerate for up to a month. It might start to grow some strands of culture or form a mini scoby, but don’t be afraid. Just strain it if you’d like.

If you’d like to add flavors, the time to do so is when it’s bottled. Fresh grated ginger is easy and tasty. Experiment with berries, fruit juice or puree, dried hibiscus flowers or whole dried spices. Or keep plain Kombucha in the fridge to make drinks like Elderberry-Lime sparkler.

If you find good flavor combinations or tips please share!

Notes:
Teas with caffeine seem to work best, but it’s possible to make every other or every third batch with herbal or decaffeinated tea. The baby will be thinner and it may take longer.

Be sure to choose a wide-mouthed jar so there is good air circulation. Glass 1 gallon jars cost about $5.

Alcohol produced by the yeast is usually 0.5%, which is considered a ‘non-alcoholic beverage’.

Sometimes the scoby is strange and stringy and bumpy looking, and it’s fine. But if mold happens (black, green, fuzzy), scrap the batch and start fresh. I haven’t had that happen though.

Thanks Rebecca N. for my Kombucha baby!

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