CULTURE STARTS WITH A K: Fermented Foods Made Easy. Part Three: CLEVER KOMBUCHA

Get Cultured: fermented foods and drinks have been consumed around the world for centuries-if not millennia.  In every country and every climate, you’ll find one of these ‘cultured’ creations using whole food ingredients favoured locally. Recently, these dishes have hit the headlines, as well as the trendiest menus around. The secret? Once you get going, they’re incredibly simple.  Kids will also love getting involved in this fun mixture of science and cooking–and eating and drinking!

CLEVER KOMBUCHA

Kombucha is a fermented tea–effervescent or still, sweet or sour, fruity or spicy– the variations are endless.  While the bottled version is now so popular you can find it almost anywhere from cafes to bars to the local convenience store, with the right supplies it’s actually quite easy to make in your own home.  These days, you can order a dehydrated Kombucha SCOBY or ‘Mother’ online (if this sounds a bit weird, don’t worry, we’ll explain everything…) and all you’ll need are a few basic kitchen tools.

WHAT IS A SCOBY?

If you’ve ever seen kombucha being made, you may know that the magic ingredient is a thick white rubbery disc called a SCOBY.  This is an acronym that stands for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. Though people sometimes call it a “mushroom”, it’s not really fungi. It’s a combination of bacteria and yeast called a ‘Mother’, vital to kombucha-making.  

If you know anyone who makes their own kombucha, they will usually have enough to share.   If you can get a SCOBY from a friend, ask them for at least 1/2 cup starter tea as well, enough to make your first batch.  You can also order a dehydrated SCOBY online or from certain health food stores.

You will need

  • Unfluoridated, Unchlorinated Water
  • White Sugar
  • Tea Bags or Loose Tea
  • Starter Tea or Distilled White Vinegar

For 1 gallon batch:

  • 2 tablespoons loose tea OR 8 tea bags
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 13-14 cups water
  • 2 cups starter tea or vinegar

Active Kombucha SCOBY

You must use distilled white vinegar to make sure you have a properly acidic environment. Apple cider vinegar and rice vinegar do not work for making kombucha.   For your first batch, follow the activation instructions included to activate your SCOBY. You can make kombucha regularly once your kombucha SCOBY is active.

Step 1
Combine the hot water and sugar in a large glass jar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Use water hot enough to brew the tea. 

Step 2
Place the tea or tea bags in the sugar water to steep.

Step 3
Allow the mixture to cool to 68-85ºF. You can leave the tea bags in as it cools or remove them after 10-15 minutes–you will get a stronger tea the longer you leave the tea bags in.

Step 4
Remove the tea bags or sieve out loose tea leaves.

Step 5
Add some starter tea, or if you do not have starter tea, distilled white vinegar.

Step 6
Add an active kombucha SCOBY.

Step 7
Using a
tight-weave towel or coffee filter, cover the jar and secure with a rubber band.

Step 8
Allow the mixture to sit undisturbed at 68-85°F, away from direct sunlight for 7-30 days, or until it reaches your desired taste. The longer you allow the  kombucha to ferment, the more vinegary and less sweet it will be.

Step 9
Pour kombucha off the top of the jar for consuming. Keep the SCOBY and plenty of liquid from the jar to use as starter tea for your next batch.

Once the kombucha has finished culturing, remove the SCOBY and set it aside.  You can drink it plain or add flavoring–for a fizzy kombucha, you could even try bottling it in a Grolsch-style bottle or other tightly-sealed glass container.

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