A Heaping TBSP of Life


~ presenting a slightly currated collection of all things edible ~

Kombucha

Kombucha has been a familiar drink to me for well over a decade. My mom used to constantly have some brewing in a big glass bowl covered with cheesecloth. She would stick it in the far back, darkest corner of the kitchen, and whenever someone started sounding a bit under-the-weather, out would come the Kombucha.

Kombucha 2

We all hated it. In fact I’m pretty sure we called it mushroom juice. But my mom stuck at it, and more than likely, I’m sure I owe some of my excellent health as a kid to her ‘mushroom experiment’ that I hated so much back then.

Flash forward twenty years, Kombucha is everywhere. How did this unassuming mushroom suddenly gain so much publicity?! It certainly isn’t from it’s delicious flavor, I can vouch for that much. Thankfully, you can now get all (almost all, depending on who you ask) of the health benefits of Kombucha, minus the nasty-fermented-mushroom flavor (SCOBY, excuse me) at just about any grocery store.

I got pretty hooked on a few brands in particular that have fun, fruity flavors, and also pack a nice punch of carbonation. The problem arose when I got my credit card statement…Kombucha typically goes for 3 – 4 bucks a bottle. I might love the stuff now, but my bank account sure doesn’t!

So of course I did the only natural thing possible and complained to my mom about how expensive this delicious ‘new’ health phenomena is.

After she got done reminding me how much I used to whine and complain about her gross mushroom experiment, she was also kind enough to share the method she used. It was amazingly simple. Here I was expecting something long, complicated and probably going to give me a nasty belly-ache if I messed it up (You are fermenting things after all!) I couldn’t have been more wrong. Kombucha consists of 3 simple ingredients, water, sugar and caffeinated black tea.

Kombucha

It took me a few weeks of playing around with proportions, and some dismally flat and depressing results, but eventually I took her recipe, made a few tweaks, and got it working perfectly. The problem is, I still can’t stand the taste of raw, unflavored Kombucha!! Eeeww! I needed mix-ins.

To add the mix-in’s that I have put down below, you first need to follow the method, and brew a batch of Kombucha. Once it is bottled, place flavoring into the bottle and let them ferment at room temperature another 24-36 hours. This allows the (good) bacteria in the Kombucha to feed on the freshly added sugars and make your drink even more bubbly. It also lets the flavors ‘sink in’ to ensure you get all the good flavor, and none of the not so good!

Finding a SCOBY was actually much easier than I had expected. Once I got the word out that I was on the prowl for a stinky mushroom, I had one in my hands within the week. You might be surprised who knows someone who knows someone who brews Kombucha. In my experience, every Kombucha brewer is also very happy to share a baby SCOBY with you. It’s a bit sad having to toss that little guy every week, so finding someone to give him a good home is a welcome relief!

One of the most common fears I hear regarding Kombucha is the danger of bad bacteria. Please don’t worry about that. If you use common sense, there is really no way that your Kombucha will make you sick. Wash your hands before handling the SCOBY. If the SCOBY is covered in mold, don’t drink the tea. If a swarm of flies got in and drowned in the Kombucha…you also probably shouldn’t drink it. Make sure you use clean glass and stainless steel for everything and you will be fine.

One thing that you should keep in mind: once you have added your mix-ins make sure that you don’t allow your corked bottles to sit at room temperature for more than 36 hours. As the pressure continues to build from the fermentation they can become a literal time-bomb of explosiveness! In the fridge the fermentation is slowed down to a crawl, so you can keep them in there for up to two weeks without having to fear a massive mess!

One more thing that is worth mentioning: Don’t reduce the sugar! And don’t try to use any other variety! The refined sugar acts as the ‘food’ for the bacteria, causing them to release gas bubbles and ferment the tea. Without enough sugar your SCOBY will die off and be unable to make you delicious tea. Keeping the tea caffeinated is also important. I’ve read conflicting opinions on this, but in my own experience the SCOBY is much less hardy, and will die off after just a few cycles without a caffeinated tea.

Kombucha
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6 bottles/2 weeks
Ingredients
For every batch:
  • 4 Quarts Water
  • 1 1/4 Cups White Sugar
  • 4 Black Caffienated Tea Bags
Required to start:
  • 1 Healthy SCOBY
  • 1 Pint Starter Kombucha or 1 jar Raw Unflavored Kombucha
Equipment
  • 6 Quart Stainless Steel Pot
  • 2 Gallon Glass Jar
  • 6 Glass Bottles with sealing lids
Instructions
  1. Getting started with Kombucha takes some patience. To ensure the healthiest, longest lasting SCOBY, you are actually going to discard the entire first batch, and then drink the second bath. In plain English, it will be a month before you are actually drinking your own, homemade Kombucha. Keep that in mind when you start this. It only takes about an hour every two weeks, but the first batch is a bit delayed. That being said, it is so worth it!
  2. The first order of business is obtaining your SCOBY. Make sure you get a healthy looking one (No mold, no big holes or tears). It's okay if it's not the same size as the diameter of your 2 gallon glass jar, the new baby SCOBY that is grown will fit perfectly. If you can get some 'starter' Kombucha from the same person who gives you the SCOBY, awesome. Otherwise, you will have to head to the grocery store and buy a bottle of unflavored, raw Kombucha. Just one bottle will be fine, you need something to kick-start the fermentation process.
  3. Once you have your Kombucha and SCOBY you need to brew some tea. Pour 4 quarts of water into a 6 quart stock pot. Add a cup and a quarter of sugar, and bring to a rolling boil. Boil until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  4. Turn off the heat and add your four tea bags. Let them steep 15-20 minutes. After the time is up, remove the tea bags and allow the water to cool to room temperature. If the water is too hot when you pour it into the jar it will kill the SCOBY.
  5. Once cooled, pour the jar of Kombucha (or extra tea you got with the SCOBY) and all of your fresh tea into the large glass jar. With clean hands, gently float your SCOBY on top. Cover with a loose fitting glass lid, or double thickness cheesecloth (or both!) you don't want flies or other wildlife getting into your tea, and bugs just love the sugary water that Kombucha is brewed with.
  6. Place your jar in a dark place that stays between 70 and 80 degrees. Too cold and nothing will happen, too hot and your SCOBY will die. Let it sit here, undisturbed for two weeks.
  7. After two weeks have elapsed you are going to repeat the whole process again. This is going to be your upkeep routine. Boil 4 quarts of water with a cup and a quarter of sugar. Add 4 tea bags off the heat and allow to steep 20ish minutes. Allow to cool completely. For this first batch you are going to pour out all but an inch of the Kombucha (after this you will be bottling the Kombucha!). Leave an inch in the jar, this is taking the place of the raw bottled Kombucha that we used the first go round to get everything started.
  8. With clean hands, take the SCOBY out. You will notice that there is new SCOBY now, growing on top of the old one. Gently separate the two. Toss out the old one (in the future you can gift these little guys to anyone who wants to start their own Kombucha!). Pour your fresh, cooled tea into the jar, add the new SCOBY back and float it on top. Recover with a loose lid and/or cheesecloth. Stick it back in your dark spot and let it hang out for another two weeks.
  9. This time when the two weeks is up, you are ready to bottle! Get your 6 glass bottles. I like to either put them through the dishwasher on hot, or scrub them out with soap really well. We don't want to invite any new bacteria to our Kombucha party. Fill up each bottle to about two inches below the top of the bottle, leave plenty of head-space for more fermentation and/or flavorings. Make sure you leave about an inch of tea in your 2 gallon jar.
  10. Boil your 4 quarts of water and 1 1/4 cups of sugar, turn off the heat, steep your 4 tea bags, and allow to cool.
  11. Separate the new baby SCOBY from the momma. If the new one looks healthier, keep that, otherwise toss it and keep using your original.
  12. Add your cooled tea to the inch that you reserved in the glass jar, put the SCOBY back on top, cover, and return it to your dark place. (I really hope you get the idea now. It's the same process every two weeks.)
  13. Once your Kombucha is bottled you can either cork them, leave them on the counter for another day and then refrigerate and drink. Or if you are like me and can't handle the taste of Kombucha plain, or just want to try some delicious variations, you would pour in your flavoring right away, still leaving about an inch of head-space. Cork, let them sit on the counter for a day, and then refrigerate. Once they are cold, they are ready to drink!!
  14. I have jotted down some of the variations that I have tried and enjoyed below. If you come up with more, by all means please tell me!! Happy Brewing! 🙂

 

Blueberry Mint Kombucha
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6 Bottles
Ingredients
  • 1 batch Kombucha
  • 2 pints blueberries
  • 1/4 cup mint leave or more to taste
Instructions
  1. Wash the mint and separate the leaves from the stem. Wash the blueberries well.
  2. Run the mint and blueberries through your juicer, putting the mint in first to make sure it all gets pushed through. Stir the juice together and pour about 2 Tbsp into each of your bottles of Kombucha.Cork and gently swirl the bottles to combine.
  3. Let bottles sit on the counter at room temperature for 24 hours. Refrigerate and enjoy.

 

Raspberry Lemon Kombucha
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6 Bottles
Ingredients
  • 1 batch Kombucha
  • 2 pints raspberries
  • 1/2 lemon peeled
Instructions
  1. Cut the lemon in half and peel one of the halves. Wash the raspberries well.

  2. Juice both the raspberries and lemon. Stir the juice together and pour about 2 Tbsp into each of your bottles of Kombucha.  Cork and gently swirl the bottles to combine.

  3. Let bottles sit on the counter at room temperature for 24 hours. Refrigerate and enjoy.

Recipe Notes

Cut the lemon in half and peel one of the halves. Wash the raspberries well. Juice both the raspberries and lemon. Stir the juice together and pour about 2 Tbsp into each of your bottles of Kombucha.Cork and gently swirl the bottles to combine. Let bottles sit on the counter at room temperature for 24 hours. Refrigerate and enjoy.

 

Matcha Melon Kombucha
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6 Bottles
Ingredients
  • 1 batch Kombucha
  • 1/2 Honeydew Melon
  • 1 tbsp Matcha
Instructions
  1. Cut the honeydew out of the rind. Save the other half to enjoy as a well-deserved snack.
  2. Juice the honeydew. Stir in the matcha powder and make sure it is well combined. Let it sit on the counter for a bit to really meld together
  3. Pour about 2 Tbsp of your matcha melon mixture into each jar. Cork and gently swirl the bottles to combine.
  4. Let bottles sit on the counter at room temperature for 24 hours. Refrigerate and enjoy.


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