The Other Fizzy Beverage: Kombucha

With cold and flu season in full swing, it’s a good idea to give your immune system an extra boost with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals found in foods and beverages. The kombucha beverage is teaming with live probiotics and healthy amino-acids that aid in detoxifying the body and fight off disease.

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I’ve tried making kombucha off and on over the years, but it wasn’t until I bought my brew bottles for water kefir that I finally made a batch that I enjoyed as much as the store bought variety. The drinks you get at the store are highly priced, so brewing your own kombucha at home is a great alternative. Not only do you get all the benefits of kombucha tea for a fraction of the price, but the kombucha SCOBY is actually the “mother of vinegar” as well. You know that Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar you see on the shelf at the health food store for 5 bucks a bottle? Well, you can make that at home using the same yeast culture you use for kombucha tea. How cool is that?

The Konbucha culture is also called a Manchurian mushroom, although it is not a mushroom as all since it doesn’t produce spores. 

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My store jar. When I’m not using my SCOBY I keep it in the frig covered with kombucha tea. Some people don’t recommend that, but it works for me since I don’t brew constantly.

The “mushroom” or SCOBY can be describe as a light brown or creamy white disk that grows on top of the liquid tea/sugar mixture and will take the form of the container that is in, which is why most look circular in the pictures you may see.  Again, it is not a mushroom at all, but really a yeast culture that has a symbiotic relationship with various bacteria, which duplicates itself during each brewing cycle.  The correct name for the “mushroom” is a S.C.O.B.Y – a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.  The culture may look fragile, however, it is really thick and leathery in consistency.  The finished brewed tea should be regarded principally as a live food unusually rich in nutritive properties. The finished fermented product taste something like cider with a nice fizz.  As with yogurt or miso, the bacteria and cultures in the tea are a great source of nutrition, aiding in metabolic function and balance. ~ Organic-Kombucha.com

You can buy your own SCOBY online at places like KombuchaKamp.com or Organic-Kombucha.com . Better yet, if you know someone who makes their own kombucha consistently, you can get one from them!

Here’s my step by step recipe for kombucha…

Boil about 2 cups of water and one cup sugar. Add 4-6 black tea bags in order to create a very concentrated tea. (All other recipes I’ve read require one to boil ALL the water in the recipe and then cool completely before adding the SCOBY, but I haven’t found that necessary using pure water and clean tools.)

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Press tea bags with the back of a spoon to extract more tea goodness, then discard the bags.

Pour tea into a gallon glass jar and top it off with fresh water leaving a couple inches from the top of the jar. Add the SCOBY and about 1/2 c. purchased or brewed kombucha from a previous batch.

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I used to make mine in a Pyrex glass bowl, so the SCOBY is way too big for this jar. However, the SCOBY that grows off of a large (or small) one will conform to the size jar you use.

Cover with a cloth, or coffee filter and use a rubber band to secure.

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Now you just put it on a dark shelf out of the way for about 7 days.

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Here’s my kombucha tea keeping my water kefir company in the pantry.

After a full week is up, you can taste it to see how it’s coming along. It should have a sweet vinegar taste, but not too sweet. If it’s too sweet for you, leave it to brew a couple more days. The longer you leave it, the more sour it will get.

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The finished batch with the new SCOBY fitting the jar perfectly. You can leave the “baby” SCOBY attached to the “mother” for several new batches to make it stronger, or detach for other brews.

If it tastes right to you, you may add some flavor and bottle it tightly to create fizz.

Ginger Kombucha is one of my favorite flavors.

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Just shred a couple inches of ginger and add it to the finished brew. Let seep for about an hour, strain (this step is optional) and bottle.

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I also like using fresh lemon juice for flavor, but you can bottle it without any flavor as well.

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Store the bottled kombucha in the pantry for a couple more days before transferring to the refrigerator. Enjoy with meals for better digestion, or by itself as a refreshing beverage.

Want to know more about kombucha?  Check out these websites –

Precision Nutrition – All About Kombucha

GetKombucha.com

The Fascination of Kombucha

Robb Wolf – Crazy about Kombucha

Questions or comments? Feel free to contact me through the comment section or at sarahrn (at) inbox (dot) com. I’d love to hear from you!

Making Your Own Fizzy Drinks – Water Kefir

This summer a friend gave me some water kefir grains, also known as tibicos, to try. Ever since then I’ve been experimenting and researching and experimenting again to discover the perfect brew. For those of you who are new to … Continue reading

Take a Trip Down County Road 98

Photos of War Eagle Mill from StateoftheOzarks.net

We went there several times to that old mill by the stream. It was on our way – in a round about way – to our grandparents house on the other side of Norfork Lake in Elizabeth, Arkansas.

I always dreaded that trip. It only took 7 hours, but they were the longest hours in my life. The first part of the drive wasn’t too bad, but not far into the Natural State…well, I’m convinced those road building Arkies wanted to make themselves a roller coaster. And they succeeded, as far as I’m concerned! I got motion sick more times than I care to remember.

I remember the War Eagle Mill being an oasis from an age long car ride. We’d get out and stretch our tired legs, look over into the river and then head into The Bean Palace for a hearty lunch.

I don’t recall that beans were a favorite meal of mine as a child, but The Bean Palace made the best bowl of beans I’ve ever had and I loved them. Served along side house coleslaw and a hefty slab of cornbread with butter and honey…what more could a kid want?

Well, maybe we were extraordinary kids…

The Mill has an interesting history that began four years before Arkansas became a state. Built by Sylvanus Blackburn in 1832, it was washed away by floods in 1848 and rebuilt only to find itself in the middle of the Civil War. Grist Mills were targeted during the war since they helped provide food for soldiers. Five of Blackburn’s 8 children joined the Confederacy and the family moved to find safety in Texas. Ironically,  the Confederacy burnt the mill to the ground in 1862. Rebuilt in 1873, it lasted 51 years before being burnt down again. Built again in 1973 it stands as the last remaining grist mill in Arkansas and the only working waterwheel in the nation.

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It must have been the pot of pinto beans I put on the stove to soak… Suddenly, I wanted a warm cup of Bean Palace legumes in hand to reminisce the years gone by. Cornbread with that, and a side of coleslaw. Maybe I have some southern blood in me after all.  Just maybe….

The beans simmered in the crock pot – on low – for a day and a half. Slow cooking at it’s best. The last four hours of cooking, I added smoked turkey bacon, salt, pepper, garlic powder and a few bay leaves.

Mmmm…the smell was amazing! I grabbed our wrinkled, falling-apart, War Eagle Mill Cookbook and found their coleslaw recipe on the back page…well, what is now the back page for our book.

It’s a simple recipe, much like the one we traditionally use. Shredded cabbage and carrots, vinegar, oil, organic cane sugar (Or honey…I like honey better.), salt, pepper, and celery seed. Tangy and sweet, just the way we like it.

I decided to do something different with the cornbread and spooned the batter in a buttered waffle maker. We usually make it in cast iron skillets, but there’s never enough of the crunchy edges to go around.

Smothered with organic butter and honey from local hives. Some dreams come true…

I love how food can take you for a trip down memory lane. One taste or smell can bring back little treasures that have been tucked away in the dusty attics of our brain. Brush off the cobwebs and smile.

What meal do you remember most from your childhood?