Monday, February 4, 2013

Make It At Home Monday - Healthy Beverages, Part One

Since I've been handing out kombucha SCOBYs like candy, I decided to feature kombucha making for today's Make It At Home Monday post. I only started making kombucha a few weeks ago, but it's really easy and the resulting drink is delicious and very healthy. 

The benefits of kombucha:

For me, one of the biggest benefits of kombucha is that it satisfies my craving for a fizzy, tasty beverage, without all the chemicals and sugar in a soft drink.
Kombucha has detoxifying properties, and will help support a healthy liver and pancreas. 
It's rich in antioxidants, which give you pep
It's full of probiotics, which help digestion. 
For more about the benefits of kombucha 
(some people say it slows the greying of your hair), just Google it.  

The basics of brewing your own:

Brewing your own kombucha is pretty easy. It does take a little bit of time, but for our family, it's very worth it. I usually tend to our kombucha on the same day as I make bread and pantry staples. 

Kombucha is fermented tea. Everyone has their own favorite recipe, and I'm still experimenting, but it's basically just sweet tea that you tuck away in the cabinet for a few days. 

The first ingredient for kombucha making is a SCOBY - a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. These are readily available from other kombucha makers, you can usually find them on Craigslist, or you can order it online. They are also called kombucha mothers or kombucha mushrooms.

Then, you'll need some filtered water. You don't want to use water with chlorine or other pollutants in it. Bring a gallon of filtered water to a boil, then add one cup of sugar. I use organic cane sugar, but granulated white sugar is fine too. This sugar will feed the yeast in your SCOBY, so it's important to use real, easily digestible sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, add your tea bags. It will take some time to find what you like, and I'm still finding my perfect balance. I've been using three bags of black tea and two of green, but I'm going to start playing around with red and white tea soon. However, I've read it's important to keep your brew at least 25% black tea. Turn off the heat, cover, and allow to steep for up to ten minutes, depending on how strong you want it to taste. Then, remove the tea bags and allow the tea to cool completely (this usually takes about three hours in my house). Once it's cool, pour your tea into a glass container. I bought a jar from my local big box store that works perfectly. Make sure to leave room for the starter tea that came with your SCOBY. Pour the starter tea in, and lay the SCOBY on top. Cover it with a dense weave cloth (like a tea towel - the weave of a cheesecloth is too open) and put it in a cabinet where it will have some privacy. I usually start tasting mine around 4 days in by sticking a straw down under the edge of the SCOBY. Once it starts to taste right to you, go ahead and bottle it. Be sure to use glass bottles with plastic lids. Kombucha will react with metal, and plastic storage containers may leech chemicals into your drink. When you bottle, save back at least a cup of this brew to use as starter tea for your next brew. Check the SCOBY and peel off any new "babies" - you can save them in a SCOBY hotel* or give them to others interested in making kombucha. Put your bottles back into the cabinet for a few days to increase the fizziness, then put them in the refrigerator. Kombucha will keep for a really long time once chilled.

My first batch at five days of fermentation. I bottled it the next morning. 

A bottle from my first batch.
My second batch was much lighter because I used more green tea and less black.
*A SCOBY hotel is a small glass jar where your extra SCOBYs can hang out and mingle. Mine treat the hotel like a cheap motel, and keep making more babies! Just add a cup or two of tea to the jar, then toss the SCOBYs (gently) in.

Some guidelines and tips about kombucha making:

Always wash your hands before handling your kombucha or SCOBY.
Sterilize your equipment using boiling water or white vinegar. Soap residues can harm the SCOBY.
Always use glass, not metal or plastic containers for kombucha.
Do some research about adding fruit juices to your kombucha. I haven't tried it yet.
Stay away from flavored teas or teas with oils added (like Earl Grey).


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