During any given week in my life lately I have multiple glass jars in the corner of my kitchen containing various fermentation projects. I love it. I love having stuff growing right there in my kitchen. A little microbial garden. I also love having a constant flow of home-made foods that are good for me.
Michael Pollen’s article in the New York Times Magazine earlier this month reinforced what I already suspected to be true: that bodies relying on the typical American diet are devoid of necessary bacteria to keep us from getting sick or otherwise thriving to the best of our abilities. Eating more whole, less quickly-digested foods as well as foods full of helpful bacteria could be a link to not just hardier living, but to a life with diminished disease and illness.
Most fermentation projects are fairly easy and require only a little preparation to get them started before you leave them alone for a prescribed amount of time to finish on their own. It’s a part of my weekly lifestyle to be starting new batches of yogurt, kombucha and kimchi in time to replace the batches I am currently consuming. For some of my fermentation projects I’ve consulted the works of Sandor Katz (no relation to me, sadly), including his online videos. Since fermentation projects are sort of equal parts science experiment and cooking, your own personalized method will evolve each time you make a batch. I have found myself checking with books less and less and instead trusting my instincts about what will work best. I try to use organic ingredients when possible.
Kombucha is a fermented probiotic tea beverage that you can buy in healthfood stores and I think some grocery stores. I had tried it a few times over the past few years, but the moment that inspired me to start making my own occurred at a dinner party at my friends’ house. While shoving small glasses of berry flavored kombucha in to our hands my friend drunkenly insisted consuming it would keep us from developing a hangover. I think it did, but more importantly I loved the way it tasted.
Anyone can make kimchi or sauerkraut, but kombucha is a sort of secret club because the process requires that you somehow acquire a kombucha mother (or SCOBY). I have seen that it is possible to purchase SCOBYs online, although a friend gave me mine. Each time you make kombucha you start with one SCOBY and end up with two, because the mother makes a baby. I find this cute, but it’s also nice because then, as you grow to love komucha, you can spread not only the fermentation word but also provide your grateful friends and family with their own SCOBYs.
RECIPE: Ginger Kombucha recipe
- 1 gallon water
- 6 green teabags*
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 komucha mother (SCOBY)
- 1 1/2 cups unflavored kombucha
- 3-5 Tbsp finely grated ginger
Boil the water with the sugar in a large pot. Stir and add the teabags. Remove the teabags after steeping for about 15 minutes. Pour the tea in to a large glass jar (I use the same one Gina does for kimchi, which you can buy at Target for cheap) and then let it cool to about 80 degrees. I’ve never actually tested the temp – I just let it cool to a little warmer than my kitchen, and then add the kombucha and the mother. Cover the jar with a cloth secured with an elastic band. Let it sit un-touched for 2-4 weeks someplace warm-ish. The longer you let it ferment, the less sweet and more tart it will become. Once the kombucha is done (and you can tell by tasting it) take out at least 1 and 1/2 cups to accompany the mother in your next batch. Add the grated ginger to the rest and either let that sit for a day or so to let the ginger flavor settle in, or go ahead and start drinking it immediately. You can strain out the ginger if you like, but I don’t bother. Store the finished kombucha in your refrigerator. You should also store the SCOBY, along with some unflavored kombucha to start your next batch with.
*I have liked jasmine green tea the best so far, but you can use black and darjeeling was nice.