Kombucha

So much for my write-less, post-more attitude. In my defense, all of my spare time has been spent on honeymoon planning (we’re going to Italy at the end of September!) and car hunting. Since Jonji is doing an away rotation for most of August, I felt it paramount that I drive something other than the little old green machine on my journeys over the hill. And since Bailey is due during the time he’s away, we decided it made sense to find a car I could rely on. After plenty of stress and too much driving between dealerships, we settled on a car that ticked all of the boxes (and, bonus, it’s super cute): a 2016 Mazda CX-5. That’s right, we’re real adults!

During my time “away” from Feast, we experienced the most uncomfortable heat wave I’ve ever felt in the bay area. Temperatures were in the 100s for a few days and it was absolutely miserable. It felt as though our entire apartment would combust—even the floors and walls felt hot. The poor cats couldn’t find a cool spot, so Jonji and I ended up dousing them with a little water, which they didn’t seem to mind. Sleeping was something to dread because there was no reprieve when you woke up to a morning that was just as hot as the night had been. The only living thing that loved the heat was my sourdough starter, which bubbled away quickly and happily while we all lay dazed by the hot, stagnant air.

Mom and I hosted Bailey’s baby shower in July, which turned out to be a day full of wonderful women, plenty of food, and lots of tiny pieces of clothing. Mom and I weren’t stressed right up until an hour before everyone arrived, both of us heads down in the kitchen. By the time the first guests appeared in the garden, I was still furiously stirring pesto into the beans. Despite the mad dash to the finish, everything turned out perfectly and everyone loved the chance to celebrate Bailey.

The garden has been growing like crazy—our tomato plants are now six feet tall and producing edible fruit, flowers are bursting from the lavender plants, and we have more herbs than we can eat. I recently made honey-lavender ice cream with the lavender from our garden, which was incredible and made all the more satisfying by having grown the flowers myself.

I’m including this recipe because it really is so easy to make your own kombucha. Plus, you’ll save money and have the chance to get creative with flavors (especially during the summer). If you live in California, Oregon, or Washington, your neighbor probably has a SCOBY (or “mother”) to give you—just ask around on Nextdoor or in person. If you’re not on the West Coast or in a happenin’ city, still ask around, or look online for options. And if you live close to me, I’ll give you one of mine! Once you get that first SCOBY, it’s super easy to keep alive. The SCOBY produces a new one with each batch—you can either throw out the old one, save it as a back up, or give it away. As with any sort of fermentation, please be sure to keep all materials super clean and therefore uncontaminated.

Kombucha
makes 3 1-liter bottles

12 cups filtered water
6 tea bags, a mix of green and black (I use 4 green, 2 black)
3/4 cup sugar

1 SCOBY
1 cup of kombucha from previous batch or other kombucha

For the flavorings:
granulated sugar
1/2 cup apple juice
1/3 cup orange or lemon juice
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1/3 cup pomegranate juice
1/4–1/2 cup other fruit juice or
1–2 tbsp flavored syrup of your choice

Make the tea: heat 12 cups filtered water in a large pot over high heat. Once it boils, remove from the heat and add the tea bags. Let steep for 4 minutes, then remove and discard the tea (or save for a very strong cup of tea for yourself). Stir in the sugar until it dissolves.

Pour tea into a large 1-gallon glass jar with a wide mouth. Cover with a cloth and let cool completely—I make the tea either in the morning and let it cool all day, or I make it in the evening and let it cool overnight.

Once the tea is cool, mix in 1 cup of previously brewed kombucha. Using tongs, carefully place the SCOBY in the tea. Cover with cheese cloth or a fabric cloth and secure with a rubber band.

Let kombucha ferment for 7 days (more if it’s particularly cold, or a day or two less if it’s really hot). It will smell sour, like kombucha, when it’s ready. Scroll to the bottom for information on storing your SCOBY.

Once your kombucha is fermented to your liking, add flavorings your bottles or jars. Using a funnel if need be, add 1 tbsp sugar to each bottle (unless you’re using a very sweet juice like apple, then you don’t need to add any sugar at all). Add 1/4–1/2 cup juice, whether it’s lemon, orange, pomegranate, or other.* 1/4 cup of juice will leave you with a milder flavor but overall less sweetness. However, you can get away with adding more with something like pomegranate juice, which is more bitter.

Saving at least 1 cup of prepared kombucha for storing your SCOBY, pour the rest of the kombucha into prepared and flavored bottles (again, use that funnel), leaving most of the neck (about 3 inches or more) as headspace. If you’re using a jar, leave at least 1 inch of headspace—this allows for better carbonation.

Tightly screw on lids or close caps. Leave bottles to ferment at room temperature in a cool, dark place in your kitchen for 3 days (less if it’s really hot). Set the carbonation in the fridge for a few hours before drinking.

Enjoy!

To store new SCOBY, place it in a container or large jar and pour 1 cup (or a little more) brewed kombucha over the top. Tightly cover with a cloth. The SCOBY will survive for a couple of weeks at room temperature or longer in the fridge. Check it every now and then and add a little water if it looks dry.

*Feel free to experiment with flavoring by infusing sugar with herbs or spices. Ginger and lavender are particularly good. Cook the sugar with a 1:1 ratio of water to create a quick simple syrup, add spices or other flavors, cover and let sit overnight. Use 1 or 2 tbsp of syrup per 1-liter bottle of kombucha.

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