Tag Archive for fermented

Kombucha (A Fermented Tea Drink)

How To Make Kombucha (A Fermented Tea Drink)

 Kombucha is a fermented tea drink (fermented in the probiotic sense, not so much the alcoholic sense, but if that disappoints you, check out this kombucha margarita recipe). It’s fizzy and tart and can be as sweet (or unsweet) as you want it to be. I haven’t experimented much with flavorings yet, but I’ve heard of people essentially using it as a base for soda, and adding fruit, fruit juice, herbs (think peppermint) and ginger once it’s finished it’s first fermenting stage.

Kombucha is famed for it’s health qualities, including being very high in b vitamins and being so high in probiotics that you have to ease yourself into drinking it, so as to avoid an unpleasant die off effect. Once you’ve acquired a kombucha habit though, you may be a kombucha-er for life, judging by stories I’ve read of people making kombucha in small aquariums so as to have enough…

Kombucha had a lot of steps, so it can seem involved to a beginner, but it’s not particularly hard once you get your kombucha routine figured out. First I’ll lay out some of the basics to understanding kombucha, and then I’ll give you my recipe and procedure.

Kombucha is fermented by using a scoby, which is a kind of mushroom that resembles a dead jellyfish. (I think they’re really cool looking, but sometimes there’s a fine line between cool and gross.) You must have a scoby to make kombucha, but the good news is that if you have a friend who makes kombucha, they probably have scobys coming out their ears and will be happy to give you one to start you off. Otherwise you can find a place order a scoby online. (There are tutorials for growing a scoby from storebought kombucha, but it seems a reformulation a few years ago has made this option a much less reliable source for scobys.)

As with most ferments, the scoby needs to be fed, and has it’s own particular preferences for food. It thrives best on black tea (including the caffeine) and white sugar. Because a large part of the caffeine and sugar are used up by the scoby, the finished product is still low in caffeine and sugar.

Because I’m particularly sensitive to caffeine I like to dunk my tea bags in boiling water for 30 seconds or so before making kombucha out of them, to keep the caffeine levels as low as possible in the finished product. It’s also possible to make kombucha out of green tea or herbals teas, but other teas should either be mixed with black tea, or alternated with batches of full black tea in order to keep your scoby healthy.

I also have been using organic evaporated cane juice as the sugar for my kombucha, which is just a bit less processed than white sugar, and eliminates any concerns about GMO sugar beets. My scoby seems perfectly happy with this sugar so far.

Scobys also don’t like teas with oils, so ginger and peppermint and such generally need to be saved for flavoring the kobmucha after it’s fully brewed (in the secondary ferment). I have successfully made kombucha with half black tea and half peppermint tea, but the kombucha didn’t ferment as quickly as normal, and the scoby didn’t grow at all as it normally does, so it clearly wasn’t good for the scoby, especially for a long term plan. My standard mix is half black tea and half green tea.

Scobys can handle brief contact with metal, but metal does weaken them over time, so it’s best to use glass jars for fermenting and plastic or wooden utensils for handling the scoby.

It’s usually recommended to ferment the kombucha for 10 to 14 days, but my husband and I prefer I much sweeter, only slightly tart kombucha, so we often ferment ours for as little as 3 to 4 days. If you’re very new to kombucha, you may want to taste your brew every day to get an idea of how long you should ferment it to your own taste. (The tartness does sometimes mellow a bit after the second ferment, so if you’re afraid you’ve let it go a bit too long, it may still be fine.)

And, if you accidentally let it ferment for very long, you can use your very vinegary kombucha as a substitute for apple cider vinegar!

Scobys do sometimes stain from the tea, or get holes torn in them, and may be clear (a young scoby) or white (a mature scoby), all of which is perfectly normal and still healthy. However, if your scoby develops any signs of mold, it needs to be discarded immediately.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Aside from possible considerations of the amount of sugar and/or caffeine left in the kombucha if a shorter ferment time is used, this drink pegs the healthiness scale as a classic fermented/probiotic addition to one’s diet. People make some pretty extravagant claims of renewed health and energy after making kombucha a part of their daily lives, and even if those claims are only half true, I think kombucha pretty clearly makes an improvement in the overall health of those who drink it on a regular basis.

Yumminess Rating: Kinda Yummy

I might be able to get this upgraded to a completely husband approved ‘yummy’ status when I experiment more with flavorings, but as it is, kombucha is something that’s very well tolerated in our diets, and sometimes even enjoyed, just not often craved.

Kombucha

makes 1 gallon

1 scoby (for each fermenting container, no matter what the size)

2 cups kombucha (from last batch–can substitute a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar if necessary)

1 cup sugar (white sugar, or evaporated cane juice)

4 cups water + 10 cups water

8 tea bags or tsp of loose tea (black tea, or half black and half green or herbal)

First ferment:

Heat 4 cups water to boiling. Mix in sugar. Add tea and let steep until water is cold to make a very strong tea concentrate.

If you have a previous batch of kombucha, move it to the second ferment or bottling stage as you wait for the tea concentrate to cool.

Once your tea concentrate is cooled, add it to your fermenting jar or container along with the 2 cups of kombucha reserved from your last batch, the other 10 cups of water (or as needed to fill your container) and the scoby. Cover loosely to allow gases to escape as they are produced by the fermenting process and set aside for anywhere from 3 to 14 days or more, depending how you tart you like the finished product.

Second ferment/bottling:

Pour off 2 cups of kombucha to add to your next batch. Set aside scoby on a clean plate or float in reserved kombucha. (This is a good time to check your scoby for any problems and remove the bottom layer if it’s getting too thick. “Too thick” is mostly measured by whether your kombucha is fermenting faster than you want it too.)

Pour the rest of the kombucha into mason jars, plastic bottles, or one large plastic jug. (Plastic makes it easier to tell when it’s fully carbonated when you’re just starting out.) If you want to add any flavorings, such as chopped ginger, fruit juice, peppermint tea bags, etc, now is the time to do that.

Tightly cap the bottles and let sit out overnight or until fully carbonated. (If using plastic bottles, until the plastic is hard and no longer soft or squeezable.) Refrigerate.

Tepache: A Fermented Pineapple Drink

Tepache: Fermented Pineapple Drink

Aldi often has fresh pineapples on sale for $1 or $1.29 each. Being the nerd and foodie that I am, I once weighed a pineapple after I’d cut off the top and rind and all the inedible bits to find out how much edible fruit was in a typical pineapple. It weighed right around two pounds, which makes the cost of the fruit on a sale pineapple 50 to 65 cents a pound.

Since my rule of thumb is that any food $1 a pound or less qualifies as cheap food, and I’m especially happy when I find basic, healthy food like fruit, veggies and meat in that price range, I began to make a habit of buying a pineapple or two whenever they went on sale.

However, despite that fact that I knew it was a screaming deal anyway, I started to wonder about all the parts of the pineapple I was throwing away. It seemed like rather a lot of waste. Wasn’t there any use for pineapple rinds?

Turns out , there is a use for them. Google turned up this recipe for tepache, a fermented mexican drink made from pineapple rinds, sugar, and a bit of cinnamon.

Traditionally, tepache is mixed with beer, but on it’s own it seems to have a very low to non-existent alcohol content (depending somewhat, of course, on just how long  you ferment it). We’ve used in rum based cocktails a couple of times, but we also just drink it straight as a kind of pineapple soda or use it as a smoothie base.

 Healthiness Rating: Healthy

It’s fruit based, probiotic, contains cinnamon which is good for your immune system and blood sugar response, and you can adjust the sugar content down for a more tart, less sweet drink if the turbinado sugar disturbs your healthy food sensibilities.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

As I’ve said in other recipes occasionally, this isn’t one of those foods that we discovered and decided we had to keep it on hand all the time. It’s a nice change of pace, and it tastes good (and yes, it’s husband approved), but it’s not something I often find myself craving.

Tepache

1-2 cups turbinado sugar (1 cup for a tart drink, 2 cups for a sweet drink)

12 cups water

1 pineapple

cinnamon and ginger to taste (1/2-1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4-1/2 tsp ginger)

optional: clove and/or nutmeg to taste

(Edited to add: A commenter on youtube mentioned using vanilla instead of cinnamon, which sounds good to me. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’d guess using about a TBSP or two of vanilla in place of or in addition to the other spices would be about right.)

Put the turbinado sugar and two cups water in a saucepan over a medium heat to dissolve the sugar. Cool.

Rinse the pineapple lightly, but don’t scrub too hard, or use cleaners–you don’t want to remove the natural yeasts that start the fermentation process. Cut the top and bottom off the pineapple, then cut off the peels (see video for more detailed instructions in cutting up your pineapple). Save the pineapple fruit for another use. (If desired, when  you cut up the fruit you can add the core to the tepache.

Put the peels in a large bowl or crock suitable for fermenting. Sprinkle with spices. Pour in sugar/water mixture and ten more cups of water. Cover peels with a small plate to keep them submerged.

Cover bowl with a clean dish towel and set aside to ferment for 3-5 days. It should be bubbly and a bit foamy like this when it’s ready to referigerate:

tepache foamRemove the peels and pour the tepache into a jug or jar. Cap tightly and refrigerate for two to three days until fizzy. (You can also drink it right away if you don’t care about carbonating it.)

Homemade Sauerkraut

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If your New Year’s resolutions involved phrases like ‘learn to make sauerkraut’ and ‘eat more fermented vegetables’ you have come to the right place. Seriously, you’re going to like it around here. Bookmark my blog and subscribe to my youtube channel. I’ll wait.

The other reason you’ve come to the right place is that I happen to be posting about making your own home fermented sauerkraut today. What a crazy, random happenstance, huh?

Sauerkraut is made out of cheap ingredients (cabbage and salt) and is really fairly simple to make. (There are a few pitfalls to avoid, which I’ll cover later, but the process is not overly complex.) It stimulates the production of stomach acid (which is often low in people with digestive problems, including acid reflux and ulcers–sufficient stomach acid actually helps *prevent* these problems, counter intuitive as it may seem) and provides needed probiotics.

The down side, of course, is that it’s sauerkraut, with the pungent intensity that we all know and many of us hate. I, myself, can enjoy sauerkraut just fine, as long as it’s used in small quantities on a food that needed some spicing up anyway. Even so, after doing the GAPS diet and ‘enjoying’ sauerkraut with almost every meal, I was burned out on sauerkraut for a while.

Even if you’re not so fond of store bought sauerkraut, I recommend trying to make your own and see how you like it. My husband can’t stand store bought sauerkraut but he tolerates and will sometimes intentionally eat homemade sauerkraut. He says it has a flavor other than ‘Pow, vinegar!’, which is all the store bought sauerkraut tastes like.

If you’re just trying out homemade sauerkraut for the first time, you probably don’t want to go buy one of those fancy fermenting crocks people are always recommending. On the other hand, I’ve heard some serious warnings about using old crocks that may leech lead into your ferments through tiny cracks in the finish. My solution was to go buy a $20, 1 gallon stoneware crock at Ace Hardware. It’s simple, not too expensive, and unrisky. (Don’t use anything metal for fermenting your sauerkraut in. In a pinch you can probably do a big batch in a five gallon food grade plastic bucket though.)

Whatever kind of crock you use, you need a way to keep the air away from your sauerkraut is it ferments. The good bacteria does not require oxygen to work, while stray bad bacteria that might take over your ferment does require oxygen, so creating an oxygen free environment for your ferment is ideal. In the recipe I explain how to use a ziploc bag to allow the gases from the fermenting cabbage to escape without allowing air in contact with the cabbage.

You may get a white film on top, which is probably harmless, though I recommend doing your own research to confirm what is growing on your sauerkraut. If you get anything fuzzy, brown, green or pink growing on your sauerkraut throw it out and start over.

Edited to add: Once you’ve made your sauerkraut you may be wondering what to eat it with. It goes well with most meats–hot dogs and sausages are obvious ones, but I often put it on hamburgers, and it can also work with pork or beef roasts as well. You can use it in place of pickles for a tang on any sandwich, and don’t forget Rueben sandwiches as a classic use for sauerkraut. (I requested Rueben sandwiches for my birthday meal several years running, and that was before I even made homemade sauerkraut.) If that’s not enough to get you started, you can can also find recipes for soups that use sauerkraut!

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Cabbage and sea salt fermented to provide probiotics. Doesn’t get much healthier than that.

Yumminess Rating: Kinda Yummy
Okay, I admit it’s not that amazing as a flavor, but it is tolerable, and once you develop a taste for it you’ll miss it when you don’t have it.

Homemade Sauerkraut

1 head cabbage, about 2 pounds

1 TBSP sea salt

1-2 cups filtered water, if needed

Core and shred the cabbage. I find the easiest method is to slice it thinly, then cut across the slices in two or three places to keep the shreds from being unreasonably long. Put cabbage into a stoneware crock.
Sprinkle salt on the cabbage and let it sit for ten minutes or so, until the juices start to come out of the cabbage.

Begin to squeeze and knead the cabbage with your hands until the cabbage is softened and has released it’s juices. You may get enough liquid out of the cabbage to cover it, but I only ever get enough to just barely come up to the level of the cabbage. Press the cabbage down tightly into the bottomof the crock. Unless the cabbage juices completely submerge the cabbage, add filtered water until the level of the liquid is an inch or two above the level of the cabbage.

Remove any stray pieces of cabbage from the sides of the crock.

If you don’t have a special fermenting crock, fill a gallon sized ziploc bag halfway with water. (Tap water is fine for this part.) Squeeze out most of the air before closing it. Put the ziploc bag in the crock on top of the cabbage. This will form fit to the sides of the crock, holding the cabbage underwater. Some liquid, and probably a few shreds of cabbage, will rise around the sides of the bag, but that’s fine as long as most of the cabbage is secure at the bottom of the crock.

Cover with a cotton dishtowel and let sit at room temperature for anywhere from one week to a few months depending on how strong you like your sauerkraut and how forgetful you are. I generally transfer the sauerkraut to canning jars in the fridge after two to three weeks. (You may need to add water to the canning jars occasionally to continue to keep the sauerkraut submerged as you use it. There’s less danger of the ferment going wrong at this point, but it’s just kind of gross if it gets dried out.)

Better Than Store Bought Ketchup

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I make my own ketchup.

It started when I was on the GAPS diet. I made a GAPS legal fermented ketchup and was thrilled to have a different flavor available on my plate. My (non GAPS eating) husband was less impressed. It wasn’t bad, he said, it just wasn’t anything like ketchup.

Then it was a challenge. Could I make my own healthy ketchup that my husband enjoyed eating?

I didn’t expect it to be so good and so easy that homemade ketchup would become a necessary item in my kitchen. In five minutes I can make a batch of ketchup that lasts the two of us a couple of weeks, tastes just as good as store bought, has no nasty chemicals, and is actively good for you. Plus, it’s a great trump card to pull out if I’m ever feeling threatened by super talented people or obsessively healthy eaters: “Well, yes, we did eat a frozen pizza last week, but that’s not normal for us, you know. Normally I even make my own ketchup!”

This ketchup can be eaten immediately or fermented for a couple of days to make it a good source of probiotics. (It will be noticeably thicker after fermenting, but both consistencies are within normal ketchup range.) I normally make my ketchup with whey (saved from draining yogurt to make Greek yogurt), but it can easily be made dairy free by substituting water for the whey. With the raw apple cider vinegar and salt in the ketchup it still ferments just fine.

(Edited to add: There are other options for substituting the whey including brine from vegetable ferments or thinned down yogurt or kefir. Brine will affect the flavor depending on the type of brine used, but that could be a good thing, especially if you like the fermented veggies you make in the first place. If none of these are a good option for you, the best flavor replica will be from replacing the whey with half apple cider vinegar and half water. As a last resort, replacing the way with only water will yield the proper consistency.)

If at all possible, don’t substitute any other sweeteners for the honey. In a pinch you could use agave, but only honey will give it that sheen we’re used to in store bought ketchup. (In the store bought ketchup it comes from corn syrup.)

Healthiness Rating: Healthy!

*Cooked tomatoes (as in tomato paste) are a better source of lycopene than raw tomatoes, as it’s more easily digested in the cooked form.

*Honey is classified as a superfood, being antibacterial and containing many enzymes and other nutrients.

*Whey provided probiotics essential for a healthy digestion (even better if it’s from organic yogurt and skips the extra hormones).

*Himalayan pink sea salt contains many minerals, some say containing every mineral our body needs.

*Apple cider vinegar is also antibacterial, high in potassium and seems to help regulate blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar.

Yumminess Rating: Husband approved

Not only does my husband willingly eat this ketchup, he prefers it to store bought ketchup and takes every opportunity to tell people they need to try this amazing homemade ketchup. Everyone who’s tried it has also approved, including his younger brothers and sisters.

Fermented Better Than Store Bought Ketchup

6 oz can tomato paste
1/2 cup raw honey
1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup filtered water
1/4 cup yogurt whey (see notes above for substitutes)
1 tsp pink sea salt
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp garlic powder

Mix all ingredients in a pint jar. Cap loosely and ferment at room temperature for two days. After two days tighten the cap and transfer to the fridge.

A couple of notes:

Make sure your jar is completely clean before putting food to be fermented in it. A good environment for probiotics to grow is also a good environment for harmful bacteria to grow. I don’t personally go to the extent of sterilizing my jar before use, but if I’m at all unsure about the cleanliness of the jar I thoroughly rinse it in very hot tap water.

Also, make sure your different ferments (such as this ketchup, sourdough, sauerkraut, etc) stay about two feet away from each other while they’re fermenting. Any closer and the strains of bacteria will start to cross over between them, and different ferments work best with different kind of good bacteria.

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