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Fiery Jun Vinegar (A Variation on Fire Cider)

2 Jan

In the last year or so, I’ve noticed this stuff called Fire Cider on the shelves of crunchy stores in my neighborhood.  It’s apple cider vinegar infused with a bunch of spicy things.  It always looks appealing until I look at the price tag, and an 8 oz bottle is easily over 10 dollars.  Then I look at the ingredients and say, “Self, you could make that really easily.”  Months went by and I didn’t get around to it.   But, now it’s a New Year!  After a several-month hiatus from my blogging (not my fermenting, mind you),   I am making a comeback with my own version of fire cider.

P.S.,  Since I first wrote this entry,  I have noticed some prominent herbalists voicing concern over the company that distributes fire cider.  Although Shire City Herbals have popularized it by reaching a wide distribution, they certainly did not invent it.  However,  they have trademarked the name: one which I believe the herbalist Rosemary Gladstar originally coined.  One of my readers recently posted a comment to remind me of the lack of integrity that this company has displayed.  You can read more about the problem in this article she offered me.   So, may I suggest that you don’t support Shire City Herbals with your purse, but instead contribute to the age-old tradition of making your own!

8oz Fire Cider

This is the stuff popping up on my health food store shelves lately.

The choice to compile it was quite spontaneous: I’ve been growing a number of Jun mothers for folks who are interested in buying them.  In the winter, my kitchen runs on the cold side.  My Jun brew ferments, but the mothers grow slowly.  I stuck my fermenting jars on top of a seedling mat to encourage growth, but it has only helped so much.  My most recent SCOBYs have been growing for a month. I have some nice ones now, but alas, my jun has gone to vinegar.  What to do with all that vinegar?

Eureka!  Fire Jun Vinegar!  I made my first batch today.  I originally looked up the ingredients that the fire cider people use, via their website, www.firecider.com, and then I found another recipe on one of my favorite herbal sites, mountainroseherbs.com.  Mountain Rose herbs is primarily a vendor, but they also have a blog with recipes.  Between the two references, I compiled my own plan, and I threw together some ingredients that I had on hand.  Here’s what I came up with.  If you check out their pages, you’ll notice that both of the other recipes incorporate horseradish.  I may try this in the future, but that’s not an ingredient I keep around my kitchen, so it’s not in there for this round.  Use your own creativity and see what’s in your pantry to make your own.

Fiery Jun Vinegar

In a quart jar, combine:

1/2 onion, chopped

1/4 cup of grated fresh ginger

1/4 cup of grated fresh turmeric

a few sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme

8 cloves of garlic, crushed

3 chilis de arbol (I have these really hot dried chills from the company Rancho Gordo)

2 Tbsp of lemon juice (Fresh with the rind would be great, but what I had on hand was some frozen cubes of lemon juice from a few months ago when I had a bunch of lemons I couldn’t eat fast enough)

1 Tbsp black peppercorns

Pour your month long-fermented Jun that has turned to vinegar and is way too sour to be palatable as a beverage by itself over the rest of the ingredients.  

Shake.

Wait 4-6 weeks for the jun vinegar to be infused with the spices.  You may want to shake the jar occasionally, and you may want to burp the jar in case your jun wasn’t fully fermented into vinegar yet and starts to build up pressure.  Use a plastic lid if you have one, or put some parchment or wax paper between the jar and your metal lid, as jun likes to corrode metal.

Strain out the spices through a cheesecloth into a new, clean vessel, squeezing the extra goodness out of the spices at the end.  

Mix honey into the brew to suit your taste.  

Your fiery jun vinegar can be consumed by the spoonful– all the spices in it are sure to make a great immune tonic.  You can also use it as a vinegary addition to salad dressings, or to spice up a fresh juice or an herbal tea.  If you try it out, let me know how you decide to use it!

Here’s my ingredients all stacked up nicely like a parfait before I shook it up:

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High Season: what’s brewing in your cabinet?

26 Jun

As we sweat through another midsummer, fermentations thrive! Here’s what I have in my cabinet today. A few are alcohol infusions, most are ferments.

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I have some writing to do about these, I guess! Stay tuned.

Strawberry Jun in June: Summer flavor mmm!

21 Jun

Happy Solstice!

 

I have been fermenting away but too busy to write about it very much lately. I have to confess:  with flavoring I can get rather boring because once I hit on a flavor winner, I tend to make that one over and over until I get sick of it.  This month is the month of strawberries, probably my favorite fruit.  So, naturally, Strawberry Jun is the way to go.  The recipe can’t get any simpler, either:

 

English: A home-grown Camarosa cultivar strawberry

 

 

Fresh Strawberry Jun

 

1.  Brew your jun.  (See my jun 101 post.)

2.  When the jun is ready for consumption, fill a serving bottle  1/4 full of fresh, quartered strawberries.  Cover the chopped strawberries with jun to the top of the bottle.  (You could bottle your jun in portable pint sized containers for on-the-go, or make a larger batch of flavored stuff in 1-2 quart sizes to keep in the fridge.)

3.  If you are feeling more adventurous, add about 1 tsp of fresh grated ginger per pint.

4.  Put it in the refrigerator.

5.  Wait at least one day for the flavors to merge, and then consume!  You can eat the strawberries straight out of the brew.  They make an attractive addition to the bottle.

I don’t have a real picture to show you, because I CONSUMED IT ALL!  This is my problem with strawberries.  They have a very short shelf life in this house.  In fact, when I’m chopping them for a prepared item, half of them are in my belly before they hit the bowl.

P.S. Two days later, I found a hideaway in the fridge. Here’s your pic!  

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Healthy Jun Mother

4 Mar

I’m sending a fresh Jun mother out to Kathleen in Missouri. Here is the SCOBY in her batch of Jun just before I packed her up. Notice the old SCOBY is still floating low in the brew. Jun tends to make more sediment than Kombucha, which you can also see at the bottom of the jar. The brown stuff hanging down from the SCOBY is strands of yeast, to my knowledge. This can be consumed in the beverage or filtered out. The new Jun Mother is floating at the very top of the brew.

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Flavor of the Day: Rooibos, Rose, Raspberry Leaf Jun

28 Jun
That's not a rose hip ... _this_ is a rose hip.

Rose hip (Photo credit: Zak Greant)

Raspberries

Raspberries: the leaf often gets overlooked, but that’s what I’m interested in for this recipe.  (Photo credit: Kodamakitty)

 

I should call this my flavor of the month, because it’s what I’ve been drinking the most of lately.  Rooibos definitely stands out flavor-wise in this mellow herbal concoction.

This recipe uses the Jun 101 basic brew instructions as its primary fermentation process.  You are NOT brewing Jun with rooibos tea.  Jun is always brewed with green tea and honey.   Once you finish the primary ferment, you can add whatever flavors you want to.  Bottling the Jun and leaving it out at room temperature for a while will create a secondary ferment.  This helps the flavors of the herbs to sink in, and allows the brew to build up some bubbles.

RRR Jun:

Add to a pint sized bottle with a sealable top:

1/2 t rooibos

1/2 t raspberry leaf

1/2 t rose hips

Pour your plain, already fermented Jun (see Jun 101 for details) over the herbs, seal the bottle and let sit for a day or two.  Strain your bottle into a glass as you drink it at room temp or chill in the refrigerator.

 

Rooibos, Aspalathus linearis (N.L.Burm.) R.Dah...

Rooibos, or African red bush. photo credit: Wikipedia.

 

About the Herbs:

Rose Hips are collected in the autumn.  They are the fruits of the Dog Rose. Rose hips are one of natures best sources of Vitamin C, and much of their medicinal value is because of the content of this nutrient.  They aid the body’s immune defenses, help with constipation, and with probelms of the gall bladder, kidneys, and bladder.

Raspberry Leaves are well known in my profession as a doula, because they are a womb herb.  When consumed regularly during pregnancy, they act as a tonic for the uterus.  I have heard some doubts as to the value of its use in the first trimester from prenatal students who were advised by their healthcare providers: particularly in people who have a high risk for miscarriage.  However, in my reading I have not seen it indictated as a uterine contractor, only a uterine strengthener.  I have also read that it helps to counteract morning sickness.  Raspberry leaf is particularly good to drink throughout the third trimester, in preparation for labor and even during labor.  Raspberry leaf also has astringent qualities.  It is good for diarrhea and other ‘loose’ conditions, as well as mouth sores, bleeding gums, or sore throats.  (sources:  Susun Weed’s  Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year and David Hoffman’s Holistic Herbal)

Rooibos, or african red bush tea is a popular drink these days for people who like drinking tea but don’t want caffeine.  My herb books actually don’t include rooibos as a medicinal herb, but it is apparently high in anti-oxidants.   Wikipedia claims that it helps with allergies, nervous tension and digestion.

A visit to Boulder: Tonic “Herban” lounge

16 Jun

A week ago, I took a trip to Boulder Colorado for the the annual Body Mind Centering Conference, an event that blew my mind but has nothing to do with the subject matter of this blog.  Other than experiencing the conference, the one thing I desired from Boulder was to visit Tonic, a bar I have heard about through the years on various fermentation websites and forums.  Tonic, apparently, is one of the few places where Jun is commercially available, and everything I’ve read says that the owner is very secretive about his methods.  I went to Tonic one evening after the conference and got a serving of the Jun, which was brought to me in the teacup you see here, probably 6-8oz for a whopping 6 bucks.  Oh, well, it’s vacation.

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I really wanted to get a plain brew so that I could taste their formula in pure form, but they don’t have that on the menu, unfortunately.  I opted for the “flower power,” with chrysanthemum, red clover, calendula, chamomile and yarrow.  The brew was much more bitter than mine at home, but I think that might be more due to the flower additions than to the brewing method.  The other thing I noticed about Tonic’s brew was that I felt enough of a buzz after drinking it that I was a bit worried about driving afterwards.  Granted, I drank it on an empty stomach, and the other thing I learned the hard way the next night is that alcohol in general has a much larger effect on the body when you are a mile above sea level!  I just found an article that addresses the “trace amount” of alcohol content:  apparently that has been an issue for the owners vs. the authorities.

I came to the bar without grand expectations of getting brewing information because from what I’ve read the owners are secretive of their techniques.  What I was faced with was still disappointing.  The bartender I talked with has no involvement or interest in the brewing.  He couldn’t even tell me if they brew the stuff on site or elsewhere, which I thought was very odd since he must see what’s in the back room.  He was much more interested in talking about New York, as he grew up there and moved to Boulder some 18 years ago or more.

Tonic's Jun menu.

Tonic’s Jun menu.

One exciting thing about the bar is that there were some “elixers” that I had never heard of before on the menu.  I might have ordered a ling elixer if I had either more time or a designated driver.  

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Jun 101

13 Jun

I originally posted the directions for Jun fermentation as an after thought under my Kombucha 101 recipe, because it’s such a similar process. However, I get a lot more emails about Jun than I do for Kombucha sharing, and everyone has questions about it. So here, by popular demand, is:

JUN 101

  1. Get a glass jar that holds ¾ gallons to 1 gallon of water. You might obtain a free one at your local health food store—their discarded olive or pickle jars will do the trick. You can purchase one for about $10 at a kitchen supply store.
  2. Brew the tea. Pour hot filtered water over 4-5 green tea bags or the equivalent of loose tea. Organic is better because anything added to the tea leaves to kill pests can also kill your culture. Add 1c honey and mix well. Only use honey. That’s what the jun culture is adapted to. Let the sweetened tea sit until the temperature is comfortable to the touch—usually I let it sit overnight. If it’s too hot, you’ll cook your mother: she is alive!
  3. Strain out the tea leaves.
  4. Put your SCOBY mother (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) on the top of the culture. She might float down to the middle of the jar. That’s okay. Add ¼ to ½ cups (I just throw in a good sized “glurp”) of starter jun liquid, from your last batch. You can add even more if you want. Using starter liquid from your last batch helps create a pH environment that is inhospitable to molds, so if you have had mold trouble with other ferments, you might want to use more starter.

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    My latest Jun mother, aka SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). This one formed in 8 days.

  5. Cover it securely with a towel. You want it to be able to breathe, but you also don’t want bugs to get in. I suggest securing it with a couple of rubber bands.
  6. Leave it in an out-of-way place, out of direct sunlight for 1-3 weeks. After 1 week, taste it. If it’s too sweet for your liking, then it’s not done. Put it back and let it keep going. If it’s too sour, you let it go too long. It’s still okay, just not as pleasant. Batches will ferment faster in warmer temperatures.
  7. When the batch is done, you will notice that a new SCOBY has formed at the top of your jun liquid. Now you have two mothers. You can save one as a back up, give it away, compost it, or look for other options: if you look online, you’ll find people who have developed recipes for SCOBY (eeeeww). I’ve also heard of people drying them and turning them into fabric.
  8. You can leave your finished jun in a big jar, or you can bottle it. Bottling the jun will help it to build up more bubbles, because you are not constantly opening and closing the same container and the pressure can build a little. If you are bottling, this is also a good time to flavor it. A few pieces of chopped ginger will make an extra fizzy one, or you can add other herbs. I like to use a few dollups of frozen juice concentrate (my favorite lately is pineapple). Edible aloe vera can make an interesting addition to your jun cocktail as well.
  9. Once you have bottled your Jun, you may leave it out for about a day, especially if you have flavored it, to create a secondary ferment which will let the flavors sink in and build up bubbles. Soon, you will want to put it in the fridge, to slow down the fermentation process, or you’ll end up with a super sour and potentially explosive brew (see Cherry Explosion).
  10. Make another batch! If you wait in between, you can store your SCOBY in a little bit of jun liquid, sealed in a jar in the refrigerator. She will lie dormant until you are ready to rock. You can also store her at room temperature in a little liquid, with a towel covering the container. This is what has been referred to by fellow fermenters as a “SCOBY hotel.” If you leave her at room temp, she will continue to grow, so you should check periodically to make sure that there is still liquid in your hotel.

Tips and FAQs:

1. It’s a pretty no-fail recipe, but sometimes things can happen. If you see mold growing on your mother THROW IT OUT! If flies invade, throw it out. But, if there are little brown strands hanging off the bottom of your mother, or if the mother has air bubbles in her, it’s okay.

2. Jun, like kombucha and tibicos, will corrode metal. If you handle your Jun brew or SCOBY intermittently with metal implements such as a fork, or a metal strainer, that’s okay. You do not want it in prolonged contact with metal, or you will both contaminate your SCOBY mother and ruin your metal.  You probably don’t want it in prolonged contact with plastic either.  I can just imagine what creepy chemicals that would leach out.

3. What does it taste like?  My Jun has a ‘lighter’ taste than kombucha, perhaps more astringent.  If you let it go too long, I think it gets even more vinegary than kombucha.  Sorry I can’t be more specific– I don’t have the language of a wine connoisseur.

4. What’s the difference between kombucha and Jun? Kombucha is a culture adapted to fermenting tea and sugar, whereas Jun takes green tea and honey. That’s the big difference.  I’m sure a bioscientist could tell you more specifics about the organisms in there.  I have found that my Jun tolerates cooler brewing temperatures better than kombucha in the winter, and it will grow a thicker SCOBY more rapidly.   Jun also tends to develop more sediment than Kombucha at the bottom of the bottle. This is the lees, in brewers terms.  Lees forms in wines also.  You can drink the sediment or filter it out.

The batch after I bottled most of it.  Notice the cloudiness at the bottom of the bottle, from the sediment.

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