Tag Archives: fermentation

Summer field trip: Cultured in Berkeley, CA

27 Aug

 

Last summer my travels took me to Boulder, Colorado, where I had hoped to gain some insight into the Jun culture.  Unfortunately, Tonic “herban” lounge, did not have staff members that were very communicative or interested in the process.  This summer, I had better luck meeting fermentation enthusiasts.  I was in Berkeley to take a movement workshop that was serendipitously located one block away from a fermentation kitchen called Cultured.

Cultured makes many flavors of kombucha along with pickles, sauerkraut and other things, depending largely on what produce is in season.  A single glass-fronted refrigerator serves as a store front.  My impression is that most of their product ends up on the shelves of other local establishments.  I had the pleasure of catching Alex Hozven, who runs the joint, for a short conversation about her kombucha process.

IMG_2729

This is the wall sized poster that graces the entrance of Cultured.

Alex makes some fancy flavors of kombucha.   Over the two weeks I was around, I tried yellow watermelon-juniper flavor, strawberry thyme, cucumber lime, and fennel flavors.

Just around the corner from the fridge, I could see the large fermentation vessels, and they didn’t just hold tea.  I was intrigued to see one kombucha container that had fresh nettles in it.  (nettles, my favorite!)  Another one held floating juniper berries.  Alex adds herbs into her primary ferments.  I asked her about this, and she explained that kombucha can live in any number of herbal tea environments.  For many of her ferments she uses a green tea base, and then adds flavor after the primary ferment (like I do), but with others she uses an herbal tea base and no tea– a great option for people who are avoiding caffeine.  With the herbal tea ferments, she uses starter fluid from her latest green tea batch to get it going.

It makes sense that herbal ferments would be best to try with your spare scoby, and not to let them keep going over many generations, or you could degrade the culture.  Probably some herbs work better than others, also:  I once tried to make a rosemary beer with tibicos, and the anti-bacterial properties of the rosemary killed my grains!   Although I frequently do herbal experiments with the primary ferment of tibicos, I’ve always been a purist with my kombucha and jun cultures.  Maybe it’s time to branch out….

The other thing that I noticed about Cultured’s kombucha is that the ingredient list includes honey.  Alex does not use honey in the primary ferment, but she does add some when she bottles it.  The extra sugar in the secondary ferment makes her bottles generously fizzy.  Tricky.

The ingredient list: notice the addition of seasonal herbs to the primary kombucha tea ferment, and honey to the secondary ferment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_2755

Mmm, fennel! Consumed…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I browsed the refrigerator shelves at Cultured, I couldn’t resist picking out the weirdest pickle product possible.  They had something called kasuzuke, which is vegetables fermented in sake lees.  Sake is Japanese rice wine, and lees is the yeast sediment byproduct of wine making that brewers generally strain out to create a clearer product.  I’ve strained the lees out of my blackberry wine and honey wine/mead creations and thrown it away.  There were a few kasuzuke vegetable options, but of course I picked the most exotic sounding one.  I chose Negi, which turns out to be not so exotic.  It’s a variety of green onion.  Cultured’s kasuzuke was 16 dollars for a 12 oz container:  not something I would buy every day, but also it seems like a many-tiered creation process that I might never take the time to make.  Here it is.

IMG_2737

I ate some one night on toast along with avocado, but I haven’t fully decided what to do with the stuff.  Its appeal is less for newbies and more for seasoned fermentophiles.  The gooey white lees takes up just as much room as the veggies in the container.  It has a certain “ick” factor to it this way.  The taste is oddly sweet and pungent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

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.

20140626-111927-40767640.jpg

20140626-111926-40766818.jpg

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

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.

20140304-134727.jpg

Alewife’s Birthday toys

6 Sep

So what does a brooklyn alewife get for her birthday?  Fermentation toys! I have a few new toys to show and tell about.  The two big pieces of equipment are definitely unnecessary for a beginner fermenter– I’ve gotten along without them for a few years now.

20130905-154406.jpg

My birthday crock! That thing on the left is a weight to hold the veggies under the brine.

Recently I wrote about a failed moldy cucumber pickle recipe, and in response to that experiment, my love answered my desires and got me a birthday crock! No more moldy pickles!  Mine’s 5 L, which is as big as I think I’ll ever need, unless I start selling pickled things commercially.

20130905-154416.jpg

Woohoo! The Kimchi Cookbook: written by a fellow Brooklyner. Her kkakdugi recipe is a little different than mine. Probably more sophisticated.

Along with that, he bought me the pretty new kimchi cookbook. I have some playing to do!  I’ve already learned a few things about kimchi.  Chun’s brining process begins the fermentation for generally an hour to overnight, then she rinses all the salt off the veggies and adds her spice mix, and lets them ferment longer in that.  The only salt in the spice mix tends to be in some anchovy sauce, from what I can see, and then there is sugar added for the ferment.  Interesting.  My kkakdugi kimchi was brined and stayed in brine…  so this is a new approach for me, which is probably a bit lower in sodium.

 

 

A self-gift that I got in early summer (for my, errr, 3/4 birthday?) is an oak barrel for brewing kombucha in, from a company that custom-makes them down in Texas. The company sites this model of upright barrel for either vinegar making or kombucha. The barrel method is my first attempt at a continuous brew batch.  It seemed like the best idea in the world when I got it, and it does impart a nice oaky flavor to my brew that I quite like. What I don’t like is that it’s much harder to see what’s going on deep in the container, which makes me in general a bit less attentive to my brew. It’s not something you can fully clean out so well either, as the wood is porous, so after a year or so it’s supposed to expire. I’m not sure I would go with it again. My 5 L barrel was $70, and you can decide whether that investment is worth it in your own experimentation. I was very happy with the service from the company I ordered from: Oak Barrels Ltd.

20130905-154431.jpg

5L oak barrel that I have a continuous kombucha ferment in, since  June.

Sauerkraut with Carrots and Burdock

30 Jun

Summer is really here. July 4th is this week, and people are lighting up their grills all around. Today I stopped by Brooklyn Kitchen.  I was looking for one thing, and fell upon another: CHEESE DOGS. My grandma Baba used to make a microwave cheese dog for me when I was a kid. She’d slice open an Oscar Meyer wiener, filling it with American Cheese, and nuke the puppy for a minute.  In contrast, the dogs I got today are a little more sophisticated, pre-stuffed, a lot more natural, and I prepared mine on a cast iron skillet.  At this point in my life, eating a hotdog is really a thinly disguised excuse for me to eat a grand amount of sauerkraut. As if I need an excuse….

20130628-174319.jpg

A couple of dogs with my sauerkraut (and sauteed purslane)

Some time ago, I wrote up a master recipe for sauerkraut. My recent creation is a little more embellished, although the basics remain the same.

Sauerkraut with Carrots and Burdock

Finely slice 1 head of cabbage

Scrub clean 1 carrot and 1-2 burdock roots. You don’t need to peel them.

Grate the carrot and the roots. I use a box grater on one of the courser settings.

Mix all the ingredients together with 1T sea salt. Let them sit for an hour or more, so that the salt starts to help the veggies release their juices. After an hour, massage and pound your kraut, and then stuff it tightly into a jar. A quart sized mason jar should be large enough. Your kraut needs to be macerated enough that the juices rise above the salad.  Let it sit, covered for 3 days to a month.  The kraut is ready when you think it tastes right.  Mine sat for about 5 days so far, and  it’s good enough to use, but I’m still going to let it stay out a little longer to continue it’s fermentation.  During the fermentation time, you should check the sauerkraut every day or two for done-ness.  This is also helpful because as gasses build up from the fermenting process, the container needs to be “burped.”

20130628-174401.jpg

The Kraut is in the jar

On Mold

Kraut can last a long time in the refrigerator once it is done fermenting.  I made a large batch last year that took me about 6 months to finish, and it was none the worse for wear.  The one problem you might come into contact with is mold.  I made a batch of my basic kraut, only using red cabbage, back in March, and somehow it hasn’t had much luck.  I’m not sure why, except that maybe it’s always been a little low on fluid.  The good news is that mold only grows where your veggies are exposed to air.  The stuff under the brine is just fine.  I’ve kept eating this one, carefully skimming off the mold when it grows.  White mold, according to other fermenters I’ve talked to, is pretty innocuous.  If you have blue mold, that’s a case to throw it out.  The stuff below looks blue in the picture, but that’s just because my camera is picking up the hues of the purple cabbage underneath.

20130628-174415.jpg

mold growing on red sauerkraut

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.

20130615-174815.jpg

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.  

20130615-174846.jpg

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.

    20130613-231712.jpg

    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.

Old Ways Herbal

Vermont Herb School, Clinical Herbalist, Plant Remedies, & Herbal Farmcraft Wisdom.

thesoporificcabbage

A great WordPress.com site

Naturally DIY

Homemade solutions for healthy living

Brooklyn Alewife

a record of home brewing experiments

Conscious Baby

Sessions, classes, & resources for the first two years

Tea Foodie [by Zanitea]

a journal of tea-inspired foods and recipes

Adventures in Local Food

A blog of the Food Action Committee of the Ecology Action Centre

Urban Herbwifery

your source for herbal wisdom, green living tidbits, and natural pregnancy and labor information

martinezyoga

Salvador Martinez, NYC, E-RYT 500

nourish

Learning to live healthy while living with Fibromyalgia.

%d bloggers like this: