Tag Archives: kombucha

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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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Seasonal Flavor: Quince Kombucha

11 Oct

Painting of quince fruit and foliage

I first discovered quince about five years ago.   It was February at the time, and I was looking through a Basque style cookbook for good Valentine’s sweet recipes.  I came across a goat cheese and quince cake, and dedicated to making it, I embarked on a city-wide treasure hunt for the elusive quince.  Unsuccessful, I ended up resorting to quince preserves that first time.  I don’t recommend trying to find fresh quince in February!  Quince ripen locally in the fall, along with apple season.  Occasionally you can find them in the spring when they are shipped from the southern hemisphere, but they don’t keep all year long like apples do.  The fruits look like furry apple-pear hybrids.  They are much firmer than either apples or pears, however, and they are a bit too tart to enjoy raw.  For the last few years, I have raided my local farmers markets for quince in September or October.  A few farm stands carry them, and it’s always the fruit that seems abandoned, as many folks don’t know what to do with it.  I buy a generous bag full and cook it into an applesauce-like consistency with a little sugar.  The sauce freezes nicely to take out at any time of year.

I just got my yearly bag of quince yesterday, and this morning as I was harvesting my latest batch of kombucha (see my master recipe here), I threw a few slices of the quince into one of my bottles, on a whim.  A few hours later I tried the result.  Wowweee!  I have to make more of this stuff!  Quince has the most lovely aroma, that has already permeated the brew.  It’s a fruity-floral kind of flavor.   Despite the tartness of the raw fruit, it’s infusion in the brew is pleasantly sweet.20131011-160844.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.

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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.

Flavor of the day: Anisette Cardamom Jun

24 Feb

Today I bottled my latest batch of Jun.  I always do a few flavor variants.  Here’s my flavor of the day to share with you:

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Anisette Cardamom Jun

Directions:

1.  Brew your Jun.  For information on the basics of how to make it, consult my Kombucha 101 post.  Jun is a slightly different culture than kombucha.   It thrives on green tea and honey as opposed to black tea and sugar.   Don’t try to use honey with your kombucha mother!  You can use the following flavoring with kombucha, however.

To bottle a full batch of Jun, you’re likely to need 6-8 pint size bottles.  I mostly use repurposed Synergy brand bottes:  I like their sturdy plastic tops, and they have a wide enough opening to clean the bottle easily and to add or remove herb stuff.

2.  Add to each pint-sized bottle:

1 star anise

seeds from 3 pods of cardamom

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pour your Jun on top of the herbs (you may want to use a funnel for assistance), cap the bottles, and let them sit with the herbs at room temperature overnight.  In the morning, place your bottles in the refrigerator for consumption at any time.

If you are opposed to having pieces of anise and cardamom in your tea, you can always pour your tea from the bottle into a glass through a strainer to drink.  I enjoy keeping the herbs in the bottles, because the flavor slowly intensifies in the refrigerator over time.

 

Goji-Chia Kombucha: a superfood triple threat

23 Jan

The following recipe is equally delicious for both kombucha and jun. I love it in the same way I love bubble tea: you can drink your drink, and eat it too. Once you’ve fermented your brew (refer to my post Kombucha 101), it’s a dump and drink creation. It also combines probably the trendiest superfoods out on the market.

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Triple Threat Superfood Kombucha:

Put 1/4 c chia seeds and a small handful of goji berries into a pint-sized bottle.

Fill the bottle with kombucha.

Stir, or seal the bottle and shake gently to distribute the chia seeds.

Put it in the fridge and let the mixture sit at least overnight. This will allow the kombucha to absorb the flavor of the goji berries and it will allow the chia seeds to develop their jelly like consistency.

If your chia seeds stick together, stir the mixture a little more before consuming. The berries will float to the top of the mix, and the chia seeds sink. Both are satisfying textural additions to your kombucha experience.

Purported Health Benefits

If you look at the marketing for these superfoods, you would believe they are magical. Each superfood holds claims to do things like cure cancer, heart disesase and diabetes, help you lose weight, and anything else you can imagine that is wonderful. Here’s some basic facts from what I can see:

Goji berries are very high in antioxidants, have a healthy combination of monounsaturated fats, trace mineral contents, and amino acids. High in Vitamin A (in the form of beta carotene), C (note that A and C are both antioxidants), and contain some B vitamins, too. gojijuices.net has an interesting breakdown of nutrition info.

Chia seeds seem to derive a lot of their nutritional heavyweight from the fact that they are super high in dietary fiber. They also contain ALA: an omega-3 fatty acid that is also found in walnuts, flax seeds, brussels sprouts and kale.

Kombucha’s biggest claim to fame is probably its debatable glucuronic acid content: an antioxidant that is supposed to be a major fighter of cancer. It’s also beneficial because it is undisputedly probiotic– the culture helps to give the gut good bacteria.

 

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