Tag Archives: lees

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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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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