Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Flavoring Our First Batch of Kombucha

I think this first batch was fermented for five days. The wait seemed much longer ;-) Right before bottling I sanitized: a cutting board, a pairing knife, my glass jars, bottles and lids, a glass measuring cup (to scoop it out of the real big jar,) the countertop I would be working on and my own two hands. I used a mix of 50/50 white vinegar and water. Oh yeah, I also dipped in my phone in the vinegar. I used it to pull up directions: http://www.yourfamilyfarmer.com/recipes/kombucha-tea-instructions

Larger fruits, ginger and vanilla beans were chopped up to fit into containers. Frozen cherries and berries were taken out of the freezer. The flavor combos I came up with: cherry vanilla, raspberry vanilla, cranberry lime, and mango-lime-ginger-toasted coconut. I had a little flavoring experience when I used to make water kefir. I had the semi-correct idea that this would be similar. 
It was surprising what our favorite lavor came out to be: the plain/unflavored that I had poured into a big flask after I ran out of the bottles and jars with flavoring ingredients! Second runner up was along the same line- plain with just some vanilla bean added to it! :-) We really did enjoy all of the flavors too. Cherry vanilla was the fav of the flavored flavors. This was also the favorite of my water kefir makings.
The plain kombucha had all the subtle, delicate flavors of the different teas that I used. It was just a tad sweet, the perfect level of sweet for me personally. In the picture of ingredients that I posted in my last entry, it looks like A LOT of sugar was used. It was 2 1/2 cups of evaporated cane sugar for two gallons of tea. However, the beneficial microbes that make kombucha what it is, use the sugar as food. So by time it is ready to drink, there is very little sugar left. 
When I was at my kombucha lesson, I was so surprised at how good the homemade kombucha was compared to everything I had ever bought at a store. This first batch was my husband's first experience tasting homemade, and he totally agreed! 

Mango-lime-ginger-toasted coconut

Cranberry lime, raspberry vanilla and cherry vanilla

All the flavored jars ready to be filled with our first batch of kombucha

Bottled and flavored kombucha put away in a dark cabinet for the second fermentation. This step is optional in making kombucha. It helped to increase carbonation as microbes enter life in an anaerobic (no oxygen) environment inside the tightly sealed containers. It also gives it a little more tang to the flavor. It takes around 3-6 days, but I heard it can hang out this way for long periods of time, waiting to be consumed.
Although we love the plain, I'm thinking of flavors that would also have superfood powers: ginger, turmeric, lemon, chia, acia berries, goggi berries... I'm actually waiting on my fourth batch at this point. It's been a fun and healthy adventure for all involved!
Oh yeah- do I feel a difference from drinking so much kombucha? Definitely yes in two ways that I have noticed... My overall digestion feels great! No moments of feeling off at all, even after a few notably big meals. And a very, uhhh, "regular"-ness to my digestion process as a whole ;-) The other change is my irritable skin has become less irritable! Kk
Until now, it would have cost a fortune to drink as much kumbucha as we wanted. Now we can drink the best we've ever had, for only the cost of the sugar and bulk loose leaf tea!

Monday, August 18, 2014


I've been a kombucha drinker for years now. My first time drinking it was quite memorable... I was grabbing some lunch at the local health food co-op. I saw a lot of different flavors, picked one up, and checked out the label. It definitely sounded like it was some really good stuff! I chose mango flavor to go along with my veggie sushi roll lunch. I got into my car and had to try it right away. Hmm, looked like there was some of the good stuff at the bottom. I gave it a really good shaking to make sure I'd get plenty of that good stuff and opened it up... The interior of my car and myself got a good spray down of mango kombucha! I had no clue it was a carbonated beverage. I cleaned up as best I could and took my first sip... Pretty good! Part of me worried it would taste weird. The nice labeling had assured me otherwise. The listed health benefits (not approved benefits by the USDA of course) made it worth the risk of trying it. If it was gross, I would just chug down and call it even. But it was actually pleasing to my pallet. It tasted like mango soda with a pleasant tang and without the sickening sweetness. I had stopped drinking soda for a long time and this was a perfect fix for carbonated beverages with bonus healthy good-for-you bacteria and yeasts.
Fast forward several years. I became a regular kombucha drinker, buying myself and my hub a few bottles each whenever shopping at a store that carried it. However, it took a toll on the wallet.
My mother-in-law had told me she had a friend who was "all organic" and had been making it and selling it sorta as a hobby. We were invited to see her bottle up a batch and see how it's brewed up. 
When we arrived to our kombucha lesson, it looked like quite a fun little gig... She had lots of assorted fruits and things chopped neatly and lots of mason jars and glass bottles on her kitchen island. It looked like a scene from a happy cooking show, where I knew I'd learn something fun. We tried a finished flavored kombucha and plain kombucha just finished it's first fermentation. Both were way beyond better than anything I bought from the stores. I could actually taste delicate tea flavors, and the carbonation level was much more agreeable on the pallette! 
She gave us a SCOBY to take home. A couple days later I had my ingredients and glassware ready to go. 
I am now waiting for my 4th two gallon batch to finish fermenting. We are drinking delicious organic kombucha as much as our hearts desire! Not sure what's best- getting to drink the yummiest healthy kombucha ever, or the fact that it only costs me what it takes to buy some organic sugar and loose leaf teas.
Loose tea blend: pearl white tea, oolong, English breakfast, and matcha.

Simple. Boil water, add loose tea, brew for 5 min, add sugar. Cool to room temp, helped by adding cool water. Add a scoby.

Straining the tea leaves.

Waiting to cool down. This is a gallon of sweetened tea. Another gallon of cool water is added to help it cool off. Then in with the scoby, cover with something breathable and sanitary. We use a paper towel held in place with two rubber bands.

Ma-in-law's friend giving us our kombucha lesson in her kitchen. She's holding her newst scoby. SCOBY= symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. One scoby turns into two during almost every fermentation. A fermentation takes around 4-6 days, depending on your taste.

Next up... Flavoring the first batch!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Philadelphia Flower Show

For me, Spring is the most anticipated time of the year. Winter really seems like it can go on forever, especially when it's March and it's still snowing. Luckily for us garden enthusiast in the Delaware Valley, there's the Philadelphia Flower Show right when we need it. The day that I got to go check it out, the weather was raw cold, rainy, and windy.
It was such a treat to see acres and acres of green plants, blooming plants, blossoming trees, manicured landscapes, faux gardens, world class floral designs, and even a greenhouse packed full of blooming orchids. I wandered around for hours. I did not want to miss any of it.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

One of my all time favorite perennial garden flowers, the Peony. All of these images are from the Cornell Plantation's Botanical Collection, where I found a nice variety to explore. To me these flowers have always represented the true beginning of summer. The flowers are big, bold, and stately, yet delicate and ephemeral. They almost look like something from a dream, timeless, with a scent to match that of the most lovely and deepest memory...

I arrived at this bloom the same time as a native bee. This appears to be the same variety that I remember around the house I grew up in. Almost white at first glance, but the center is a soft yellow and the outermost petals are soft pink.

This last image is a Chinese Peony or Paeonia lactiflora. In Chinese medicine the roots of the peony are used to treat gastric and intestinal disorders.