One of my goals for this year is to slowly get our family eating healthier, more natural foods. Rather than take an all-or-nothing approach, which never ends up working well for us, I’m making just a couple small changes each month, so by the end of the year they should all add up! After 9 months or so of convenience foods and eating out, January’s goals were to get back to making a meal plan for the month and stay within our grocery budget. For February, I added another 3 items to the list: buy organic chicken (we already do a lot of organic veggies and dairy, but no meat yet), start making kefir again (we had done so for a year in NYC), and try kombucha tea for the first time.
The kefir was easy, since I’d made it successfully before. I ordered my grains from a seller on Amazon, and when they arrived I popped them into a pint-sized mason jar with a cup of milk, and let them do their thing. The first couple batches took several days each and I tossed them, but now after nearly 2 weeks, they are growing nicely and making kefir we are using for smoothies.
The kombucha tea has been much more of an adventure! I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but I’ve heard enough people talking about its probiotic, anti-oxidant, and detoxing properties that I wanted to try it out. It’s scary, though. This doesn’t really look like something you want to DRINK, does it?
And here’s another shot of that um, interesting looking stuff floating on top of my jar of tea.
What you’re looking at there is a SCOBY, which is an acronym for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. Sounds delish, no? The SCOBY I ordered through the mail was a thick, uniformly creamy-colored disk that while it didn’t look exactly edible, it didn’t look as weird as that thing up there. That’s what I started this batch with. You can’t see it in the photos because it’s directly under the new baby SCOBY you see there. The instructions that came with it said I should be able to see a new one forming around day 3 of fermenting. I didn’t see anything until at least day 7. I figured it just needed to recover from being shipped or something, so I let it go another week, and ended up with that photo up there.
Upon removing it from the jar, it was surprisingly solid, even though it looks like a layer of slime. I’m currently using that baby SCOBY to make our second batch.
Here is our first batch of kombucha tea after it was strained into a pitcher:
We tasted it, and it tastes…mostly like vinegar, lol. My theory is that I let it ferment too long, because I was waiting for the new SCOBY to form on top. We went ahead and bottled it in some Ikea Korken bottles, and experimented with flavoring 2 of them: one with some diced strawberries, and the other with some whole frozen blueberries. Here are the bottles. The tea looks a lot nicer in this state than it did above, except for the floating chunks of fruit. If we keep this up, I’ll look for some organic frozen juice concentrates or something to flavor them with.
We let them sit out for 2 days like this, then popped them in the fridge. We’ve tasted the 2 flavored ones, and with the strawberry one I can see a lot of potential. Yes, it’s too vinegary, but it’s drinkable. I think a shorter ferment time will make a nice strawberry kombucha tea. The blueberry flavor none of us could drink. My guess is there’s not enough sweetness in the berries to overcome the vinegary flavor of the tea. We’ll give that flavor one more try as well.
Our batch #2 will hit the 7 day mark tomorrow afternoon. We’re going to stop fermenting it and bottle it then, and see how much of a difference that makes in the taste. I’m hoping it’s much better the second time around! I’ll let y’all know how it turns out.
If and when we get this down, I’m interested in learning to make and use other kinds of fermented foods as well. The only other fermented food I’ve made besides kefir and now kombucha tea is sauer kraut, which turns out really tasty! What fermented foods do you make, and why do you make them? Or if you haven’t tried any yet, which ones, if any, are you interested in trying? I’d love to know!