Suddenly Summer, All Kinds of Kombucha

She blinked, and it was summer.

Forgive me, readers, for I have sinned.  I have been neglectful.  Negligent.  Busy.  Bad.  Distracted by referring to myself in the third person.  Here’s what’s been up, in no particular order:

Working.  Saving.  Lamenting.  (See first.)  Driving.  Moving.  Wedding.  Travelling.  Family.  More working.  Drinking kombucha.  Researching kombucha.  Brewing kombucha.  Exploding kombucha (more on this later).  Planting.  Growing.  Watering.  Weeding.  Writing.  Submitting writing.  Waiting.  Weeping.  Plotting.  Planning.  Repeating.

So much to tell.

I’ll start with the kombucha thing.

Note the fizz at the top.  And the cherries.  Those cherries will come back to haunt us later on.
Note the fizz at the top.  And the cherries.  Those cherries will come back to haunt us later on.

Recipe to follow in the future, although I’ll specify that I’ve only been kombuchaing since mid May.  It began thus:

Back in late February, a friend offered me a kombucha plant.  She’d just let me sample a glass of her own home brew.  Hmm, vinegary, I thought, as I nibble-sipped, unsure of what to make of the tart, murky liquid.  I’m usually willing to give anything new (excluding group participation and or public displays of rhythm) a try, but I wasn’t sure what to make of the taste.  Apple cider vinegar isn’t usually a flavour I crave, and the prospect of having to tend the kombucha plant raised fears of a high maintenance kitchen pet curtailing my vacation plans, forcing me to spend Saturday nights slow-feeding it drops of syrup and nuzzling its rubbery head.

Still, intrigued by kombucha, a fermented beverage product made with tea, sugar, and the help of an existing kombucha plant, aka scoby, I set out to give it another try.  The health foodstore was more than happy to sell me a single-serving bottle for $4 (on sale).  I gathered ginger for me, mango for the fella, and was hooked.  Fizzy, light, still slightly tart, and virtually sugar-free (3 grams per 16 ounces), it rivaled a moderately good dry ginger beer for flavour satisfaction.  The apple cider vinegar tang was present but pleasant, the ginger zippy.  At a work social, I downed three glasses, and had energy until 10 that night.  (This was a one-time thing, as many sources recommend limiting to 8 ounces a day, so don’t be lured into kombucha-fueled all-nighters by me.)

When I next saw my friend, I took her up on her offer of a scoby.  From its cocoon of a crock pot base, nested with electric heating pads and kitchen towels, she produced a glass jar half full of kombucha, accompanied by several layers of what appeared to be a disk-shaped colony of spooning jellyfish, floating peacefully on top.  One risk-taker drifted diagonally towards the bottom of the jar.  What was I getting myself into?

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I soon found out.  With clean hands, I was instructed to reach in and grab the scobies.  I’ll leave you to experiment with your own scoby and draw your own conclusions as to exactly what it feels like, but I will hint that the texture is disturbingly intimate and embarrassingly human.  Firm, fleshy, and distinctly mucous-membrane-inspired, the colony then had to be separated out.  I took the bottom two layers, along with buddy, the odd-shaped drifter.  My plants were housed in a ziplock bag, in a bath of kombucha.

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My strange, rubbery new pet.

I took them home.  By midnight, my first batch was stashed near the water heater.  After a day or so, bubbles and something I’ll lovingly describe as scum began to form on the top of the liquid.  Within days, my very own baby scoby had formed, urged on by the mothers my friend kindly provided.  Five days in, I poured the kombucha into screw-top bottles, grated an obscenity of ginger in, and set them aside for a second ferment.  After a week and a half of exploring the true meaning of delayed gratification, I got into the kombucha.

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That first batch wasn’t fizzy (a problem that would vanish with subsequent batches), but it was delicious.  I was hooked.  No more $3.50 to $5 bottles from opportunistic stores that know there are suckers for health fads.  I could make my own.

Fast forward a month and a half to today.  As I write, I sip on questionably alcoholic cherry kombucha, made in swing-top bottles that yield a fizz to rival champagne or shaken soda.

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Sampling the cherry kombucha.

I’m experimenting with the first step of my kombucha happening on the slightly-lit kitchen counter instead of a dark room, giving the plant access to a little natural daylight.  I’ve tried keeping the kombucha, at second-ferment stage, in a cupboard right next to the oven.  I’ve learned the hard way that, brewing in summer, you’d better burp your swing-top bottles starting after one day, or risk the wrath of high pressure moonshine (projectile cherries, anyone?  Who likes a fountain of carrot-ginger kombucha all over their light-coloured walls?  No one?  No?).

Should it taste like cherry brandy?
Should it taste like cherry brandy?

This week’s brew flavours include date vanilla, pimento ginger, and ginger blueberry.  Far from a kombucha expert, I’m taking baby steps.  Learning to burp the kombucha.  In this, and in other things, things I thought I was much more versed in.  But more on that next time.

Drinking it anyway.
Drinking it anyway.
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Behold the fizz.  Summer’s best.
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3 Comments Add yours

  1. CH says:

    Sounds yummy! Can it be shared with children? I better inwestigate! I can see samples being taken (no not given) when my back is turned.

    1. thehardheadvegan says:

      Shared with children…hmm! Um…am I on record here? (Looks around sheepishly.)
      Since it’s fermented, kombucha naturally has a small amount of alcohol present (0.5% to 1% seems typical for home brews, but you’d have to test it to confirm the amount in each batch). So…I suppose it depends on the child. Maybe not shared with children on Super Hyper Already Had Kool-Aid & Sugar Nuggets day! Also, some sources suggest keeping kombucha consumption low to start (2 oz daily), and not going over 8 oz daily, so if you stick to that, the chances of anyone over knee height getting any tipsier on it than they would on a slightly overripe peach seem relatively low. Of course, everybody reading this should bear in mind that I don’t have kids and haven’t babysat since 2003, so use your own judgment 🙂

  2. CH says:

    Ah yes. The blackberries are late this year. Now could be the time to start kombucha-ing!

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