I am having a lot of fun here making my first fermented food, rich in bacteria and yeasts that are great for my digestive tract, immune system and just about any aspect of health you can think of.
I’ve been advising on probiotics for many years and have just been writing in Healthy Food Guide all about the benefits and virtues of probiotics. But what I reckon will be the next culinary wave are cultured or fermented foods, which contain high levels of these probiotic bacteria and yeasts. So I knew it was about time I started to make my own.
There are all sorts of these traditional foods / drinks and my first experiment is making Kombucha drink. This was originally from North East China and is like a fizzy, slightly sweet tea or think of it as a bit like champagne! Now that’s very appealing.
And the idea is to enjoy some of these foods / drinks each day.
You can make your own starter culture but I bought mine on line. Kombucha culture is called a ‘scoby’. Once you have your starter culture, you should be able to keep making new batches of drink as your culture grows.
It is fascinating to watch grow. From starting off looking like a piece of rubber, the culture called a ‘mother’ scoby grew another, which is called a ‘baby’ or ‘daughter’ and is either attached or separate.
The scoby can settle on the bottom or top of the liquid. My ‘mother’ scoby sits on the bottom but the baby daughter seems to like sitting on top of the tea!
- 1 x glass jar with a wide neck holding just over 3 litres
- Piece of cloth/ muslin/ paper towels to cover top of glass jar with elastic band
- 3 x 1 litre glass jars with lids (preferably not metal lids)
- 3 litres of boiling water (ideally non chlorinated water)
- 1 large mixing bowl that can hold 3 litres
- 8 tea bags – regular black tea is best
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 Kombucha culture starter e.g. Sunbucha starter kit from Eternal Delight in New Zealand.
- Boil 3 litres of non chlorinated water.
- Place in a bowl or the large 3 litre glass jar.
- Add tea bags and sugar. Stir gently to dissolve sugar.
- Leave to cool completely then remove the tea bags.
- Add the Kombucha starter culture.
- Cover with a piece of cloth/ muslin or paper towel and secure with elastic band.
- Leave somewhere cool in the house ideally at about 18 0 C.
- Do not disturb and leave for about 7 to 14 days. Depending on how warm the house is, the kombucha culture will grow more quickly in the warmth and summer, slower in the winter.
- Taste it at about 7 days by pouring a little out gently.
- It should be a nice balance between sweet and sharp
- Then carefully pour the kombucha into 1 litre jars. Leave 2 cm space at the top for any gas and expansion.
- Keep 1 cup of the kombucha back to store the scoby in or to start the next batch.
- Place lids on the jars and then store in the kitchen for a further 2 or 3 days to generate more fizz. This is the stage you can flavour it with different fruits or fruit tea bags but I haven’t experimented with this yet.
- After 2 days when you have the desired fizz, then store in the fridge to stop the fermentation. Kombucha will keep for weeks to months this way.
- Carefully slide the scoby or scobies onto a plate or into a bowl with the 1 cup of kombucha you have kept back.
- Wash the 3 litre jar and then start again with your freshly made 3 litres of boiled then cooled water, sugar and tea.
- If you have 2 scobies now, you can start 2 different batches of kombucha. But because my baby scoby was rather small the first time, I read that it is good to put it in with the mother for the next batch of kombucha, until the baby is bigger!
- When the mother scoby gets very dark brown, she is best to finish with and put out on your compost.
I found the pictures and advice on this website really helpful to see how the Kombucha should look at each stage.