Whole Food Adventures: Kombucha

Kombucha is an ancient drink, made from fermenting tea with acetobacters and yeast. Most people refer to the culture as a “mushroom”, but biologically speaking, it’s actually a zoogleal mat. The process of making Kombucha has its roots traced back to China as early as the 250 CE (though this is only the first recorded reference), and the process is heavily akin to that which is used to make wine-based vinegars, though typically the tea is not allowed to ferment long enough to become full vinegar.

Making the tea is amazingly simple. You take a small sample of old Kombucha. The starter seems mostly to keep the culture alive between batches, but a lot of what I read suggests that at least a pint of starter should be used when you want a total of a gallon of Kombucha, others seem to suggest as much as a quart. Due to the small amount of starter culture that came with our mat, we’re beginning with a quart, also so we can determine if we actually want to continue to drink this.

So, why are we drinking Kombucha? Well, there are claims that it aids in Liver Detoxification, but virtually no scientific study of the drink has been done. They know it hasn’t caused toxicity problems in rats, though researches have expressed that care should be taken with Kombucha and other medications, though frankly anything that you consume could potentially mess with medication. Ultimately, though, we’re looking at it as a nice tart, carbonated drink, that doesn’t contain a large amount of sugar. Modern soft-drinks contain some pretty nasty stuff, so having a nice refreshing alternative can’t possibly hurt.

I didn’t get any pictures of the making, but literally, it involved adding some water and sugar to pot, bringing it to a boil, and then adding tea bags (we used four tea bags for a quart). We used a basic Lipton black tea, and there was only about a third of a cup of sugar in the water as it boiled. Once the tea was near room temperature, we added it to a quart mason-jar, and poured in the culture we bought off the Internet. Within 24-hours, the culture has sunk near the bottom of the jar, and I suspect in a day or two we’ll see a new culture forming on the surface. This is one of the cooler parts of Kombucha, we’ll always have a culture since we get a new one for each batch we brew.

Feelings on the brew will be next week.

As for last week’s post, on the Buttermilk, I believe we made an error when we made the Buttermilk the first time. I think we over-filled our Mason jar, so we weren’t able to see when the Buttermilk had begun to “separate” as the instructions said. Because of this, we left it on the counter for almost four days. It still was usable, but it was considerably thicker than I believe it was intended to be. As an explanation of its consistency, it poured like a thick, viscous ooze, and if I put a knife into it, the knife had virtually no residue on it when I pulled it out.

That’s not to say it wasn’t good stuff. We made Buttermilk Biscuits and Pancakes over the last week, and while soaking the flour in the buttermilk was basically a lost cause, since the buttermilk didn’t flow and penetrate the flour, they were still really tasty, and the slight tartness of the buttermilk was a fantastic flavor in these baked goods. We’re ready to start a new batch, and this time, I think things will go much better.