Adventures in Fermentation

Obviously, kombucha is a wonderful thing …

201206021323.jpg

… though a worryingly large financial investment at $5ish per bottle.

I’ve always known that kombucha was possible to make at home, but I’ve been consistently scared to try it. I remember the first time I heard about kombucha. Ages ago, my old roommate Tara showed me the Fall 2007 Edible Brooklyn article all about the process of making it from scratch. The people who did it sounded like they were part of a cult, all praising the beauty and life of the “mother” culture, this pancake of bacteria that was responsible for the immortality of the beverage.

Despite my misgivings, I couldn’t help but feel tempted when I saw a flyer last month for a kombucha workshop to be held at Common Crow, the local natural foods store. I attended said workshop, and I left when the hour was up with my very own $25 kombucha kit, consisting of a gallon jar, a bag of organic raw sugar, 4 organic black tea bags, and a test tube full of kombucha “scoby,” the baby starter culture. I followed instructions to boil 3 cups of water with 1 cup of sugar and steep the tea bags for several minutes in the resulting syrup.

I poured the hot tea syrup into the gallon jar, filled the rest with water, dropped the scoby in, and covered the top with a napkin and dishtowel. I placed it in the sunniest spot I could find in the apartment:

IMG_8275

(It really did wonders for my decor.)

The workshop leader said it would take about a week for the mushroom to cover the top, at which point the real fermentation could commence. The scoby spent some time growing and spreading over the bottom of the jar …

IMG_8276

… and I saw the beginnings of the “mushroom” growing over the top of the jar as expected.

Here it is after 10 days:

IMG_8286

At three weeks on the nose, after a crazy long day involving a treacherous and endless car commute for a training halfway across the state, I arrived home and saw the glowing beacon of kombucha and remembered that it was time.

IMG_8363

I gingerly removed the towel covering the top, took a whiff of the apple cider vinegar-esque aroma, and peered inside.

IMG_8364

Promising! You can sort of see the thickness of the mushroom covering the top:

IMG_8365

I stuck a stainless steel spoon inside and used it to lift the “mother” off the top:

IMG_8373

It was definitely thicker than expected. I tried to peel the two halves apart, as suggested during the workshop, but they did not want to separate. And the whole thing was sort of quivering (!!!) in my hands as I pulled, so I decided it really wanted to stay together and left well enough alone.

The fungus went into an empty almond butter jar in enough kombucha juice to cover it until I’m ready to make another batch, and the rest was ready for consumption.

IMG_8376

(The next batch will only take two weeks because the mother is already formed and perfectly sized to cover the top of the jar.)

Since the acidity of the kombucha is purported to leech unsavory chemicals from plastic and metal, the kombucha is best stored in glass. I found a tutorial online that suggested buying a six-pack of little glass seltzer bottles and re-using them for easier portability, so that’s what I did!

In the process, I discovered that a kombucha-club soda spritzer is delightful, so to speed along the bottling, I experimented with a number of soda: kombucha ratios.

Here they are in varying degrees of club soda dilution:

IMG_8444

Erik had to work fast in order to empty enough bottles for me …

IMG_8447

… but he also got to reap the rewards via a bottomless glass of kombucha spritzer.

IMG_8449

End result? A stocked fridge and the promise of a wonderfully balanced digestive system.

IMG_8451

I feel like a real, live kitchen scientist. Maybe tofu will be next?

Advertisements

Vale la pena

My door-to-door commute from Gloucester to Chelsea takes an hour and a half. Spending this amount of time in transit twice a day may seem like a waste to some, but I enjoy it for a number of reasons. I can walk to the commuter rail from my apartment, and I can walk to work from the commuter rail. I can catch up on reading and lost sleep.

And I can see these gorgeous morning views out the train window (unless it’s grey and rainy like it has been for the past five days):

IMG_8253 IMG_8254 IMG_8256

Apparently, the train also allows me random celebrity sightings on a Thursday morning in no-name MA towns:

IMG_8224 IMG_8233 IMG_8235

Good morning to you, too, Adam Sandler!

The other thing paying off around here is a certain low-wage organic farming apprenticeship:

IMG_8252IMG_8248IMG_8287

And that’s not even the half of it. Who needs money when your man gets paid in vegetables? 😛

Welcome home.

Hi, long-lost blog! I’m here to catch you up a bit on our latest round of adventure. We last left off at the conclusion of Nicaragua, with Erik more interested than ever in farming …

img_6012

… and me more interested than ever in babies!

IMG_7048 copy

So … we bought a farm and had a baby!!!

JOKE! We did not buy a farm, nor did we have a baby. I’d say both of those endeavors are still quite a bit out of our price range.

Instead, we spent several months at my mom’s house in Massachusetts, giving me the opportunity to rediscover the beauty of my state and even my hometown, something I definitely took for granted while growing up here.

We enjoyed outdoor music festivals

DSCN0913

… scenic walks around my surprisingly charming and very New England hometown …

IMG_7421 IMG_7422

… my mom’s four cats, for whom my allergies dissipated after a couple weeks of 24/7 exposure …

IMG_7489

… local parades …

IMG_0862

… random wild turkeys on the roof …

IMG_7503

… some of the best music ever at my dad’s coffeehouse

Screen shot 2012-06-02 at 10.21.39 AM.png Screen shot 2012-06-02 at 10.23.25 AM.png

(The Steel Wheels, Jake Armerding, & Mark Erelli …. Go see them all! More photos in real size here.)

… pumpkin carving with Wife and Ted …

IMG_0182

… the serious business of Christmas cookie decoration with Wife …

IMG_1149IMG_1159

… and the list goes on.

We also took advantage of our time off to squeeze in some family visiting, with an incredible deal on flights to San Francisco, where I got to visit with my siblings and rapidly growing cutest nieces in the world (who have since been joined by an equally cute little sister, baby Jasmine) …

IMG_7412

… and a trip to Austin to visit with some of Erik’s family and see the Texan sights …

IMG_7629IMG_7722

… and then it was time to get to work!

We found new jobs and a new city. Entering Gloucester, MA (and surrounds):

history.Good morning, Gloucester!

Motif #1, Rockport:

Rockport. (thought i was so photographically talented taking this picture ... and then i realized it's something like the most photographed/painted view ever. still pretty.)

Ocean Lawn, Coolidge Reservation:

IMG_7947

Ravenswood Park:

IMG_7957

Local chocolates:

IMG_7972 IMG_7987

Locally brewed beer:

IMG_7992 IMG_7997

My own arugula patch in the scrap of ground on the side of our building:

IMG_8012

Stage Fort Park:

IMG_8016

Pavilion Beach:

IMG_8035

Downtown Gloucester:

IMG_8042

Welcome home 😀

Mood lighting.