Kombucha!

My apparatus: New tea brewing on the left, 2 different types of bottles I've collected for home-brews, and the 2-qt jar I use as a fermentation vessel, with the remainder of the finished kombucha waiting for the tea to come to room temp. The SCOBY is in the plastic lid in front, and there's the straw I use for sampling.

My apparatus: New tea brewing on the left, home-brew bottles, and the 2-qt jar I use as a fermentation vessel (with the remainder of the finished kombucha waiting for the tea to come to room temp). The SCOBY is in the plastic lid in front, and there’s the straw I use for sampling.

I’d been thinking of trying kombucha for a little while, but I didn’t know anyone who made it, so I would have had to actually leave the house to buy some, or else send away for a SCOBY, and I’m entirely too lazy/cheap for those options. Heh.

But then, at a friend’s Solstice party, I noticed a jar with a towel rubber-banded to the top. Hmm. Sure enough, kombucha! So she set me up. I’m still pretty new at the whole thing, but it tastes yummy and purportedly even has health benefits.

Here’s how I do it.

For a gallon of kombucha, you need:

a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast)

6 black tea bags (regular or decaf)*

a cup of white sugar**

and of course, a gallon of water.

Brew your sweet tea, let it cool, add the SCOBY, cover with a towel secured to the top, and wait. It’ll take about a week, but you can taste it to see how sweet or dry it is. When it tastes how you want, it’s done. Take the SCOBY out (along with 1/4 to 1/3 of the finished kombucha, for the next batch), pour the brew into whatever container you’ll store it in, and put it in the fridge. If you leave it on the counter, it’ll grow a new SCOBY, and continue to ferment. (And it’s REALLY WEIRD to feel a newly formed SCOBY in your mouth! Bleaahh!)

SCOBY close-up

SCOBY close-up

If your fermenting container is smaller than a gallon, just use proportionally smaller amounts. I use a 2-qt mason jar, but I’m on the lookout for a larger dispenser-type jar with a spigot on the bottom. SCOBYs don’t like metal, so use only glass, wood, or plastic to handle the SCOBY or what it will be in contact with. The SCOBY will add a layer on top for every new batch, so when it gets too thick, just peel off the bottom & toss it. Or give it to a friend! The SCOBY will take the shape of the top of whatever container you use. It may sink in a new batch of tea, but even if the old SCOBY stays at the bottom, the new one will form at the top.

To taste it as it ferments, stick a plastic drinking straw down the side, plug the top with your finger, and empty it into your mouth or a glass. I like mine fairly dry, some like it sweeter. It’ll taste more & more like vinegar as time passes, because the yeast takes the sugar, turns it to alcohol, and then the bacteria takes the alcohol and turns it to acetic acid, aka distilled vinegar.

The finished kombucha can be treated a number of different ways– it’s really good with fruit in it, or grated fresh ginger, or you can do a secondary ferment for more bubbles. If it’s still pretty sweet, just put it into a stoppered bottle for 24 hours on the counter, or if you let it get fairly dry add some sugar before stopping the bottle. The residual yeast will make the carbonation for you. Once it’s bubbly, refrigerate, or you could end up with broken glass all over your kitchen. Hasn’t happened to me yet, but I don’t doubt it could if I weren’t careful.

And enjoy!

*For a couple batches I added a lemon-ginger tea bag, but I couldn’t really taste the additional flavors once it was done fermenting. My friend also told me that it’s only black tea that has the right nutrients for the SCOBY– you can combine it with green tea, but there has to be black tea in there somewhere or the SCOBY will get too weak.

**White sugar is it for this stuff. Other sweeteners won’t work, apparently. I haven’t done any experiments yet to try out other kinds of sugar, though. Maybe someday.

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The White Canadian

Big Lebowski fan here. It had been a few years since I’d watched it and so I snapped it up when I saw it on the shelf at the library a couple of weeks ago. (Seemed like an odd match for the library, but who am I to question these things?). And to stay thematic and all of that, I love to sip a White Russian (or two) while I watch. However. I was out of coffee liqueur. What’s a duder to do?

Now, before I get to the bev recipe here, let me pause to share the sub-recipe for coffee maple syrup as well as the story behind it.

So, my fridge often looks like a mad scientist’s lab—jars full of iced teas, cold coffee, leftover miscellaneous, various liquids steeping and awaiting a culinary experiment–all often lacking labels, because I’ll remember, right? And, in the springtime, often a mason jar of maple syrup. Such was the case one fateful day when I made The Best Mistake Ever and I poured some leftover coffee in a jar containing not more coffee, but pure maple syrup, about a cupful.

Here’s what I posted on Facebook after the incident:

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“This is the single greatest culinary mistake I’ve ever made and you should try it:
1. Accidentally combine 1 part maple syrup with about 2-3 parts brewed coffee.
2. Curse the loss of maple syrup!!
3. Stop and think….
4. Simmer the stuff for a couple hours until reduced by half or a little more.
5. Super yummy coffee maple syrup to pour over everything. ”

It’s seriously awesome stuff. Really, I can’t think of much of anything that wouldn’t be better with the addition of this amazing concoction. Make it.

I have made it a couple of times since the accidental batch and I would recommend condensing down the coffee a bit before adding the syrup. This gets rid of some of the water and intensifies the coffee flavor.

What I do is boil the coffee till reduced by about a third (this is a great use for that old nasty coffee that’s been sitting on the hotplate for 2 hours) and then add about half the volume of maple syrup (so, that’s about a 2:1 coffee:syrup ratio, but definitely adjust to your tastes).
Heat the mix through till it thickens very slightly, but not too much or it will be sludgy when it cools. Cool it down, store it in the fridge, and pour it over and in everything.

Ok, to the cocktail!

Since I was lacking coffee liqueur but had a plentiful supply of coffee maple syrup, so was born the White Canadian:

Whole milk (or half-and-half or cream)
Coffee maple syrup
Vodka
Ice

I didn’t measure anything out because it’s all what you’re in the mood for regarding sweetness, creaminess, booziness… Just stir it up–no frills here.

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Abide, eh?

Mo’ Lime Mojito

It’s mojito season and here’s my tried and true version. It’s minty, tart, boozy and perfect for summer. Not at all the syrupy concoction you might get at the ol bar n grill.
Recipe first, then technique.
1 part each of:
Mint simple syrup
Freshly squeezed lime juice
White rum
Plus, a splash of club soda
Garnish with mint leaves

Start by making the mint simple syrup.
Use
1 part sugar
(Any kind you like…you can geek out at this point if you’d like:
~ granulated works perfectly
~superfine works the same as granulated, but faster
~raw or brown changes the color of the final syrup and drink, but gives it a deeper, more sinister taste…)
1 part water,
as much mint as you want
My typical batch is 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, and about 15 mint sprigs.

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Bring the sugar and water to a simmer in a saucepan over med-hi heat first till it starts to bubble, then tap it down to med-low. Stir or swirl occasionally to melt the sugar.
Pick the mint leaves off the stem and tear them into smaller pieces before you add them to the simmering syrup. Let it simmer till the syrup changes color and smells minty, but before it thickens too much.
Take it off the heat and let it cool. Once it’s cool, you can use it and then keep the rest in the fridge for up to a few weeks.
You can make this without heat too, but it takes much longer for the mint to infuse the syrup.

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Now, squeeze some limes.
You could use bottled lime juice at this point, but only if you want a crappy mojito and/or you’re desperate and the lime shortage scare has re-reared it’s ugly head.
Otherwise, get reaming.
It helps to have your limes at room temp first (microwave for a few seconds if they’re right from the fridge) and to squish them on the counter with the heal of your hand before you slice and juice them.

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Ok, ready to assemble the bev!

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Put ice in the glass, then one part lime juice, one part syrup, and one part rum. Stir gently and top off with club soda. Garnish with a few mint leaves and enjoy!
As with everything, it’s all to taste, (and if your syrup thickened a little too much, you may need to use less) so play around with the proportions and see what you like.
Some easy modifications I’ve done:
~add some strawberry purée (or any other fruit purée) with the lime juice
~use frozen blueberries instead of (or in addition to) ice cubes

Cheers!

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