Kombucha Chronicles: Something is Brewing

Now that you are all set with your very own home-grown scoby, it’s time to start brewing kombucha tea. This first step is to brew some regular sweet tea and then ferment it.

What you need

  • water
  • 1 gallon glass jar*, very clean
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 8 bags of black tea
  • 2 cups of mother-brewing liquid (or store-bought kombucha)
  • 1 scoby
  • a tea towel and elastic

*I bought this one from amazon.ca because it has a spigot at the bottom for easy pouring.

What you do

  1. Measure out a bit less than a gallon by filling your jar to about 80% with water. Pour the water in a large pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Stir in the sugar, then drop in the tea bags.
  3. After about 10 minutes (longer for stronger tea), remove the tea bags and allow the tea to completely cool.
  4. Sir in the kombucha liquid, then pour the whole thing into your jar.
  5. With a clean hand, slide in the scoby so she floats at the top of the jar (it’s okay if she tilts or sinks a little).
  6. Cover with a cloth and seal with the rubber band. Store in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight where it will not get jostled.
  7. Wait (watch how your little mother grows!) and start tasting your tea after 7 days. The tea will go from sweet to tart as it ferments, so find a balance that pleases you.
  8. Pour out your kombucha into a clean glass pitcher. Reserve 2 cups of the liquid to start your next batch
  9. With clean hands, remove the mother and park her on a clean plate. If she is getting very thick, you can remove a bottom layer.
  10. To start the next batch of kombucha, clean out your fermenting jar and go back to step 1.

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The next step in making your first batch of tea is to add flavouring. The good news is that this second fermentation only takes a few days.

What you need

  • seal-able glass or plastic vessels
  • flavouring*

*There are really no wrong answers here. Flavour the tea with whatever fruits and/or herbs you have on hand or fancy at the time. I had some pineapple in the fridge and some mint in the garden. It sounded like a good summertime combo. I’m calling it the piña komjito. TM

What you do

  1. Cut up the fruit very finely, something between a dice and a mince. The larger the surface area, the more yummy flavour will steep into the tea. 
  2. Add about 2 cups of flavouring to the gallon of tea and seal. 
  3. If using glass bottles or jars, it’s a good idea to contain them in a cooler or other bin. If too much carbonation happens too quickly, there is a chance the glass will shatter.
  4. Wait 1 to 3 days for the flavour to infuse.

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Only one more step to go! In a few days you will be drinking your delicious home made kombucha. The third and final step is to carbonate the tea.

What you need

  • seal-able glass or plastic drinking vessels
  • a strainer

What you do

  1. Strain your kombucha to separate it from the flavouring agents.
  2. Pour into bottles (these can be the same one you used for the second ferment -just washed out- or smaller serving sized containers) and seal.
  3. Again, if using glass, place in a cooler to contain possible explosions.
  4. Wait 1 to 3 days to build up carbonation.
  5. A baby scoby may form on the surface (just like when we made our own mother!). Just scoop out and discard.

third ferment

That’s it! The kombucha is ready to drink. Keep the bottles in the fridge (to stop further fermentation) and consume within a month.

pina komjito

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So far Liam and I are loving having our own almost-limitless source of kombucha; although we are restricting ourselves to half a bottle a day each. We haven’t been buying any from the store as ours is just as good, much less expensive, and (surprisingly) simple to make! For the next batch I will play around for a few different flavours so that we have some variety at home too.

I hope you enjoyed following along while I chronicled my kombucha journey. If you are not inspired to get your own symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast working for you at home, maybe you’re at least more likely to give a store-bough bottle a try. I guarantee your tummies and your taste buds will thank you. Happy brewing!

Komboucha Chronicles: Magicking up a Mother

You don’t need a lot to make a batch of kombucha; all it takes is water, sugar, tea, and a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. What, you don’t have symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast? Don’t worry, we’re going to grow one.

It’s called a SCOBY for short, but can also be known as the Mother or the Mushroom. It is not in anyway a mushroom but a colony of bacteria and yeast that live in harmony together, eating sugar and turning it into the acids, vitamins, and enzymes that make kombucha so tasty and healthy. A scoby looks like a nasty gewy pancake:

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my home-grown 2 week old scoby

You can buy a scoby on the internet, beg one from a booch-brewing friend, or you can grow one at home from a bottle of store-bought kombucha, like me!

It’s like the “I’m gonna leave this at the back of the fridge” science experiment you always wanted to conduct as a kid but your mum would make you throw out just as your results were getting interesting. Oh, did you not attempt gross science experiments as a kid? Okay then, its like a magic trick.

What you need:

  • 1 bottle of store bought kombucha with a lot of sediment
    (you can drink the top 2/3s)  
  • water
  • organic black tea
  • white sugar
  • a mason jar, a dish cloth, a rubber band
  • a belief in magic or science (preferably both)

What you do: 

  • bring 1 cup of water to boil, remove from heat
  • add 2 tablespoons of white sugar, stir to dissolve
  • add 2 bags of organic black tea
  • remove tea bags after about 5 min
  • cool completely, pour into a clean glass jar
  • add kombucha  tea
  • cover with a cloth and seal with the rubber band
  • wait & watch as your scoby grows until 1/4 inch thick
    (between 1 and 2 weeks)

SCOBYAnd just like that, I have my very own kombucha Mother! This little scoby is going to make me a whole lot of delicious bubbly healthy goodness. All it will take is a bit more time, tea, and a plethora of microbial fermentation, oxidation, and cellulose synthesis reactions! … I mean *magic*.

mother, top and bottom

TIP: rinse your hands with distilled white vinegar when handling the Mother to keep her clean and healthy. You can rinse your jar with vinegar too.

 

 

 

 

 

Kombucha Chronicles: Drinking the Fermented Tea

Our booch habit has been developing for a long time. My husband and I had our first taste at a yoga & meditation convention in Toronto over a year ago. We both enjoy a good hot yoga session now and then, but we aren’t subscribers to the holistic and spiritual aspects of the New Age lifestyle. Whatever, we had free tickets and it was something to do.

Feeling very uncomfortable with the crystals, chanting workshops, and no-touching “massages” on offer, we proceeded to eat our way through the convention, taking every free sample we could get our hands on. Hooray for food! -the great equalizer.

One sample presented was a tiny plastic cup of cold tea called Kombucha (pronounce: com-boo-cha). It was good. We politely chatted with the proprietor and learnt that it was made via a fermentation process vaguely similar to making hard cider, but that something about the microbes used meant that the resulting beverage was not alcoholic but actually full of incredible health benefits. This is when we smiled and slowly backed away.

Months later while grocery shopping, Liam spots a glass bottle near the register labelled kombucha. Feeling thirsty and slightly under the weather, my always-sticks-to-the-list-and-never-impulse-buys accountant husband actually grabs it, spends $3.99 on it, and brings it home.

We were hooked. It is delicious. It’s bubbly and not too sweet. Over time we try all the flavours and each find our favourite flavour. Sharing a bottle becomes our weekly shopping-trip treat. One week it’s on sale so we buy two bottles. It’s never on sale again but we keep buying two bottles. We start going to other stores just to find different brands and flavours of kombucha to try. After a while we notice that our digestive health has never been better, and if we skip a week things in our tummies start to go funny.

We keep saying that we have to cut back on the kombucha because it’s too expensive. But we don’t want to cut back! We want more kombucha. Maybe a small glass every morning, or a refreshing, restorative cup after a stressful day at work. We never want to drink pop again. We start inventing flavours we wish existed. We get excited when we meet anyone who has ever heard of it before and fly into high-pitched allocution about kombucha awesomeness to anyone who will listen. We are utterly and irrevocably in love. There is no going back.

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follow me on Instagram!

So here I am, the girl who rolled her eyes at the very idea of a pro-biotic elixir discovered by the Tsin dynasty and used for thousands of years, attempting to make the stuff in my kitchen. What choice do I have?

Thanks to the wonderful, cooperative, sharing nature of the New Age on-line community, the process for home-made kombucha is no secret. From all I’ve read out there it seems desperately simple and the scientist in me is incredibly excited to conduct this experiment.

So join me as I chronicle my journey from closed-minded consumer to liberated home-brew kombucha goddess. Namaste everyone.

Best Summer Appetiser {Endive Boats}

best summer appetiser

As invitations to summer BBQs start rolling in, I find myself turning to this go-to favourite to bring as the perfect appetiser / side dish / whatever.

It’s light, refreshing, and super easy to throw together.

What You Need
Boursin cheese (any flavour, but I like basil)
endives
pecans
honey

What You Do
Slicing off the root of an endive, start peeling away the leaves. You will need to keep slicing at the root-end to be able to gently remove each layer. I like to keep the leaves all about the same size, so I’ll only use the first few layers of four or five endives (and save the rest for salad).

The rest is pretty basic; spoon on the Boursin, top with a pecan, and drizzle with honey. Voila!

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There is so much yum going on with these. The spicy of the endive balanced with the creamy of the cheese, plus the earthy flavour of the herbs and the double-shot of sweetness from the pecan and honey. They are also pretty and easy to eat.

I’m sure there are dozens of equally delicious variations (I’m thinking cream cheese + smoked salmon + dill, or goat cheese + pomegranate + black pepper, et cetera) so have fun and don’t stress about what to bring to your next BBQ. Just get out there and start enjoying summer!

Holiday Prep Cooking Day

How to Make Five Recipes in One Day

As promised in my Christmas Pledge, I spent yesterday locked in my kitchen, making 2 appetizer and 3 cookie recipes to freeze in preparation of the Holidays. I made:

  • Stuffed Mushroom Caps
  • g
    Gougères
  • mm
    Mint Meringues
  • goc
    Ginger Orange Cookies
  • gb
    Gingerbread

To make the most of my day, I scheduled these recipes into 12 steps that make the most efficient use of my mixer, oven, and freezer time.

Step 1 {Prep your unique ingredients}
Measuring things like flour and sugar is easy to do as you go, but chopping and softening butter needs to happen now. 

Stuffed Mushroom Cups: Finely dice 120g pancetta, ⅓c red pepper, and ¼c red onion, mince 2 cloves of garlic, shred ½c Cheddar cheese, remove stems from 50 mushrooms and finely dice the stems.

Gougère: Cut up 1 stick of butter. Bring 5 eggs into room temperature, and grate 1 ½c Gruyère cheese.

Mint Meringues: Separate 3 egg whites and leave them at room temperature.

Ginger Orange Cookies: Take out ½c of butter. Finely chop ½c crystallized ginger and 2 tsp orange peel.

Gingerbread: Take out 1 ½ sticks of butter to soften at room temperature.

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Step 2 (Prep the Mushroom Caps}

Stuffed Mushroom Caps: Heat oven to 400°F (200°C).  Place mushroom caps, hollow side down, on parchment paper-lined or greased rimmed baking sheet. Spritz with oil.

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Step 3 (Start the Ginger Orange Cookie Dough while Mushrooms cook}

Stuffed Mushroom Cups: Bake in oven until slightly softened, about 8 minutes.

Ginger Orange Cookies: In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high-speed for 30 seconds. Add ¾c granulated sugar, 1½ tsp baking powder, and ⅛ tsp salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.

Step 4 {Finish the Ginger Orange Cookie Dough while Mushrooms cool}

Stuff Mushroom Cups: Remove mushrooms from oven and let cool.

Ginger Orange Cookies: Beat in egg and the 1 tbs milk until combined. Beat in as much of the 2c flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour, the crystallized ginger, and orange peel. If necessary, knead dough until it comes together.

Divide dough into three portions. On a lightly floured surface, shape each portion into a 7-inch roll. Spread sugar on the work surface and roll each log in sugar to coat. Wrap each roll in waxed paper or plastic wrap and freeze.

orange cookies

*** Now is a good time to clean up your work surface. Wash the measuring cups that you will need again and give the counter-tops a good wipe. Make yourself a cuppa tea. ***

Step 5 {Make the Mushroom Stuffing} 

Stuffed Mushroom Caps: Drain off liquid. Place, hollow side up, on clean foil-lined baking sheet. In nonstick skillet, cook pancetta over medium heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Drain off fat. Add red pepper, onion, garlic, mushroom stems, salt and pepper to skillet; cook, stirring, until onion is softened, about 4 minutes.

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Step 6 {Start on the Gingerbread while Pancetta cools} 

Stuffed Mushroom Caps: Let pancetta mixture cool.

Gingerbread: Whisk 6 cups of flour, ½ tsp baking powder, 4 tsp ground ginger, 4 tsp ground cinnamon, ½ tsp ground cloves, and ½ tsp salt together thoroughly.

Step 7 {Stuff and finish the Mushroom Caps}

Stuff Mushroom Caps: In bowl, stir goat cheese with Cheddar cheese; stir in pancetta mixture. Spoon heaping tablespoonful into each mushroom cap. Freeze.

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Step 8 {Finish the Gingerbread}

Gingerbread: Beat butter and 1 ½c brown sugar together until fluffy. Add the 2 eggs, 1c molasses, and 1 tbs of water and beat until well combined. Beat half of the dry mixture into the mixer until blended and smooth. Add the remaining flour mixture and then knead the dough until firm and manageable, but not dry. Add more flour if the dough is wet. Divide the dough in 2, and place each half in a zip-top bag to freeze.

gingerbread

Step 9 {Make the Meringues}

Mint Meringues: Preheat oven to 200°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a large mixing bowl beat egg whites, ¼ tsp cream of tartar, ¼ tsp peppermint extract, and ⅛ tsp salt with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form (tips curl). Gradually add ¾c of sugar, about 1 tbs at a time, beating on high until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight).

Using a Q-tip, brush stripes of red food coloring on the inside of a decorating bag fitted with a star tip. Carefully spoon egg white mixture into decorating bag. Pipe 2-inch stars 1 inch apart onto the cookie sheet.

meringues

Step 10 {Make the Gougères while Meringues bake}

Mint Meringues: Bake 2 hours, rotating sheets top-to-bottom-and back-to-front once or twice during baking time.

Gougères: Bring ½c whole milk, ½c water, butter, and ½ tsp salt to a rapid boil in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over high heat. Add 1c flour all at once, lower the heat to medium-low, and immediately start stirring energetically with a wooden spoon. The dough will come together and a light crust will form on the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring with vigor for 2 min to dry the dough until very smooth. Turn the dough into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

Let the dough sit for a minute, then add 4-5 eggs one by one and beat until the dough is thick and shiny, ensuring each egg is completely incorporated before you add the next (do not add the 5th egg if your dough is already a shiny smooth deep yellow). Beat in the grated cheese.

Using about 1 tbs for each gougère, drop or pipe the dough from a spoon onto the lined baking sheets and freeze.

gougère

*** While the meringues are still cooking and everything else is getting nice and frozen, clean up the kitchen and take a little breather. You are almost done! ***

Step 11 {Finish the Meringues} 

Mint Meringues: Transfer cookies to a wire rack; cool.

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Step 12. {Package & labeling}
Make sure everything is packaged in airtight wraps/bag/containers and label with the following instructions:

Stuffed Mushroom Caps: Bake from frozen on baking sheet in 375°F oven until golden, about 17 minutes.

Gougères: Bake from frozen on lined baking sheet placed in  a 425°F oven, immediately lowering to 375°F for 12 minutes. Rotate sheet and bake for another 12-15 minutes or until gougères are golden, firm, and puffed. Can be served warm or cooled.

Mint Meringues: Thaw and enjoy.

Ginger Orange Cookies: Thaw until slice-able, preheat oven to 350°F. Cut into ¼” slices and place on cookie sheet. Brush lightly with milk and bake for 8 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool and enjoy.

Gingerbread: Bring to room temperature, preheat the oven to 350°F. Roll out dough and cut into desired shapes. Bake for 11 to 15 minutes or until light brown on greased cookie sheets. Cool before icing.

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And now I’m ready for the Holidays. Unexpected guests? No worries, I’ll just pop in these appetizers. Crazy snow storm? Cool, I’ll just bake these cookies and we’ll bunker down. Bring it on December!

Happy Thanksgiving Trail Mix

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I am spending this weekend with my husband’s family. Whenever we are all together for a weekend like this, the general pastime is playing cards. Sometimes we mix it up with a board game, but generally we just sit, chat, play, drink and eat. There is always something or other to munch on, invariably tasty but not always the healthiest option.

With this in mind, I made Happy Thanksgiving Trail Mix
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Trail Mix is really whatever you want it to be, but if you like the look of mine, here’s what’s in it;
– 2 cups of shredded wheat cereal
– 2 cups of caramel popcorn
– 2 cups of pretzel wafers
– 2 cups of mixed nuts (walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, and almonds)
– 2 handfuls of dried cranberries
– 1/2 cup candy corn
– 1/2 cup orange & brown Smarties

It’s a delicious mix of salty, sugary, and chocolaty seasonal flavours, without being overly indulgent. At least we are getting some fiber and protein in us.

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These quantities will give you just over the 2 quart batter bowl amount shown above. Extra is good though, you won’t be able to keep your hands off it.

Enjoy and happy Thanksgiving!

Sausages {Part 2}

See Part 1

I can’t believe I’m attempting to draw for you again, but the tying is the most important part of the process. I good knot is the difference between delicious chouriço and charred ashy bits of pork.

Before you do anything with the filled sausage, take a safety-pin and poke it full of little holes. This vents any air pockets and prevents bursting.

sausage tie

Bring the strings of the tied-off end around to the open end. Close to where the meat is filled to, tie two tight knots. Take the remaining empty length of tripe, fold it back on your knots, open it, and tie another two knots, making sure to go back around the sausage each time. Cut the ends of the sting short. At the opposite point of you now sausage-circle, pinch the meat between your fingers to create a bit of room. With a new piece of string, tie a tight double knot.

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Some members of my family disagree, but my grandmother is adamant that the sausages hang over night; giving them a chance to start drying out. To do this, we set up brooms and rakes between two chairs to hang the sausages from, and lay news paper underneath to catch the drips. Sausages 128 Sausages 135

Day 3

It’s smoking day! At the end of every year we say that next time we will get a proper smoker, and then ever year we just drag out the old steel barrels. These barrels have been cleaned out and  had notches cut into them for rods. I have no idea where to get barrels if you don’t have a barrel guy. Good luck finding a barrel guy. You you should probably just use a proper smoker. Like we will. Next time. Maybe.

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My mom put tin foil all around the rim because she didn’t like the sausages touching the rusty metal, but everything is getting so hot it’s all sterile anyway so don’t bother. Get the fire going with some wood and kindling, then dump half a bag of coal in there. You want it hot and smokey, not blazing.

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Thread the sausages on the rods, spaced about and inch apart. We do 3 rods per barrel, between 7-10 sausages per rod. We had two barrels going!

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Cover, and let smoke away for 4 hours. Every 15 minuets or so, using tongs and a fire mitt, flip each sausage-circle.

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This is what they look like about half way done:

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Once they are thoroughly smoked (dry and toasty looking) lay them somewhere to cool. When they can be handled, wipe them clean with damp paper towels, and using use a good set of kitchen shears, cut the knots making each sausage-circle into two sausages.

sasages done 3

Here they are in all their glory! Fry them up to eat on a bun, grill them, roast them, add them to soup, stew, stuffing, fish, seafood, bake it directly into bread. Really there isn’t much in Portuguese cuisine that doesn’t have at least a small slice of chouriço in it. It adds so much flavour to everything, and is salty and delicious all on its own.

To keep these for  up to two years, you have to wrap them up very well; first in a layer of plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil, and then freeze them. If you can, place the wrapped sausages in an airtight container before freezing. Defrost as needed!

sasages done 2Although this is a long, tedious, 3 day process, the reward is a two-year supply of sausage that cost half as much as the store-bought stuff, and tastes twice as good! It also mean we know exactly what has gone into our food.  I used to feel guilty about eating chouriço, thinking, like hot dogs, I didn’t want to know what was in there. But all it is is some very lean pork, garlic, and seasoning. The result is an authentic taste you just can’t get any other way.

Portuguese chouriço