How is your week going? Mine has been interesting. I'm still on the elimination diet that I was telling you about last week. I have three more weeks to go, and I am looking forward to things going back to normal! The cravings that I had for the first few days were really surprising. I thought that I'd want chocolate and cookies, but instead I was craving tuna melts. I didn't eat them very often before all of this so it's odd that they were the one thing that I was repeatedly wanting. About 4 days in the cravings stopped but the headaches and grumpiness set in. Nobody warns you about this kind of thing when they are telling you about elimination diets. You hear about cleared up skin conditions and better digestion, but not about how challenging the first few weeks really are. There is also the mental component as well. Once you have been told that you can't have something you all of a sudden desperately want it. I do think that this will get easier as the weeks progress, it's just really a matter of getting through the first bit of it.
The one good thing about all of this is that the diet has me eating really clean. I was a healthy eater before, but now I am even better. One drink that I have really gotten into this winter is kombucha. Have you had it before? Kombucha is a tart fermented tea beverage that is known for its many health benefits. It's sold in stores for $3-$4 a bottle, but with some time and patience it's really easy to make at home. Fermented foods like kombucha are a good source of probiotics, so it is important to have them in our diet. If you have to avoid dairy like I do then kombucha is an alternative to yogurt for a daily dose of good bacteria.
Kombucha looks very intimidating to make, but is really very easy. If you can make a pot of tea then you can make kombucha. Before you can start home brewing (yes brewing just like beer) you need a Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast, otherwise known as a SCOBY. A SCOBY is a rubbery plug of bacteria and yeast that turns tea into delicious kombucha. My SCOBY reminds me of a jellyfish, in both appearance and texture. They do look odd, but don't worry you don't eat your SCOBY, you just use it for fermentation. If you are lucky then you know someone like me who brews at home and can give you a SCOBY and some starter; I got mine from a friend in my book club. If your immediate circles aren't as cool as mine then you can either purchase a SCOBY kit or grow your own. I haven't had to do either, but here are some instructions on how to grow a SCOBY.
Once you have your SCOBY then you are ready to start! I find the whole process a little addictive. I love playing with new flavor combinations or trying different brewing times. The great thing about making your own kombucha is that you are in total control of the process. Like with all other kitchen related things, please use common sense and put safety first. Please make sure that everything you use in brewing (including your hands) is very clean. I wash everything and then rinse with white vinegar right before I use it. If you SCOBY develops mold then toss it and start from scratch. As long as you use common sense you can brew kombucha safely and easily.
The top part of the recipe below is for basic kombucha. Once you have gone through the process of making this you can do a second fermentation and add in flavors. Please don't try to use flavored tea in the first fermentation, the oils can harm or even kill your SCOBY. It is also important to avoid using metal containers, tea balls and spoons for the same reason.
3 Liters Water
2 Black Tea Bags
2 Green Tea Bags
.75 Cups White Sugar
1 Cup Starter (kombucha from last batch or from growing your SCOBY)
2 inches Ginger
2-6 Earl Grey Tea Bags
2-6 Herbal Tea Bags
2-6 TBSP Jam
2-6 TBSP White Sugar
Bring water to a boil
Remove from heat and add tea
Add sugar and stir until completely dissolved
Let tea steep until desired strength, remove bags
Let brewed tea cool to room temperature
Rinse out a clean 3.5 Liter glass container with white vinegar
Pour in your sweetened tea and add your SCOBY and at least one cup of starter
Cover container with a clean, lint free tea towel and secure with an elastic band or string
Place your kombucha in a place that is out of direct sunlight where it won't be disturbed too often.
Leave it be for a week. You might see brown bits floating around, that's totally normal
After a week taste test your kombucha. If you would like a strong flavor let it brew longer. If you like it milder then it might be good to go.
Once you like the flavor or your kombucha, remove your SCOBY and at least one cup of kombucha (now your starter). Put this aside to start your next batch.
Take the remaining kombucha and get creative! You can refrigerate and drink it at this point, but I really like to do a second fermentation for flavor.
If you want extra flavor add in 2 flavored tea bags of your choice for each liter of kombucha that you have. Alternatively add 1 to 2 inches of sliced ginger or 2 TBSP of jam for each liter.
If you would like some additional carbonation add in a minimum of 2 tbsp of sugar for each liter of kombucha that you have. The more sugar you add the fizzier it will become.
Seal your container (I prefer 1 liter Mason jars) and leave on your counter for 24 to 48 hours.
Once the level of flavor and carbonation are to your liking then refrigerate to stop fermentation.