Sunday, May 13, 2012

BYO Kombucha

It's mothers day! Perfect timing for my post on Brewing Your Own Kombucha since kombucha relies on its 'mother' just like we all do! This post is for my beautiful mama. Happy mothers day, mom. I love you to the moon!! 

My gorgeous mama!!

So I know I'm not the only who cannot realistically afford their daily kombucha habit. Lucky for us hopeless addicts, it's super easy to make at home. I think I might be the last person in all of Brooklyn to brew kombucha, but whatever, better late than never. Once I started my own booch, I had this weird connect-the-dots moment when I realized THIS is what my hippie parents were brewing at home when I was a kid. I remember seeing the weird mushroom-looking creature in a pot on the stove and smelling the strong vinegar aromas coming from the kitchen. I'm not sure what I thought it was. A small part of me thought it was some after-birth matter... Thankfully, I called my dad and he assured me it was booch; "That was when it was illegal. You had to know someone who made it." My mom told me a story of when they sent me down the street with a bottle for a neighbor friend that was sick. Apparently, she recovered soon after and her parents had everyone talking about my parents miracle kombucha. So I've come full circe. My parents brewed it in the 90's and now I'm brewing it in 2012. 

When I came home and told Steve "I got a SCOBY at work today", he didn't seem too jazzed. But when I explained that SCOBY means Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast and that it's all we need to start brewing our own kombucha, he changed his tune. And then when I started referring to the SCOBY as mother, everyone in the house got a little weirded out. Fermenting is weird. But it's also AWESOME. You can buy kombucha kits with everything you need to brew your own, or you can ask someone who already brews it to give you one of their babies. Every time you make a batch, your SCOBY mother makes a baby, which you can discard (and by discard I mean make use in some other way! Compost, chicken feed, face mask, or gift to some eager new booch brewer.) I got mine from a co-worker. We actually did a little culture swap. I gave her some sourdough starter and she gave me a SCOBY. 

SCOBY before beginning - about 4 inches


1 1/2 cup "starter tea"
6 tea bags (I prefer Oolong but any black tea will do)
1 1/2 cup organic sugar
3 quarts distilled water

Supplies Needed:

Large pot for boiling water 
Gallon-size glass jar
Clean piece of cloth to cover top of jar
Rubber band to hold cloth in place
8 16 oz glass jars/bottles for bottling
Non-metallic spoon and measuring cup

First you have to give your kitchen counter a good cleaning. Make sure everything you're using is squeaky clean. This process is super prone to bacteria and you don't want to chance your whole batch going bad. To be safe, I boiled all instruments and rinsed the gallon jar with boiling water. And wash hands! 

Brew 6 bags of black tea in 3 quarts of boiling water inside the gallon glass jar. Steep for 20 minutes. Remove bags and add sugar. Stir until dissolved. Allow tea to cool to room temperature before moving on to the next step. (This takes a while. Next time, I will try brewing the tea with only half of the distilled water and then adding the other half cold to speed up the cooling step.)

From top left to right: tea bags steeping, stirred in sugar, added "starter tea" and SCOBY, day 1, day 4, day 12

Once your tea has cooled to room temp, add your "starter tea" and drop your SCOBY into the brew, brown side down. Cover with cloth and secure with rubber band. Find a nice warm, dark hiding spot for your booch. 70-85 degrees is ideal. Try to put it somewhere it won't be disturbed. Fermentation doesn't like to be moved. 

SCOBY will floats to the top during fermentation

I started tasting at day 10 and it wasn't until day 12 when I felt it was perfect. Nice and vinegary, not too sweet, and slightly effervescent.  

Your SCOBY will grow to whatever size container it's living in

Once your kombucha is done fermenting and you're happy with the taste, remove the SCOBY and place it in a SCOBY hotel until your ready to brew again. Make sure to pour about 2 cups of your tea over the SCOBY to be used as your next "starter tea". The SCOBY will continue to grow and your tea will slowly reduce so keep an eye on them if you don't plan to brew continuously.
Sterilizing the jars before bottling

Now's the time you can flavor your kombucha! Pour the tea into your clean glass bottles/jars, leaving some space at the top. Add whatever you'd like to flavor. I used orange peel + fresh ginger in some and tart cherry juice + chia seeds in the others. I haven't found a solution to keep the chia seeds from clumping so my preference was the orange ginger.

Home crafted funnel, thanks to my smarty pants boyfriend
Flavors in!
Flavored booch is sealed tightly while the SCOBY hotel is covered with the same cloth piece

Make sure to use bottles that seal completely so that no oxygen can escape. I used mason jars which worked fine. Eventually I would like to invest in a bottle capper so I can use recycled beer bottles. Set the bottles/jars in the same dark, warm spot you kept your brewing kombucha and let sit for 3-4 days. The yeast continues to work and produces gas, which is was makes your finished product nice and bubbly. After about 4 days, transfer your kombucha to the refrigerator to chill.

It sounds more time intensive than it is. You brew some tea on day 1, bottle it up on day 12, and by day 16 your drinking your own delicious home-brewed kombucha. Do it once and you'll be hooked. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

N'awlins Jazz Fest Food Frenzy

Rise and shine! I just woke up from a little nap so excuse the sleepy writing. While I'm awake I wanted to share some photos from the crazy fun weekend I spent in New Orleans with some of the best ladies on the planet. We all flew the coop for our wonderful, amaaaaaazing friend, Emma's Hen Party (Brit for bachelorette party). We caught the second weekend of Jazz Fest, had some memorable conversations with Nawlin locals, and ate our way through all The Big Easy had to offer. I'm still recuperating, hence the nap. 

I did two things in preparation for my first visit to NOLA:
1. Read all about my favorite happy hour indulgence in "Sex, Death & Oysters" by Robb Walsh; and
2. Made myself a classic french breakfast radish sandwich with butter and sea salt, for my flight over

First of all, "Sex, Death & Oysters" is a great book, especially if you're as infatuated with oysters as I am. It didn't make me want to consume my weight in oysters during my stay in NOLA because one of the first things I learned is that oysters are out of season.... Prime oyster eating season is November-April. In May, the water warms up (especially in the Gulf) and they start to loose mass and reproduce. Not ideal.

Second, I'm in love with France. But I've never been. I hope to go in the Fall but for now, New Orleans is the closest I'll get. When I opened my CSA box last week, I found some beautiful French Breakfast Radishes and immediately made plans for them. A classic radish and butter sandwich is exactly what I needed to kick off my trip. I did a little googling around for more info on the orgin of this simple delight and came across “Relishing the Radish” on NPR’s website.
“Of course, leave it to the French to perfect the art of the simple pleasure. For years, they have eaten whole radishes dipped in butter, as a homey snack meant for countryside picnics. Often, the radish is scored with an X at the bottom (the better for adhering slippery butter), then dipped into one of the luxurious, extra-high-butterfat unsalted butters, and finished with a sprinkling of rough fleur de sel. I’ve heard tales of thrifty Eastern European cultures with a fetish for radish-and-butter combos too, yet as usual, the French make it seem more like luxury than necessity.”
That lovely sandwich would be the healthiest thing I ate for the next three days. As soon as we touched down in NOLA it was fried, cheezy, enriched white bread from there on out. A taste bud's equivalent to a weekend of debauchery in Vegas. Just hitting some of the most highly recommended Jazz Fest food vendors gave us enough to shoot for during the weekend so that's what we did. I'll have to go back in the winter (oyster season!) to try out the infamous restaurant scene.


Clockwise from top left: (1) a small portion of the never-ending rows of food vendors at Jazz Fest, (2) the most talked up festival dish of all time, Crawfish Bread, (3) me enjoying the spicy, cheezy Crawfish Bread while listening to Ziggy Marley, and (4) oyster po-boy

Clockwise from top left: (1) boiled crawfish, (2) our Mother Hen, Emma, sucking the head of a crawfish, (3) kissy kissy me and Emma, and (4) all of us hennies arm in arm after sweating through our custom tanks, dancing to Grace Potter


Clockwise from top left: (1) breakfast at the hostel, (2) my favorite Zapp's flavor, (3) the best dirty iced chai I've ever drank from Fair Grinds, and (4) Canadian maple cookies brought straight from Ottawa from one of the lovely hennies... have nothing to do with NOLA except that we snacked on them plenty during our stay

Clockwise from top left: (1) mango freeze! so good, (2) the second most talked up dish of Jazz Fest, Crawfish Monica, (3) little Dlo enjoying her mango freeze, and (4) us ladies, blissing out to some Crawfish Monica


Clockwise from top left: (1) beignets and chicory coffee from Cafe Du Monde, (2) Emmalita going Krishna with her beignet sugar, (3) Ana-finger-lickin-good, (4) more kissin', and (5) Pia's happy smiley face

Clockwise from top left: (1) praline sugar buzz, (2) hundreds of pralines drying in a window display, (3) free praline samples, (4) heading into the French Market, (5) the only raw oysters that I saw during my entire trip!, and (6) my packed airport snack, courtesy of the French Market

Thursday and Friday night ended with a homemade veggie burrito from the burrito man, Om. You can find him on Frenchmen St, selling foil-wrapped burritos off his little tray. Look for the battery-powered lamp :)

It was a jam-packed trip that I'll never forget. Seriously tasty festival food but I sure was ready for some fresh fruit and veggies by the end of the weekend. Even with all the dancing we did, I'll be working it off for weeks! Don't get me wrong, it was totally worth it. Congratulations Emma (and Bobby)!!! What a great kickoff to the celebrations ahead.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Homemade Yogurt Parfaits

It's official. I'm finally a true Brooklynite. This past Saturday I participated in my first flea market, vending homemade yogurt parfaits. And if that's not enough, I even took part in a vendor trade. Yup. I traded one of my delicious, handcrafted parfaits for a beautiful handmade journal. Doesn't get anymore Brooklyn than that. 

I spent all last week getting ready for the Onderdonk House Flea Market; shopping around for ingredients and supplies, making test batches, crafting up my own signage and business cards, and in the final minutes pulling together 2.5 gallons of yogurt, 30+ cups of granola, and over 10 pounds of roasted rhubarb compote and candied kumquats. I couldn't have done it without the help of my roommates. Like, not physically possible. That same Saturday morning I had to bake at Saltie at 6am. So while I was rushing to bake off the bread for the day and fill the pastry case at Saltie, the guys would be setting up the Shantilly Picnic table at the flea market AND selling parfaits without me. Luckily I was able to finish up early and was on the L train by Noon.

So why all the hubbub for these parfaits?? Have you ever met a person, you say, "Let's get some parfait," they say, "Hell no, I don't like no parfait"? Parfaits are delicious. -- Donkey

Photo by Sandra van Beek
HUGE thanks to my flea-workin, parfait-lovin, Italian-Tarrytowner trio. These guys rule. 

The best three roommates a girl could ask for

Happy customers

Handcrafted business cards
Shantilly Picnic cookies
Fruit combo
Big thanks to Chelsea (bottom left) for producing the Flea
Photo by Sandra van Beek

Hope you enjoyed my little photo recap. It was a good day. Got some sun, listened to some music, met some great people, and sold out of everything by the end of the day. The 50 cookies I baked off as a last minute addition were the first to go. Here's a little look inside the making of the parfaits. Ooooooh..... I made the yogurt using an heirloom yogurt starter I got from Saltie and some of the best milk I've ever tasted- Itacha Milk Co (organic, whole, cream on top, made me fall in love all over again with, milk). Making yogurt at home it very easy and I recommend all yogurt-lovers to do it. The only tricky part is keeping your temperatures just right. 

On to the next layer, the granola! You all know how much I love my granola. This time I wanted to make a relatively simple batch that would balance the tangy yogurt and sweet fruit toppings. I immediately thought cardamom, since it's my all-time favorite spice. And I had been wanting to try my hand at popping amaranth seed so this was my chance. Cardamom Amaranth Granola. From there it was just a matter of coming up with the complimentary ingredients. I final recipe included organic rolled oats, sliced almonds, popped amaranth seed, sesame seeds, fresh ground cardamom, sea salt, shredded coconut, lots of lemon zest, olive oil, honey, brown sugar,  and a bit of vanilla and almond extract. One of my favorite batches to date. 

For the fruit filling, I knew I wanted to do candied kumquats after candying a small batch a week earlier and putting them on/in everything I could possibly think of. I'm telling you, I put them on pancakes, on yogurt, on ice cream, in whiskey, it didn't stop.. I'm crazy for kumquats and it could be because they remind me so much of home. Growing up, we had a kumquat tree in our front yard and I don't remember it ever being without fruit. Some of my favorite family photos were taken in front of the kumquat tree. I have this one picture permanently ingrained in my memory of my brother Jaime, as a little boy, with his cheeks full of kumquats. So yeah, they're special to me. 

Photo by Shantilly Picnic

The most time intensive part of the candying process was quartering all 5 pounds of them.. Thankfully, Steve-o jumped in and cut the time in half!

Photo by Shantilly Picnic
Photo by Shantilly Picnic
Photo by Shantilly Picnic

Since I can't expect everyone to share in my love of mouth-puckering, sour-bitter-sweet kumquats, I wanted to have two fruit options for the parfait. And since we're just starting to get rhubarb this season, that was it. Simple, delicious, roasted rhubarb compote. I knew my fellow Brooklynites would flip for some of the first rhubarb of the season.

Photo by Shantilly Picnic
Photo by Shantilly Picnic
Photo by Shantilly Picnic

So there you have it. My first flea market. I would do it again in a second. And rumor has it that I might be able to.....