Kombucha. A mysterious, tangy, bubbly beverage that seems like a secret world of experimental curative beverage culture (get it? cuz kombucha is a culture? lulz). Actually, its totally not that big of a deal until you get to the fizzy parts and the whole obtaining a “mother”. Yeesh. I’m going to go ahead and pre-apologize to the squeamish or icky-averse. You should probably skip this post. Read on at your own risk.
It seems like there has been somewhat of a kombucha craze in the past few years, reaching all corners of the US and their grocery stores. Honestly the whole thing kind of gave me the heebie-jeebs until I gathered myself and finally tried it. Before that it seemed to be secluded to fancy schmancy food co-ops only in Brooklyn or San Francisco where there is a special room, a certain knock, and an equally obscure password to even access it…”artisan”. Now its on the shelves of grocery stores next to the smoothies and pomegranate juice. Buying a bottle, at roughly $3.50 each, becomes an expensive habit. From what
I can tell the draw mainly seems to come from the flavor (like a mix of apple cider vinegar, black tea and carbonation- plus whatever else they add to the batch) it is refreshing, acidic, and slightly sweet. But many also seek it out for its list of “curative” powers which include, but are not limited to:
– Getting rid of gray hair
– Growing in dark hair
– Cures cancer
– Reverses the symptoms of AIDS
– Cures Dia-beet-us
– Filling one with bologna
So I may have added one of those. I like it for its flavor, and its something I find rewarding, especially when babies are made. You heard me. Babies. It multiplies.
The whole idea is pretty age-old, fermenting a sweet beverage until it becomes bubbly and not as sweet anymore and maybe a little alcoholic (only 0.5%). What’s different is the mother.
The Mother. The Manchurian Mushroom. The Blob. The Kvas. The Tea Sponge. The ‘Boocha Baby-Maker. Boochie-Mama.
Whatever you call it, its the disc-shaped blob that turns your regular ol’ sweet tea into a batch of ‘booch. You can get it in co-ops, online, or from a marvelous friend who happens to have what would equal a fungus version of “Sister Wives”. Let’s just say it’s all in the family and they produce like rabbits. A large mother looks like one of those Pillsbury Grands buscuits, only larger and wet.
When you touch it, which you will probably have to, it feels like like a jello “jiggler” that was left in the fridge too long. Springy, firm but slippery- not slimy. What is it made of you ask? it is a “community of bacteria and yeasts that have a symbiotic relationship”- a community? does that mean microscopic block parties?
Before you begin your batch, I recommend reading this article to be aware of all of the risks associated with fermentation. Its similar to the risk of canning, but as long as you stay sanitary and sterilize with vinegar, you should be fine. If it looks of smells odd- don’t drink it. DUH. OK post warnings- To make a batch of the booch, you’ll need:
A mother culture in starter tea
A large jar, or a few for multiple batches
Cheesecloth, a papertowel, or thin fabric
A rubber band or canning ring
Sweet Tea , Strong black tea ans sugar mixture, cooled to room temp sweetened with at least 10% sugar content (for a half gallon, I used about 1 cup of sugar to 2 quarts water)
So here’s what you do:
1. Get a mother, it should come in some starter liquid called starter tea that will help it acclimate to the new tea surroundings.
2. Prepare a jar, at least a half-gallon if not larger, and preferably wider than it is tall. (I have no idea where to find such a jar so I just used a half-gallon Ball canning jar) Wash the jar with soap and water, and rinse thoroughly. Once it doesn’t smell like soap anymore, add 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the jar and swish around to coat.
3. Coat your hands with vinegar, or just the one that will be handling the mother, and pick up the mother (try not to heave)
4. Place the mother in the prepared jar, and pour the liquid it came in over it.
5. Pour in the sweetened tea mixure
6. Cover the top with a paper towel, layers of cheesecloth, thin fabric, etc and secure with a rubber band or screw the lid on. *Be careful not to let the booch or mother touch the metal.
7. Let sit in a warm slightly dark place for 7-10 days. After this time, look at it, smell it, taste it. Once it becomes slightly vinegary smelling and tastes slightly tart but not like drinking vinegar, your first batch is done.
– Remove the mother and repeat the process for the next batch, saving some of the liquid to go with it. (Oh it probably had a baby, once it is 1/4″ thick, it can begin to make its own batch of booch and have its own babies)]
Thus far, I have stopped here. I enjoy the slightly tart sweet tea that comes from the process but I will soon go for a second fermentation to make it bubbly. To do that, you add more sugar like a 1/4 c sugar or a handful of sugary raisins. Cap the tea tightly so that it is air-tight (transfer into a plastic bottle as glass might shatter if too much pressure builds up), maybe using an airlock if you can find it in a homebrew store. Set in a warm spot or place the bottles in a cardboard box or cooler equipped with an electric blanket to keep it warm and start the second fermentation. After 2 days, check to see if it is bubbly, if all goes well it should be.
I’ll try this with my next batch and post how it goes!
Boochin it up.