Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Kombucha in the Jar

   I wasn't real sure about this whole kombucha thing, but The Fella had heard of it before and is slightly familiar with it and thought it'd be fun, so we opted to give this a go too along with all of our other fermented goodies. Kombucha is a slightly effervescent fermented black tea drink that you brew with a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast). Not the most appetizing thing I've ever heard of, but after reading about it on a fermentation group on Facebook and hearing what The Fella had to say, it sounded like it'd at least be a fun science experiment if nothing else. So, when at Safeway, I grabbed a couple bottles of GT's Enlightened Kombucha...definitely not what I thought it'd taste like and I wasn't sure I could get on board with this. Due to the way kombucha ferments, it ends up with a bit of alcohol. Not much alcohol, usually less than .5%, but sometimes you end up with a wee bit more in there. So because of that, some brands like GT's has a few forms of kombucha that don't produce alcohol. Those ones are usually also flavored with fruit juice of some sort. Yeah, I wasn't totally digging that at first. After a few bottles of it, I don't mind it as much, but we'll see what I think of the regular kind without it. I can't find the bottled regular kind where I'm at, so I'm brewing it...which is also a heck of a lot cheaper. I can find it for about $3 a bottle here which is more than I'm willing to pay, especially when I'm not really digging the fruity kinds.
   You see that little disc thing? That's a dehydrated Kombucha SCOBY I acquired July 9. I didn't know this, but apparently it takes 30 days to re-hydrate. Makes sense now that I think about it, but I didn't think about that at the time. Ooops. Now this little lady is wallowing in tea and trying to regain some life. It's also recommended that you don't drink this batch since it's mostly to rehydrate the poor dear, so that means I'll be waiting another 7-30 days for my first batch of kombucha from this SCOBY. Not what I had in mind when I started. I'm one of those instant gratification people and I'm not overly patient with this kind of stuff. I know! It's ironic that I ferment stuff because that stuff takes time. Lol. Worth it though since I end up with some tasty fermented foods, but still a bit exasperating to wait for at least a week to taste most stuff. Anyway, back to the kombucha... So with the knowledge that my kombucha experiment is suddenly taking longer than I thought it would, I found a place that sells lovely, blubbery SCOBYs, not dehydrated ones...and they were on sale at that time...so I ordered one...
   While the dehydrated one was cheaper, I'll encourage other folks like me to suck it up and pay more for a
lovely, blubbery one in some starter liquid. IT IS WORTH THE MONEY. Or, if you find someone willing to gift you one or send you one for shipping costs, go that route. I'm not impressed with my little dehydrated one so far since it takes so freaking long just to rehydrate it to even start brewing. I'm hoping it hangs in there and fattens up a bit and thrives because it's one sad little bugger. The one I just nicknamed "Big Momma" on the right, now she's full of spunk and apparently liking her new home. I've had her since Friday and she's apparently doing well and happy. Why do I say that? Because I found a baby SCOBY in the jar last night. She's thin, but there and becoming more SCOBY-like. Total win in my book since I now have the start of another that I can fatten up and use. WHEE! Perhaps it's not the most exciting thing for some folks, but I think it's pretty awesome to see. :D

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Garden Progress!

   And since I forgot to post garden progress yesterday...here it is! We built a 12 ft x 12 ft offset tiered garden patch. It seems to work pretty well. Although next year we either need to move the zucchini, cucumbers, and squashes...or just not plant so many of them. The yellow squash and the zucchini squash are overtaking the garden plot. LOL. I got the top tier completely weeded and just need to get the bottom tier done. That's not happening today though. It's way too hot for that right now. Oh, and that background photo for the blog? That's actually a photo of the lettuce when they had just sprouted! :D It kinda makes me happy to use that, especially since I'm posting garden stuff on here right  now. :)

There's about 8 pepper plants, 6 strawberry plants, mustard greens, mesclun, and lettuce

eggplant, sad looking broccoli, basil, and ittle-bitty oregano plants

Squash invasion!

lots of weeds, tomatoes, squashes, and cucumbers

Friday, July 11, 2014

Fermenting and Gardening Away!

   A couple weeks ago or thereabouts, I posted about making sauerkraut. It's delightful! I fished the peppercorns and dill sprig out of it and managed to fit it all into 2 jars! I think they might be pint sized, I forgot to compare and check to see if they were that or quart. :blush: Ooops. I got them at a yard sell for cheap, so it worked for me at the time. LOL. You can see where we already enjoyed some prior to me jarring it. YUM! It has a nice bit of heat to it and a lot of garlic flavor.
   My next project was to do some regular sauerkraut (so we can enjoy some during the week without wiping out co-workers with the garlic aroma) and let it set longer. I also read about fermenting Salsa Verde, so I decided to give that a whirl as well. Besides, the Salsa Verde gave me a reason to check out some homemade airlocks too!
   I didn't use a recipe per se for the regular sauerkraut--just sliced a head of cabbage (it was about 2.5 lbs prior to slicing) and added a couple tablespoons of salt, massaged and beat the cabbage, stuck it in what I'm referring to as my "kraut jar", added a bit of brine, then weighed it down with a fruit bowl, custard dish, and ziplock bag partially full of brine. Hey, it works and it's fairly inexpensive to do. LOL.
   For the Salsa Verde, I used this recipe from Domestic Soul. Instead of culturing it with whey though, I used some of my brine from my garlic kraut stuff. I probably didn't need to use 4 TBSP of it (recipe only calls for 2), but I wanted to make sure I had something to kickstart it since I'm a bit paranoid. I checked it a few days later and it was perfect! I think I'll add some corn and ground cumin to it next time though. It's pretty dang tasty, so I'm thinking it's a win. I'm not sure just how well my homemade airlocks actually worked since this was a short ferment and there really wasn't that much bubbling. Nothing molded which is always a good thing. LOL.
   The airlocks you see up there? Not too hard to make. Just get some of the plastic lids that Ball makes (or even the Mainstays WalMart brand), drill a hole, pop in a grommet (I used a food grade silicone one), then stick an airlock in there. I got the airlocks for pretty cheap off of Amazon.com. I wasn't sure which style I'd like more, so I ordered a 3 pack of 2 different styles to check out. With it being a short ferment, I just used water. Next time I think I'll use brine just in case it gets in the food and to keep it from molding. Not sure if it makes a difference one way or the other, but I'd really hate to be growing stuff in one of those. LOL.
   This weekend's events will (hopefully) be: making yogurt, feta, and red sauerkraut with apples. Since I'm trying a longer ferment time with my regular green sauerkraut, I'm going to attempt the red kraut in a canning jar with an airlock. We'll see just how well this works, but at least hubby and I were able to find some half-gallon sized canning jars so I should have enough space if I split it up into whatever jars it fits it! I'll post another blog post when we get stuff done (or started in the case of the kraut) and get some photos of it. Until then though, I guess this is it. :waves:
Close up of the Salsa Verde. Ooooh! Pretty!

P.S--And I realized after posting this that I didn't address the gardening-- our garden is doing well...it's kinda huge, actually. LOL. I'll do a separate post for that one another time though.