Thursday, February 27, 2014

Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar

First, my story. I didn't really MEAN to make vinegar ... but it happened. I MEANT to make a sparkly probiotic apple soda, so I added a ginger culture to apple cider ... and then forgot about it ... for a long time. So it turned into vinegar! And boy, it was the most amazing tasting vinegar!

My "mother" sank and settled in with the dregs, but she's still doing fine.

Since then, I have made (on purpose!) ACV (apple cider vinegar) one other time. This seems to make me an expert as everybody asks me how I make it! Here are my amateur directions.

1. Start with apple cider.
Some people say you can make vinegar out of apple slices, or apple peels, but I don't believe your vinegar will be as potent these ways.
Make sure the cider that you start with is unpasteurized. Please. Dead cider is not going to turn into live vinegar.
The better quality apple cider you start with, the better quality your vinegar will turn out to be.

2. Add some ACV "with the mother" to your cider.
Some people suggest letting the cider ferment for a couple weeks before adding the vinegar, but there's always a chance you could get some strange bacteria growing in there. Best to add the vinegar straight off so you know what's "growing" in there.
"With the mother" is extremely important. You won't end up with vinegar if you start with cheap ACV from your local grocery store. You can get the good stuff from a health food store and make sure the bottle says "with the mother".
How much should you add? Well...that's a good question but I don't have a good answer. You don't need too much, just enough to give fermentation a nudge in the right direction. I'm going to suggest maybe 1/2 cup of vinegar to 1 gallon of cider. Swirl the ACV up nice to get some of the dregs from the bottom.

3. Let it set. Be patient.
Do not brew in a plastic container. I suggest stainless steel (I use my stockpot) or glass.
Your brew may get very, very bubbly at first, so allow some head-space.
Cover your brew with a dishcloth or cheesecloth to let air flow and keep fruit flies out (and believe me they love ACV)
You should eventually get a nice "Mother" floating on the top of your brew. Handle her gently and don't stir her in. She will give you many more batches of vinegar if you take care of her! Don't be scared if she floats to the bottom, another one will probably form on the top.

4. Keep checking
It will probably be a couple months before it's completely done. Like I said, be patient! It's worth it!
After it's finished, put a lid on it. Be careful of metal lids like canning jar lids, they will corrode if the vinegar touches them.

Any questions? Leave me a comment!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Blueberry Pie with Walnut Crust

My husband has been begging for blueberry pie for nearly a week now, and I finally got around to making it! Right now he is not eating starches, so I couldn't even make a gluten free pie crust with alternate flours. I decided to try a walnut crust, and it turned out fantastic! 

Ground walnuts, sugar, and butter

Chia seeds soaking in lemon juice

Blueberries with cinnamon, lemon juice, and ground chia seeds ready to go in the pie crust

Ready to go in the oven!

Hot and bubbling 
What is hot blueberry pie without ice cream?

Blueberry Pie with Walnut Crust

Bottom Crust: 
3 cups walnuts
2 T. sugar
3 T. softened butter

Grind the walnuts and sugar until fine in a blender, then mash in the butter in a separate bowl. Press into the bottom of a pie pan and freeze for 30 minutes.

2 T. chia seeds
Juice of 1 lemon
2 T. water
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
5 cups blueberries

Pre-soak the chia seeds in the lemon juice and water for at least 40 minutes, preferably longer. Pulse the chia seeds, lemon juice, and water in the blender until it starts looking smooth. Mix all the filling ingredients together in a medium size bowl and let sit until the pie crust is ready. 

Top Crust:
1 1/2 cups walnuts
1 T. sugar
1 1/2 T. softened butter. 

Prepare the walnuts, sugar, and butter the same way you did with the bottom crust and mix until crumbly. 

Assemble the pie:
Pour all the filling into the pie crust, then sprinkle the crumbly top crust to cover the pie. 

Bake the pie in a 350 degrees F. oven for 45-60 minutes, until the top is golden and crunchy and the pie is bubbling. 

As you see from my pictures above, the pie turned out more like a cobbler, but the longer you let the chia seeds soak, the better they will gell up. Try letting them soak overnight in water if you like, then add the lemon juice the next day. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Kombucha FAQ

FAQ about Kombucha

Q. What kind of sugar should I use?
A. White cane sugar is the best as it is easy for the SCOBY to break down and consume. Raw or brown sugar may be used, but put a greater strain on the SCOBY. Do NOT use honey, agave, maple syrup, or corn syrup, or stevia, as these sweeteners will damage the SCOBY over time.

Q. What kind of water is best?
A. Filtered, distilled, or reverse osmosis water is best for Kombucha. Beware of using tap water due to the high chlorine content, which may damage your SCOBY. If you must use tap water, I suggest boiling it rigorously first or letting the water sit in an open container for over 24 hours to let some of the chlorine dissipate.

Q. What kind of tea should I use?
A. Kombucha SCOBY cannot survive without regular feedings from real tea; camellia sinensis. Additionally, it needs caffeine, so don't use decaffeinated or white teas. It is best to use unflavored teas, as the flavored ones contain oils which will damage the SCOBY over time.

Q. What are other ways to care for my SCOBY?
A. SCOBYs are pretty tolerant as long as you use the correct sugar, water, and tea. There are some additional tips I can give however. First, make sure you do not brew your Kombucha in an airtight container, as Kombucha is an aerobic ferment. Cover the jar with a cloth to keep fruit flies and dust out. Second, keep your Kombucha and SCOBY out of direct sunlight. Third, it is ideal to brew Kombucha in a between 70 and 80 degrees. Please don't stick your SCOBY in the fridge; the cool temperature may encourage mold.

Q. Is that mold on my SCOBY?
A. If your SCOBY has green or black spots on it, particularly if they are fuzzy and above the liquid, you probably have mold. However, if the spots are white or brown and are under the liquid, you probably do not have mold. If you are still hesitant, send me a picture! Once a SCOBY develops mold, unfortunately there is no saving it.

Q. What can I do with my SCOBY while I'm on vacation?
A. Just start a fresh batch of Kombucha brewing and leave it! You will probably have some pretty tart Kombucha when you get back, but your SCOBY will be strong and active. Please don't stick your SCOBY in the fridge while you are gone.

Q. What can I do with the SCOBY "babies"?
A. Make more batches of Kombucha! Give one to all your friends! When you start to get overwhelmed by SCOBYs, you can throw them away if you must, but don't put any down the garbage disposal, as they may clog your system eventually. Some people feed small chunks of SCOBY to their dogs for the health benefits. You can also try cutting the SCOBY into bite size pieces, soaking it in sugar-water, and then dehydrating it for a chewy SCOBY candy!

Q. What do I do with old Kombucha vinegar?
A. Try adding some fruit juice to make it drinkable. If it is still too potent, just use it as you would ordinary vinegar; in salad dressings, as a marinade for meat, as a cleaning aid, etc.
Q. What's the starter liquid for?
A. The starter liquid acidifies the tea, so that the SCOBY can start brewing right away.

Q. How much Kombucha can I drink per day?
A. Start out with less than a cup per day and listen to your body. You may find that you get a stomachache if you drink too much at first. Once your body begins to get used to the detoxing effects of Kombucha, you can drink as much as you like!

Q. Does Kombucha contain caffeine?
A. There are varying opinions on this. Studies show that some of the caffeine from the tea still remains in finished Kombucha, but I have heard personal testimonies from people who are unable to drink caffeinated tea, but able to drink Kombucha shortly before bedtime with no problems. Drink at your own discretion!

Q. Does Kombucha contain sugar?
A. The SCOBY consumes most of the sugar, leaving behind fructose and glucose. If you have a low sugar tolerance level, try letting your Kombucha brew longer so that there will be less sugar remaining.

Q. Does Kombucha contain alcohol?
A. The alcohol levels in Kombucha have been shown to be around 0.5% APV. Personally, I believe that Kombucha is safe to give to children.

Q. Can I drink Kombucha if I'm pregnant or nursing?
A. If your body is not used to Kombucha, it is recommended to wait until you finish breastfeeding to start drinking Kombucha. However, it is safe to continue drinking Kombucha if you are used to the detoxing effects and become pregnant.

Q. What do I brew my Kombucha in?
A. Personally, I use gallon-size glass sun-tea jars with a spigot. You can find them at Goodwill or new online. Another option is a large crock. I do not recommend food grade plastic containers, as there is a possibility that chemicals from the plastic will leach into your brew.

Q. Will Kombucha heal my (fill in the blank)?
A. Many people tell stories of powerful healing attributed to regular drinking of Kombucha. While Kombucha cannot be proven to "heal" any disease, it will nourish your body and provide necessary probiotics, thus bringing your body into balance so it can heal itself.

Q. I'm convinced! Now where can I get a SCOBY?
A. First, ask around. You never know who may be brewing Kombucha and be willing to give you a free SCOBY and starter liquid. If you absolutely can't find any in your area, check out Cultures for Health or Kombucha Brooklyn for SCOBY's, starter kits, and equipment.

Basic instructions on brewing Kombucha

Friday, August 9, 2013

Kombucha 101

What is Kombucha? Basically, Kombucha is a probiotic fermented tea. You start with sweetened plain black, green, or oolong tea, add starter liquid and a Kombucha SCOBY, cover and let sit for a week or longer, then you have Kombucha!

What does Kombucha taste like? When it is at its peak, Kombucha is carbonated and tastes slightly sweet, slightly like apple cider, and has a vinegar like tang. The taste is also greatly affected by the type of tea you use. Recently, I tried Jasmine green tea and my Kombucha turned out very fruity tasting. Delicious! Some people find that Kombucha is an acquired taste, while others take to it right away.

What's a SCOBY? SCOBY stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. Have you ever bought Apple Cider Vinegar "with the mother"? That "mother" is a type of SCOBY! Many different types of ferments will create their own unique SCOBY.

Beautiful healthy SCOBY

Basic recipe for nearly 1 gallon of Kombucha:

12 cups water
1 cup sugar
4 black or green tea bags or 4 tsp. loose leaf tea
1 cup of already fermented Kombucha (starter liquid)
Kombucha SCOBY

Bring the water to a boil and add the tea/tea bags and sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar. When the sweetened tea has come to room temperature, strain out the tea/remove the tea bags. Add your starter liquid and SCOBY. Cover with cheesecloth or a coffee filter to keep out bugs and dust, yet allow air flow. Leave it someplace out of the way for 7-10 days. Personally, I like to start tasting around that 7 day mark. It will depend on the health of your SCOBY and the room temperature for when that "sweet spot" hits. Some people like to refrigerate their Kombucha tea when it tastes best to them to slow down the fermentation. The longer Kombucha sits, the less sweet and more vinegar-like it will taste.

The SCOBY feeds of the sugar in the tea, and ferments the tea in return. The longer Kombucha ferments, the less sugar will remain in the tea. You will notice that the "mother" SCOBY will also form a "baby" SCOBY with each batch you brew.

Fresh batch started today.

Questions? Feel free to leave me a comment below!