Happy Monday! I’m SO happy to announce that we have a winner for my recent $50 gift card Whole Foods Market giveaway—IRENE! She said that her favorite cheese was the French triple crème Saint André because “you can spread it on anything and it’s like Brie with the dial turned way up!” The card’s in the mail, Irene! Keep on the lookout for more giveaways SOON!
MISS CHEESEMONGER STEPS OUT: I am teaching a class on the cheeses of Normandy and northern France on Wednesday, October 15, from 6pm-8:30pm at The Beverage People, 1845 Piner Road, Santa Rosa, CA. It only costs $5! It’s a total steal!! If you want to meet me and taste some cheese, get your tickets here!
Hmm, let’s see what else is happening in Miss Cheesemonger Land. . . . I would like to introduce you to someone: my mother. Not my human mother, my kombucha mother. Isn’t she pretty? She keeps growing with each new batch. I’ve had to cull her quite a bit over time, or else I’d have a culture 3 feet thick.
I got started about 3 years ago when my cheese maker friend Sacha offered me a ‘bucha mother from her own extensive stash. Sacha knows kombucha like no one else. She’s building a fashion empire based on kombucha. Yes, it’s true. She grows her mothers in sheets, then cures them, colors them, and fashions them into iridescent, wearable masterpieces. It’s magic, you guys.
The kombucha brewing process is pretty simple, which is probably why I’ve stuck with it so long. Here’s what I do:
*Prepare a gallon of tea (Lately, I’ve been using English Breakfast, but I’ve used everything from Pu Erh to Lipton to green tea.), then let it cool overnight. I use 5 teabags per gallon.
*Stir 1 cup of white, granulated sugar into the tea.
*Pour all the tea into a food safe plastic bucket with the kombucha mother.
*Cover the ensemble with a towel to protect it from dust and critters. I add a layer of plastic wrap on top (See why below.).
*Let the bucket sit in a quiet, dark corner for about a week (I will taste the tea every day or every couple of days to see how it’s doing).
*I consider the tea ready when it’s no longer sweet, and just barely starting to get a vinegar tang. Now, it’s time for the bottling.
*Sanitize used beer bottles, fill them with ‘bucha.
*Bottle them with this nifty capper, and then let the kombucha bottles ferment in a quiet corner of your home for another week and a half, outside of the refrigerator.
*At this point, to halt fermentation, I move the bottles to the refrigerator.
*When they’re cold, they’re ready to enjoy!
The second bottle fermentation does wonders to smooth out flavors and ramp up carbonation. For those who are inclined, the bottle fermentation is when you can flavor your kombucha with basil, ginger, lavender and other flowers, etc.
Lately, I’ve been so happy with the way my kombucha tastes. The last couple of batches have had notes of peach, which is crazy since there are no peaches involved in the process. I learned the plastic wrap trick from my friend Alex, owner of Vagabond Cheese Company and home beer brewer. I shared with him that my kombucha seemed to be over-vinegary, no matter how long I let the tea sit in the bucket. He told me that the lactobacilli in the kombucha react to oxygen, and by reducing the oxygen, I’d reduce the bacteria activity and fermentation rate. It worked, and now I’m loving the fruitiness that develops in my batches.
If you decide to get into homemade kombucha, here are a couple other things I figured out:
*Just about any type of tea works. You don’t have go to fancy. Lipton tea works just fine! I have even used Earl Grey, which isn’t the best because of Bergamot’s anti-bacterial properties, but it has turned out tasty, just a little flat. My favorite is this floral tasting tea a friend brought from Taiwan. Sadly, I can’t read the label! Maybe someone can help me out!
*Do make sure you use a food grade container for your initial fermentation. I got my bucket at a restaurant supply store.
*Don’t feel like you have to go out and buy bottles. Get some used champagne or beer bottles from your friends.
*For capping purposes, there are 2 different sized bottle caps. American caps are 26mm, and European ones are 29mm. I bought a 29mm bell to use with my Red Baron capper in case a European bottle comes my way. I’ve got both sized caps, too.
*Experiment. Mess around with how much sugar you add in the tea, how long you leave the tea to ferment, and flavors!
*You can put the kombucha mother to sleep by putting her in the refrigerator. I kept a mother dormant in a bath of some sugared tea for 7 months. When I was ready to use her again, I let her warm up on the counter overnight.
*Each bottle of kombucha will form a new mother. Give her to friends! Share the love.
PS: Do you like my (temporary) tattoo?? M. Cheesemonger got some for me when I told him I want a real tattoo. They’re from Tattly, and I looovvve the designs they offer. I’ve got a carrot tattoo that I’m saving for a special occasion. :)
Let me know what you are brewing at home! You can contact me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or email. I’m also known to hang out on Pinterest !