Serious Eats: Recipes
Drink the Book: Orange Kombucha
I have to admit I was a bit taken aback when I came across kombucha recipes in Andrew Schloss's Homemade Soda since I'd always thought of this fermented tea as more of a health tonic than an easy drinking soda. But when you think about it, kombucha does fall into the flavored carbonated beverage category, regardless of how good for you if might be. Since kombucha has been on my try-it-out-at-home list for quite a while, giving one of Schloss's fermented tea recipes a whirl seemed like the perfect excuse to delve into the world of kombucha mothers and babies.
The first step is getting your hands on a mother, that bizarre, space blob-looking starter culture from which your tea will ferment. It's not the kind of thing that's sold in stores, so kombucha brewing buddies and internet ordering are your best bet. You'll also need a kombucha starter tea. This can be store bought kombucha, a friend's homemade stuff, or white vinegar, if you can't find anything else.
Once you've got your hands on a mother the next step is to invest in a gallon jug of distilled white vinegar. Since you're going to be fermenting, sterilization is key, and white vinegar is going to make sure that your equipment is clean and bad bacteria-free. You'll also need a clean glass jar, 1 1/2 quarts or larger, and coffee filters or cheesecloth.
Now that you're all set up, it's time to brew. Kombucha grows in sweetened tea, in this case black tea mixed with sugar and vinegar. Once the brewed tea-vinegar mixture has cooled, the mother and starter are added and the whole weird looking liquid is poured into a vinegar-sanitized jar, covered with something that will allow air to flow, and left in a warm spot to do all of its ferment-y magic. At this point your best bet is to mark your calender and forget about it for the next 8 to 12 days.
If you're lucky when you uncover your jar 8 to 12 days later, you'll see all sorts of weird jellyfish-looking action. The mother should have made a baby, i.e. smaller blob, that's going to be attached with a series of wispy looking strings. At this point you should sterilize a straw with vinegar and taste your tea. You're looking for a tart flavor, along the lines of apple cider vinegar.
Kombucha mothers can be used again and again—just scoop it out and store it in the fridge for future use. The final step on your epic kombucha brewing journey is to strain your tea through a coffee filter, add the orange juice, and leave it for another 2 to 4 days to ensure optimal effervescence.
As always with our Drink the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Homemade Sodas to give away this month.