FERMENTED DRINKS with Dr. Wendy Nolan Joyce
Welcome! Today we’re going to learn the basics of fermentation and make drink recipes that will create a happy home for your gut microbes, the foundation of good health.
About me (Wendy): I’m a self-taught fermentation convert who has learned through trial and error. I started making kombucha 5 years ago when a friend gave me a SCOBY (more on SCOBIES below) and talked about the noticeable health benefits of fermented foods. Over the past 5 years my family and I have felt the energy- and immunity-boosting effects of drinking kombucha and eating kimchi daily.
SCOBY= Symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast that looks like a jelly fish.
My 1st scoby has multiplied many times over and I now make many different flavours of kombucha on an ongoing basis, many with organic herbs and flowers from my garden (lemon verbena and rose, for ex). All of my current kombuchas are caffeine-free (many amateurs believe you need to use black or green tea but this is not the case). I also make water kefir and jun which have different flavour profiles and different requirements which I’ll discuss.
PROBIOTICS: the good bacteria that are one of the keys to overall wellness. They add ‘good’ bacteria to your gut to outweigh the ‘bad’ bacteria. Most of us have heard of the fabulous and powerful benefits of probiotics:
• Eliminate waste and toxins from the colon
• Manage gastrointestinal issues and aid digestion*
• Enhance skin health
• Improve nutrient absorption*
• Regulate the immune system thereby reducing inflammation
• Improve mood and reduce stress (your gut is responsible for around 80-90 pc of the production of serotonin, the amazing feel-good hormone)
*Fermentation breaks down difficult-to-digest food compounds such as oligosaccharides & lactose. This is the reason why some lactose-intolerant individuals can tolerate fermented dairy products containing lactose. It’s also the same reason why people struggling with IBS can sometimes tolerate cultured grains in sourdough. Other nutrients like proteins & fats are also made more digestible by fermentation. Many seeds, legumes, & grains contain phytic acid which binds important minerals like iron. This binding makes most of the iron content in a food unavailable for absorption. But when the food is cultured, fermentation breaks down the phytic acid therefore making it easier for your body to absorb sufficient iron from your meal. (source: SYMBIOTA)
Why Probiotics Capsules Can Never Be As Good As Taking Fermented Foods and Drinks?
Although probiotic supplements help, they generally only have selected strains of bacteria.
With probiotic foods, you’ll get natural and denser probiotic nutrients.
How the gut becomes unbalanced:
* chemicals in food, water and air
* Poor diet, especially too much sugar, gluten, processed foods
* medications, antibiotics
Pathogens such as bad bacteria and viruses can be overcome with a strong gut, which in turn should lead to fewer illnesses.
Once you start experimenting, you’ll discover how easy it is to keep going! If you’ve been buying fermented products, chances are you’re spending a lot of money and some of the so-called kombuchas on the market are actually diluted and far-too-sugary to provide the health benefits of natural, unpasteurized kombucha. It’s also a delight to hear the bubbling and hissing of your elixers fizzing away as the culture feeds off the sugars, and to taste the fizz on the tongue, the slightly acidic zing that results from the fermentation process. If you’re trying to cut down on your alcohol consumption, brewing and making your own kombucha provides with you no- to low-alcohol beverages at little cost.
Be aware that, as with any unpasteurized product, caution is to be exercised when pregnant although not all doctors agree. Also it’s important to keep in mind that too much kombucha could lead to tummy upset (because of its acidic nature) so pay attention to your body’s signals if you find yourself drinking kombucha regularly. Sandor Katz addresses the ‘potential danger’ of kombucha on pages 168-9 of The Art.. and concludes: ‘I reject the idea that kombucha at home is random or dangerous. All of the ferments...involve creating selective environments* to ensure success...Make sure you understand the parameters of the selective environment you need to create...Basic information and awareness are important. Empowered with them, you may ferment without fear.”
*SELECTED ENVIRONMENT: Katz is referring to the best practice and environment used to create healthy ferments. Factors such as sanitation, temperature, oxygen, salt, water type (chemical-free and chlorine-free is best), type of jar (glass is best for kombucha) and lid, sunlight (avoid). Hotter temperatures will hasten fermentation while in cooler months, your fermentation will take longer. Other factors to consider are the source of your ingredients. I use organic fruits, flowers and teas as much as possible in my kombucha. For kimchi, chemical-free veg is best.
Cleanliness: as Katz and other experts agree, you don’t need a hospital-grade sanitised environment to make these ferments (if anything, too much sanitation and chemical residue can kill the good bacteria.) Wash your equipment in hot water with dishwashing liquid, then rinse with hot water and allow to air dry or you may prefer to dry your jars in a low oven. Ensure your hands and utensils are very clean (I pour boiling water over mine and then let them airdry before use).
DRINKS: Kombucha, Jun and Water Kefir
All three of these are what’s known as ‘CULTURED FERMENTATION’ where you begin with an existing culture (vs. Wild which relies on wild yeasts in the air). Water kefir has the shortest fermentation time and, from my personal experience, is more delicate aka easier to kill. Jun is similar to kombucha—the SCOBY looks identical—but it can only feed on green tea and honey and you mustn’t use any metal implements when making it. If you’re interested in making either water kefir or Jun, I recommend buying supplies from Symbiota online who also supply instructions. Use reference books such as those mentioned to trouble shoot.
“Mae West was wrong: too much of a good thing is not wonderful. Kombucha fermentation can go too far (vinegar, anyone?). A tablespoon of yoghurt culture is good, but a cup of it is disastrous. Two weeks at the ocean is not necessarily better than one.” Sandor Katz, The Art of Fermentation
Sandor Katz, The Art of Fermentation and Wild Fermentation
Felicity Evans, Kombucha & co
Michael Murray and Joseph Pizzorno, The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods
to make 1 litre
4 tea bags (green, black, or fruit)
1/4 cup raw or white sugar
3 T kombucha starter
1 kombucha mother
1 litre of spring water
Bring 500 ml of water to a simmer. Pour into heatproof bowl, add tea bags and steep for 3-5 minutes. Strain the tea into a large, heatproof glass jar. Add the sugar to the jar and stir. Pour in remaining water.
When the liquid has cooled to room temp, add the starter liquid and the scoby. Cover with a piece of muslin and secure with elastic band. Leave in a cool spot where it won’t be disturbed for 4 days in hot weather and 14-20 days in cooler weather.
Bottling and SECOND FERMENTATION:
Gently remove the mother to re-use, retaining 3 T of the liquid for your next brew. Put a funnel over a glass bottle with lid and strain the kombucha into bottle. Tightly seal the bottle and leave on the bench to build carbonation, burping occasionally to release the pressure. When the kombucha is as fizzy as you like, store in the fridge to slow the fermentation process.
If you are infusing flowers or fruits or any other suitable flavouring, you add these in the SECOND STAGE to the bottle.
Fragrant peach or apple fermentation (second fermentation)
1 ripe peach or apple, chopped (with skin)
1 basic recipe of kombucha using green tea
Add the chopped fruit to the bottle of first fermented kombucha. Tightly seal the lid. Leave on the bench to build carbonation for 2-14 days, depending on temperature of the room. Burp the kombucha daily. When it’s as fizzy and sour as you like, store in fridge to slow the fermentation.
WENDY’s ROSE & GINGER KOMBUCHA
1. Pour 750 ml boiling water onto 4 tea bags (I use Nerada brand rose and ginger) mixed with 1/4c raw sugar
2. Let steep for a few hours, till cool.
3. When the mixture is cool, pour into a 1 litre jar. Add 200 more cool water. Place scoby on top of the liquid with 3 T of leftover liquid from last ferment.
4. Cover the kombucha mix with muslin cloth. Secure with an elastic band.
5. After 5 days, taste to check that some fermentation/bubbles have developed.
6. The kombucha will be ready in 7-14 days. When the weather is hotter, fermentation will occur faster.
7. Once it’s ready, remove the scoby to use for a new batch. Close the lid and leave the kombucha for another 24 hours for extra fermentation. Then place kombucha in the fridge.
1 litre springwater
4 green tea bags
3 T raw honey
1 jun SCOBY
3 T Jun starter liquid
Bring 500 ml of water to a boil. Pour over the tea bags and add the honey (USE A PLASTIC OR PYREX CONTAINER FOR THIS. DO NOT USE ANY METAL!!); stir with a wooden spoon. Leave to steep for 2 minutes. Then remove tea bags and leave the mix until cool (don’t leave the tea bags in too long of the drink becomes too bitter). Pour into glass container, add SCOBY and jun liquid, and cover with muslin and secure with elastic band. Leave for 7-10 days on the bench out of direct sunlight.
Bottling: Remove the SCOBY to reuse and retain 3 T of the liquid. Bottle the Jun and place in fridge.
Water Kefir (this recipe requires water kefir grains which you can buy online at Symbiota)
3 T raw sugar
3 T hot water
1 dried fig
1 dried date
¼ t molasses
3 T water kefir grains
1 litre filtered water
Pinch of sea salt
Boil the water and pour over the sugar and fruit. Leave to cool then pour into a wide-mouthed jar. Add the salt and grains, cover with muslin, and place out of sunlight for 1-3 days to ferment. Scoop out the grains, strain and bottle. Or you can add fruit at this stage and do a second fermentation (as per the kombucha recipe). I like adding fresh raspberries and a slice of lemon to the bottle and leaving on the bench for 12-72 hours to build carbonation.
1 cup mint leaves
1 chopped cucumber
1 green apple
1 chopped lime
½ cup juniper berries
Combine all the ingredients with 2L water and ½ cup sugar in a large jar. Seal and leave on bench for a few days. When the water is showing signs of fizz, open the jar and taste. If it’s bubbly and the flavours have soured a bit, that’s good. Bottle it. Some people strain out the fruit but leave the rest. You may also want to add a bit more citrus juice or sugar at this point (or a tad of maple syrup). Leave another 48 hours. Put in the fridge. It will keep for a few weeks. If the fizz wears out, you can always add a bit more sweetener and leave the bottle, sealed, on the bench again for a day or two to rebuild carbonation.
A shrub is a traditional cider vinegar soda very popular in Iran, flavoured with herbs or fruit. I use an excellent apple cider vinegar from Otaki (Coral Tree organics) that is the best in my opinion.
4 cups raspberry (frozen is fine)
2 cups agave syrup (or 1 cup maple syrup; I used a combination of maple and apple syrup which is free of refined sugar)
½ cup lemon juice
2 tsp citric acid (sold at Moore Wilsons and keeps for ages)
Place raspberries in a jug and pour vinegar over and let steep for 8 hours or overnight. Add all the other ingredients, bottle and place in fridge. TO serve: add soda water and ice. Enjoy! (you can strain fruit if you prefer)
Different uses of kombucha:
You can make fabulous hair rinse from kombucha that will leave your hair soft and silky! Allow fermentation to continue till the vinegar stage so that no sugar is left—the kombucha will smell a bit acidic. Bottle it and use it as a hair rinse.
You can also make ‘fruit’ leather out of leftover scobys.
The Different Uses of Water Kefir
Water kefir is a highly nutritious drink that is highly loaded with easily digestible sugars, beneficial enzymes, valuable acids, minerals, and vitamins. However, apart from being a great drink, water kefir also has several other uses.
- Some people use water kefir to nurture and fertilize house plants, their lawns, or flowers in their garden. The acidity and bacteria in the beverage help convert soil nitrogen into an edible form for plants.
- Water kefir can easily replace a yeast packet or sourdough starter when making pizzas and breads. The nutritional benefits make the drink a better and healthier starter.
- Just like vinegar, kefir can be used to soften rice, soak grains, or added to stocks and soups to help bring out the juicy nutrients of bones. - It can serve as a substitute for salt when fermenting vegetables like sauerkraut.
- The drink can be made into mouth-watering popsicles. - Kefir can be used as a ph stabilizer and clarifying conditioner for hair. The alkalinity of soap causes it to dry up the scalp and skin but kefir doesn’t do that because it is acidic.
- Kefir is sometimes a part of the ingredients used to make natural lotions and exfoliants.