Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Get Cultured!

It all started one day when I visited the nearest (most expensive) health food store to indulge in a G.T. Dave's kombucha purchase. I had been craving kombucha, so I decided to throw down some cash and buy a couple bottles. I picked out my favorite flavors, set my beauties on the counter, and *angels singing* heard the owner say, "Oh, honey, those expired yesterday so I'm giving them away." Stunned, I blurted out the first thought that entered my mind: "How many can I have?" She proceeded to tell me I could have as many as I could carry out. And carry I did. Hubby and I devoted the entire top shelf of the fridge to my kombucha haul, and when we stared running low, I sent him back to see if there were any left. There were. We enjoyed about a month of free kombucha bliss.

For those of you who may wince at the term, "expired," don't. Kombucha tea is a lacto-fermented beverage with billions of beneficial bacteria keeping the nasties at bay. I agree it would be questionable many months or so after the expiration date, but a few days? A few weeks? Fogettaboutit. And I can happily report we not only suffered NO ill effects from the expired treat, we have benefitted beyond what even I thought realistic.

And that is why I am now on a culturing binge that will (hopefully) launch my family and me to a higher plane of health and wellness! Obviously, our free supply was bound to run out, and once I was firmly convinced the kombucha (along with my usual kefir) had healed my exczema, given me beautiful skin, hair and nails, and prevented us all from getting a few "bugs" to which we were exposed, I was determined to finally start brewing my own. But I am also a huge believer in getting a variety of sources of any beneficial thing (in this case, bacteria), so I started reading up on some of the other culture-able things in NT. I decided to start with beet kvass and ginger carrots. And, of course, I'm already a fan of homemade kefir, so I think this will be a good "variety pack" start for us. I was able to finagle some time at home alone Sunday (thanks to my awesome hubs), so I set to work:

I finally got my SCOBY in the mail, so I was able to start it yesterday along with my other projects. I tasted the "starter tea" that came with the mushroom and was delighted to find that I really loved the taste, even though it wasn't actualy fizzy yet and had no added fruit juice. So let me encourage you to start making your own! It isn't nearly as scary as it sounds, and if you're already a kombucha fan, you'll love the taste of your homemade brew (I liked it even better than GTD). The mushroom was $15, including shipping. The mushroom will make a "baby" each time I make tea, so properly cared for, it should last a lifetime. Not bad for a $15 investment!

Beet Kvass:
The beet kvass was the easiest one. I just scrubbed and chopped three organic beetroots ($3 for the bunch at the fancy store), stuffed them in a big jar, filled it up with filtered water, salt and whey and let them be. Easy. Cheap. Goodness. Generally speaking, your affinity for beet kvass should follow your affinity for beets in general. I don't love them, but I don't hate them. Same with the kvass. It's medicine, afterall, so I don't imagine I'm going to enjoy chugging this stuff regularly, but I don't mind it, either. It doesn't make me gag or even dread drinking it.

Ginger Carrots:
By far the cheapest, yet most labor-intensive project. The giant bag of organic carrots was only $2.50. I only used half of the giant bag, and it yielded about a quart of final product. The ginger was less than $1, and I didn't use nearly all of it.

I could not be happier about the little family of ferments brewing away on my kitchen counter right now. Mainly because of how super I feel after adding kombucha and kefir to my daily routine. I'm sure adding some variety and upping my daily servings of "good germs" will only help matters. If you're new to culturing, don't hesitate. Just try it! I'm going to be perfectly honest here. You most likely will not like the flavors at first. Please, please, please don't give up! The benefits are worth acquiring a taste, and I promise you will acquire a taste for at least some of these recipes if you stick with it and keep tasting/experimenting. I had a lot of trouble with this at first, but now I find myself craving fermented beverages. Even flavors I don't particularly love, I often crave. I guess it's my body that craves it, rather than my tastebuds. Either way, I'm so thankful to have the healing and protective power of fermented foods in our regular diet now. It brings joy, a sense of connection to our shared human past, and a humble reverence for my Creator, who created this process in nature for our good!