There was a quick moment when Kombucha was gaining ground that I began to buy it. I’d justify the $4 price tag at those times when I thought I might be getting sick (rare) knowing full well I won’t take medicine (even rarer). I believed, and still do, that a PMA and plenty of outdoors and liquids can help you get over the common cold.
The elixir isn’t only a punk rock cure-all (along with garlic and ginger), but can also be quite refreshing! Not one to follow directions, after my first batch I began making my Kombuchas using infused teas such as vanilla black and tiramisu rooibos as well as altogether non-teas (dried apples with cinnamon). Sugar seemed to be the main force behind the SCOBY’s work.
My initial batches were all made in a large (2 gallon) glass jar and then messily transfered to 12oz beer bottles with some fruit juice for second fermentations. The reintroduction of sugars after the yeast eats up the original batch from the tea allows the Kombucha to become carbonated and makes for the effervescence that anybody who has bought GT’s Kombucha is familiar with. Still an inexact science for me, it was not uncommon for bottles, after conditioning for a week, to explode in my face upon decapping.
The whole process there became tedious and messy. I’d need to sanitize all the bottles and track down enough to contain my product, losing most to distribution among friends.
So I soon made the switch from glass jar, with its inefficient transfers, to ceramic water crock, with a built in spigot. I could easily move my finished Kombucha from vessel to vessel without spilling or sacrificing any.
As the two of us became more comfortable sharing a living space (I brewed in my pantry) I became a bit more careless with my upkeep. I’d go two and then three weeks before calling the tea ready. I then started to notice that the lip of the crock would cause the SCOBY, which will grow with each fermentation (much to the chagrin of any brewer), would actually form a seal, allowing a second fermentation to occur in the initial vessel! Kombucha would emerge from the spout already bubbly (and quite a bit boozy, I will say) and the complex teas I used made for interested flavors from the get-go.
Neglect was also never an issue. I’d leave my SCOBY home alone for weeks at a time without much liquid to accompany it. It would always be ready for a new batch when I was.
All good things must come to an end…
I walked in the other day to find my SCOBY dead. My resilient mother, as resilient as my own mother I believed, had ended its tenure here on earth. Gone are the days of my flawless creations. Certain I had lost the perfect being, I sulked.
My spiritual advisor, Hannah, who herself has been a professional Kombuch-er, tells me that relief is not far off. While it’s true that people beg for takers of their extra SCOBY, I can’t risk the purity of my specimen being compromised by the sorts of things I’ve seen on the J train…
But her solution is to simply pour a bottle of Kombucha into my crock and return to my forgetful days. As the time passes, the SCOBY present in each bottle of Kombucha (similar probiotics can be found in unfiltered cider vinegar) will grow just as mine did. Eventually, perhaps, I’ll take again those culinary risks. And perhaps I’ve learned my lesson…
Brine and Dine
…can reveal to you a recipe you with you had devised sooner. I wanted to eat something before heading to hot yoga yesterday, and I had some mustard greens from a trip to the farmers market a week ago as well as a bunch of Japanese salad greens (mizuna and mibuna) from my CSA. In the fridge i found what was left of a bag of limes, all needing to be used sooner rather than later. I tossed with a good amount of greens the following:
2 T sesame oil
2 T tahini paste
1 T chickpea miso (south river miso)
1 lime, juiced
1 T sushi rice vinegar
The result is somewhat reminiscent of the dressing I used to enjoy eating at Hibachi restaurants as a kid. I don’t doubt this will also be good tossed with noodles.
In spite of my meal, I still grew dizzy after an hour of yoga and spent the remaining thirty minutes laying down with a towel over my face. I’m lucky enough that the room has a mirror, so that even in the back I could not hide from my embarrassing situation.
4:30 again today?
Brine and Dine
Growing up I had always believed that my mom’s mom was a great cook. Before my palate had developed I think I was just excited that she’d microwave me some bacon which was of course forbidden in my kosher home. I’d spend every Friday night there and Saturdays at my dad’s folks.
The unfortunate reality is that she’s not a very good cook. She kept quiet about it then but makes no secret of it now. She grew up during the depression and while money was tight, anything she bought at the market she was required to eat in its entirety, like it or not. After too many misses for too few hits, she retreated into a realm of familiarity and to this day remains wary if not outright opposed to tasting anything new. Even our garlic kraut, combining two flavours she does like for certain, was tested with great trepidation. She ended up loving it.
Probably over a year ago now I installed on her computer a program that would catalogue all of her recipes, as plain as those might be. Her mastery of the program was never achieved and by this point she’s stopped being able to open it altogether. However, there is one archived recipe of hers worth preserving in the world.
The one thing I know she does well was mandelbrot. As exact a science as baking tends to be, the recipe has survived her seemingly random adulteration of it (adjusting the sugar without adjusting anything else, leaving out nuts entirely) and has further still succeeded in my own kitchen using the simplest of vegan substitutions (apple sauce for eggs). I am baking a batch right now for a benefit at CIA (Culinary Institute of America, duh. No gods, no masters…all pastries? hrm)
As the last few days in NYC have been excruciatingly hot, even for a child of the summer as I am. I so look forward to setting the remainder of these in my freezer to enjoy cold. As there are no liquids in the batter except oil, it never really freezes, simply becomes pleasantly cold.
3/4 c sugar
1 c + 1 T oil (I used safflower)
3/4 c apple sauce
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
3 c flour
1 c chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 375
Mix the oil, apple sauce, and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients (minus the chips) and then combine the two bowls until a thick batter is formed. A rubber spatula will be less frustrating than a whisk at this point. Form two loaves about an inch thick and four inches wide. Score each in 1-inch increments and place in the oven for 25 minutes. Cut through at each score and turn each piece on its side to brown for another 20-25 minutes. Though definitely delicious fresh, I really recommend taking the time to freeze them.
Brine and Dine