Witches’ Brew (II)

Sister Age has me brewing kombucha again. I tried it about three years ago, being thrifty and fond of such recreations, but the vacillating temperatures of late autumn sent the culture out of balance and gave me the runs, like you read about. I threw up my hands (but nothing else) and started buying the commercial Synergy brand in case lots when it was on sale.

Then, as always seems to be the case when things are going well, along comes the FDA. Someone apparently got their panties in a twist about the chance that kombucha might keep on fermenting in the bottle and produce enough alcohol to be measured (and therefore taxed). Frankly, I think you have better odds of getting high by swallowing a tall glass of Hawaiian Punch and waiting for it to ferment in your stomach (which can happen). I know onetime ripsnorting alcoholics who drink the commercial stuff regularly, and when a person who can’t drink without waking up in a police station suffers no ill effect, I consider it a testimonial.

Anyway Sister Age has rheumatoid arthritis, which she refuses to let stop her from doing triathlon and surviving bike crashes and the like, and she insists the kombucha, with its interesting acids and probiotics and so on,  suppresses the flareups and keeps her blood work inside normal ranges. (Since she had not had a normal platelet count for years until going kombucha crazy, I have to think it was what we’d call a clue.) She put up with some pale pasteurized brands for a while and then got hold, via a colleague of her caterer husband, of a kombucha culture in a jar. Suddenly freezing up at the challenge of tackling the brewing process, she called me, and in short order had dropped off the jar on my front porch.

There wasn’t much in the jar — the average kombucha culture looks like a snot flapjack, and this one had been taking Sudafed or something — but I boiled up some sugar water and steeped assorted teas in it and scrubbed my tap vat and bottles with more boiling water, raising a fine steam throughout the house.  Kombucha does not want to live in herb tea or spice tea or what have you; it wants only black and green Camellia Sinensis and common sugar. You put about a half cup of sugar in a quart of water, steep the tea after it boils, and then add three more quarts of cooler filtered water; it all goes in the tap vat with the little snot Frisbee and you cover it with a towel (it needs a little air circulation) and pray. Periodically you take a slash to see if anything is happening. I got bubbles on the fifth day and it was beginning to taste vinegary on the seventh. This is a Good Thing. If you are the kind of person who likes a bit of pickle juice or vinegar and honey to sort your digestion, you will understand. Eventually you get a very dry, crisp flavor that has something in common with champagne, though you would never confuse the two.

I called Sister Age over and showed her how to boil up the brew and fill the bottles, then removed the towel to see how the shroom was doing in there. They grow and multiply, you see. This one apparently liked its new diet. It looked like Donovan’s Brain.

“What the hell was he feeding it up till now, Sweet and Low?” I asked grumpily, pouring in the gallon of tepid sweet tea. She took home half the bottling, which has to perk in the bottles another week or so, and called last night to assure me she hadn’t gotten the Fungoid Two-Step.

Today I made the third batch and split the shroom so Sister Age can get rolling at home.

I don’t know who will get the next cutting when it bulks up again. I hear you can cook with them or put them in plant pots.

Maybe I’ll go around at night, leaving them on people’s steps in jars.


10 thoughts on “Witches’ Brew (II)

  1. Oh sled, you crack me up:

    “…the average kombucha culture looks like a snot flapjack, and this one had been taking Sudafed or something….”

    I just feel giddy after reading this one . And I thought I was something with my tea-freakedness, buying copious loose-leaf by the pound in assorted tins.

    You’re a braver woman than I in so many ways. LOL!

    It must be an alkalizing agent. Why not just take apple cider vinegar, the raw kind (with the “mother” as they call it)?

    I learn so much from your blog, sled :-).

  2. Oh, if we ever were in the same tea shop it would be a terrifying spectacle. Can you say “Nilgiri”? (My best part of London was the Bramah Tea museum)…

    Alkalizing, and apparently there are acids more complex than cider vinegar although that is an acceptable substitute in a pinch. It’s hard to explain it till you’ve drunk it.

    • I’ve never worked with a sourdough culture but, yeah, kind of the same principle as I understand it — you just keep it going.

      Kombucha is half yeast (makes the final product fizz) and half bacteria that produce acetic acid and several other arcane ones like glucoronic acid, which apparently pulls various unwholesome metabolic by-products, ketone ash and so on, out of cells and transports them to the liver for flushing. So saith the research. I have no idea who first decided to put these organisms together with tea and sugar but it happened somewhere in the vicinity of Siberia.

  3. The FDA IS aware that ANY fruit-based liquid… orange juice… pineapple juice… can ferment, aren’t they? They don’t seem to be worried out regulating mouthwash which many people drink in lieu of actual booze… Nonsensical!

    This sort of reminds me of the “Friendship” cakes my friends made back in the late 80s (there are probably people still making them) from a starter batch.

    It was yummy but boozy!

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