Real Food Smoothie

Smoothies are a staple around here. They’re convenient, they taste good and they’re healthy. Well, mine are healthy. I’ve seen smoothie recipes which include sneaky sources of sugar and fake food like flavored yogurt, fruit juice, flavored milk substitutes (I know, vanilla soy milk sounds healthy, but read those labels!), and soy protein isolate powders. No thank you.

My recipe is full of real raw food and delivers tons of nutrition. All these ingredients are readily available organic.

Blend until smooth in a good quality blender (if you want to go top of the line get a VitaMix, but Oster makes a perfectly good blender for a fraction of the price):

  • A big handful or two of raw baby spinach and/or kale. If you’re new to adding green stuff to your smoothies, start with a little spinach. Trust me, you won’t taste it. As your palate gets used to it, you’ll be able to add more without tasting it. Once you’re ready for a bit of green-ness, graduate to adding some kale (remove tough ribs and the center stalk first)
  • 1/2  to 1 cups of full-fat plain yogurt. You didn’t read that wrong. FULL FAT yogurt. Fat is not the enemy, it’s necessary in your diet. I really like Straus Family organic European style yogurt which has no stabilizers or additives. Their Greek yogurt is ridiculously good (OMG!), but its glorious thickness is wasted in a smoothie, European style is just fine. Beware of flavored yogurts. They are almost always hiding added sugar! This has enough sweetness from the fruit, go with plain.
  • 1 orange or 2 clementine tangerines. Using the whole fruit adds fiber and keeps the sugar content down.
  • 1 organic egg, raw. Yes. Raw. Whole egg.  The poor egg yolk, it gets such a bad rap, but that’s another post.
  • water as needed by your blender.
  • 1 tsp Carlson’s Lemon Flavored Fish Oil or Cod Liver Oil. Fish oil has no vitamin D while cod liver oil does. So I use fish oil in the summer and cod liver oil in the winter. Carlson’s comes in a bottle so there are no capsules to break. I also find the oil from the bottle doesn’t make me burp the way capsules do. And no, it does NOT taste like fish! It has a clean lightly lemony flavor.
  • optional: 1-2T psyllium husk powder for added fiber. I emphasis powder because most psyllium is sold in whole husk form, which is also great for adding insoluble fiber to your diet, but the powder blends better with liquid – not as grainy as the whole husk. If using whole husks use 2-3T.
  • 2 cups of organic frozen fruit of your choice: blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, peaches, mangoes. Blueberries aren’t just a super fruit, they make it a nice purple color. Without a dark berry it can look a little gray because of the spinach – it’ll still taste great but might not look very appetizing.. Mangoes are great to add with any berry mixture. A few raspberries are nice, too many gets too tart for my taste. Experiment!
  • 1-2 frozen bananas. I always have frozen bananas on hand – just tear ripe bananas into chunks and throw in a freezer bag. Frozen bananas are the secret to a milkshake texture.
  • Water as needed to keep things moving.

Directions

  • Green stuff at the base – spinach or kale. Then the yogurt, egg, fish oil, orange, psyllium and 1-2 cups of water. Pulverize until no bits of spinach or kale remain, but you have a beautiful green liquid ready to take on the frozen ingredients.
  • Add frozen ingredients slowly, adding water as needed to keep your blender cranking.

This makes a huge batch. It’s a meal for two.

Enjoy!

Eat Well. Not Less.

I know what it is to be overweight and have no clue how to eat well. I was two years post-baby hauling around an extra 35 pounds, eating SpaghettiO’s and drinking Coca-Cola. I didn’t like how I looked or how I felt. Then I was introduced to a brand new concept. Food as fuel for my body. I was a college educated 25 year old mother but that concept really hadn’t sunk in before.

I began to read. A lot (see below for a suggested reading list). When I began to understand what that processed food and refined sugar was doing to my body it suddenly wasn’t quite so appetizing anymore. I never went on a “diet”. I never counted calories or starved myself. I did begin to consider if what I was putting in my mouth was giving my body what it needed to function well. The pounds melted off and I’ve stayed at a healthy weight for almost 25 years now.

On my 50th birthday

Dr. Diana Schwarzbein says in her books (see reading list below) that you don’t lose weight to get healthy. First you get healthy and then you’ll lose weight. That was certainly true in my case.

I still strive to improve my diet, I struggle with getting enough veggies and fish into my system, but it’s about improving the fuel now, not losing weight. And it’s always – always – about it tasting good. Food is one of life’s great pleasures. Eating well doesn’t have to change that.

Moderation in all things, including moderation.

Like we all do, I overindulge once in a while. Typically around my birthday which is in December. Too many dinners out. Too many holiday cookies. I don’t beat myself up over it. It wasn’t good for me but it tasted great and that’s ok once in a while. It shows up in how I feel and on the scale. It’s not a chore to get back to how I usually eat. I start to feel like crap when I don’t eat well. So by this time of year I’m looking forward to again focusing on eating better (note, not eating less).  I know I’ll soon be back to feeling like my old self and my typical number will reappear on the scale.

Now, I’m not saying you can eat all the healthy food you want, especially as we get older. But I’m saying before you focus on how much or how little food you’re eating, focus first on quality. See what happens when you pay attention to “what” and not so much on “how much”. If you’re eating quality food but the pounds aren’t coming off then evaluate if you’re eating too much. If that’s the case try first to simply eat slower. Put your fork down between bites. Pay attention to the wonderful tastes and textures in your mouth. Chew your food and let your mouth do its job, which is to prepare your food for the rest of your digestive system. I’ve found for myself that this allows my brain to stay in tune with my stomach. I end up eating less but I never feel hungry or unsatisfied.

So, what do you eat?

I’m not a registered dietitian. I have no formal training in nutrition. It is, however, a personal passion and I’ve been successful at taking and keeping off my extra weight. More than that I’m healthy. My blood profiles are excellent. I don’t get sick. I feel good. So, for what it’s worth here is my page on how I eat.

If you’re just starting your journey towards eating better, or if you’re already on that path and just looking for some new information, here’s my recommended reading list:

What is acid reflux anyway?

If you’re like me you may have acid reflux and not know it. Oh you know you’ve got something wrong, but not what’s causing it. And until you know what it is how can you know how to fix it? (want the shortcut to how to fix it? it’s here).

What is Acid Reflux?

In the old days it was called heartburn because some people feel a burning sensation behind their sternum (aka breastbone). Your esophagus meets your stomach at your diaphragm which separates your heart and lungs from your other organs, and all that happens at the end of your sternum. It’s got nothing to do with your heart, despite the name. (and don’t be stupid, if you’re having chest pain and you don’t know what’s causing it, see a doctor!).

There’s a sphincter there that allows food into your stomach, then closes behind it. Your stomach is, by design, very acidic. It turns that big steak into meat soup by the time it gets to the other end of your stomach. But your esophagus isn’t designed to deal with acid. It’s the job of the lower esophageal sphincter (the LES) to keep the two separated. When that sphincter isn’t doing its job acid leaks up into your esophagus and ouch!

Symptoms

People call it heartburn but not everyone has a burning sensation. I didn’t. So I didn’t think heartburn when I started having symptoms.

These days it’s called acid reflux or more technically, when it becomes a chronic condition, Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Reflux sounds to me like throwing up. I didn’t feel like anything was coming back up my throat, so again I discounted acid reflux as the cause of my troubles.

In my case I couldn’t catch my breath when my heart rate got elevated (more accurately when my breathing got faster, remember that the LES is at your diaphragm). I had a persistent heaviness in my chest, like a dog was sitting on me. When lifting weights or exerting myself it sometimes felt like someone punched me right at the base of my sternum.  At one point I lost my voice for a few weeks. I could squeek for a few minutes, then I was done for (anyone who knows me knows how much THAT cramped my style!).

For 18 months I googled ‘shortness of breath’ and the like. Finally my husband noticed I coughed after I ate. “Coughing after eating” was the magical phrase that led me to hiatal hernia and then acid reflux. I felt pretty stupid for not figuring it out earlier, but then again I’d seen two internists, a cardiologist, a pulmonologist and they hadn’t figured it out either.

Hiatal Hernia

Not all reflux sufferers have a hiatal hernia, and not everyone with a hiatal hernia has reflux, but they seem to go together. They certainly do in my case. A hiatal hernia is when the top part of your stomach protrudes through the LES. That punched feeling behind my sternum when I lifted weights? Yeah. That was my stomach popping up through my LES.

Treatment

If you suffer from acid reflux and/or hiatal hernia there are very effective natural options. After 18 months of chronic breathing problems, once I figured out the root cause of my problem I felt better in 3 days. 3 days. I started eating less and eating earlier (so I had time to digest before sleeping), I stopped going upside down (think of the yoga position down dog, big no no), started sleeping on an incline, drinking slippery elm tea and chewing DGL tablets. 3 days.  More details on these natural remedies, including a very simple exercise for hiatal hernias, can be found on my blog post here. I hope you find them useful.

Related Posts:

Garlic Will Cure What Ails Ya

It’s that time of year again. {sniff-sniff}

When you feel that cold or flu coming on, stop it in its tracks with garlic which is a natural antibiotic (natural anti-everything really).  I don’t often get sick, but when I do I immediately start downing garlic and more than once it’s kicked a cold to the curb by morning.

At the onset of symptoms take 2 cloves of garlic a day (or more, if your friends and family can tolerate it!). One with breakfast, one with dinner. Keep it up for a few days, even if you start feeling better right away.  Interestingly, unlike with pharmaceutical antibiotics, bacteria don’t build up resistance to garlic, so you can keep taking it preventatively.

  • Mince it up (finer is better, plus it’s easier to swallow).
  • Pile it up on a spoon and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. The oxygen in the air will boost the healing properties of the garlic.
  • Then down the hatch, chasing it with a big glass of water.

Does it have to be raw? Yes. Yes, it does. Cooked garlic is great, and still good for you. But it’s not going to knock out that cold. Would garlic pills do just as well? Of course not (c’mon!).

Garlic is also an anti-fungal, anticoagulant, and antihypertensive (lowers your blood pressure) and might also lower your cholesterol. So if you’re on medication consult your doctor and/or pharmacist for possible drug interactions.

Additional links:

“ChuckVision” Beans with Ham

It’s always nice to meet someone who can also get excited talking about Rancho Gordo. Not enough of us out there, to be sure, but the word is getting out.

Who – or what? – is a Rancho Gordo? Thanks to Steve Sando, Bean Master and the founder of Rancho Gordo, you have options when it comes to dried beans. Supermarket beans just don’t compare to heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo with exotic names like Good Mother Stallard or wonderfully descriptive names like  Jacob’s Cattle, Yellow Eye or Ojo de Cabra (Goat’s Eye). If you eat beans and have never tried using heirloom beans you owe it to yourself to try it. Plus, by buying Rancho Gordo beans you’re helping to support biodiversity and local family farmers. If that means nothing to you, then buy them just because you can’t believe the difference it’ll make to the flavor of your bean dishes.

I recently met attorney Chuck Numbers and we ended up talking about our love of Rancho Gordo beans (long irrelevant story). A week or so later a package arrived on my doorstep. Beans. Rancho Gordo beans. From Chuck. The note included said he was at a farmer’s market in San Francisco, saw those Rancho Gordo beans and thought of me and decided to send us some of his favorite beans. Wow. How often do you run into someone that thoughtful?

One of the beans included in that package was a pound of Yellow Eyes. It said right on the package, “A ham hock’s best friend”. Yummy. One of my favorite ways to make beans. Here’s how I do it, a very slight adaptation to the Red Beans & Rice recipe in Steve Sando & Vanessa Barrington’s Heirloom Beans: Great Recipes for Dips and Spreads, Soups and Stews, Salads and Salsas, and Much More from Rancho Gordo.

This recipe makes a HUGE batch of beans because you can’t buy half a ham hock. I love smoked pork as much as the next guy, but let’s face it, it’s not health food, even if it’s an organic nitrate-free smoked-in-house ham hock like this one I got at Whole Foods. I know, it’s a little disgusting looking. It’s the lower half of a pig leg, what were you expecting?

To keep the pork content to a minimum I’ve kept the ham the same as the original recipe and doubled everything else. Still plenty pork-y & luscious. Hope you have plenty of storage containers for freezing leftovers, you’ll need them (I like these, they’re glass & the round shape means I can run some warm water across the bottom and pop it out right into my 2-qt sauce pan for reheating).

Ingredients

  • 1 one pound-ish smoked ham shank (aka ham hock, same dif). Available packaged or ask your butcher, they may smoke their own
  • 2 pound yellow eye heirloom Rancho Gordo beans, soaked (or combine two different kinds of heirloom beans like I did – I combined the Yellow Eyes with a pound of Good Mother Stallard’s which didn’t cook at the same time, honestly, but it all worked out in the end)
  • 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 2 medium red onions, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 6 stalks celery, chopped (include the leaves, tons of flavor in those babies)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  • Rinse the beans in plenty of cool water, picking out any rocks (happens) or broken beans. Soak them for 2-6 hours (overnight even) in enough cold water to cover by at least an inch. Seriously, tell me those beans don’t look more interesting than plain old kidney beans.
  • In a large (7 qt+) dutch oven heat EVOO over medium heat until it shimmers. Add onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic and saute 10 minutes or until veggies are soft & fragrant but not browned. If you’re like me and you typically add salt to your veggies as they saute, DON’T! You’ll add the salt later but beans like to cook salt-free for a couple of hours first.
  • Add the beans, their soaking liquid and the ham shank, adding water if necessary to cover the beans by 1 inch. Add spices not including the salt (bay leaves, thyme, oregano and cayenne pepper), bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.
  • Simmer partially covered, checking occasionally to make sure the beans are staying submerged, adding water as necessary. Watch TV. Play with your kids. Do some Bikram Yoga in honor of Chuck. Whatever. It’s gonna be a while.
  • After 4 hours or so, when the meat starts to fall off those beautiful ham bones, remove the ham shank (and any pieces of meat that fell off as you were pulling it out!).
  • Crank the heat on the beans up to medium-high and cook uncovered while you shred the pork.
  • If you’ll be serving this over brown rice start that rice cooker.
  • Shred the pork, removing any bones, visible fat and other icky bits. 
  • Cook the bean, uncovered, until thick, about 20 minutes. Mash with a wooden spoon, potato masher or immersion blender then return shredded ham to the pot.
  • If you’ll be serving over white rice, now’s the time to start the rice cooker.
  • The original recipe seasons with salt & pepper earlier in the process, but I wait until the end. Seems to me that you can’t tell how much salt that pork is going to bring to the party until it’s done doing its thing. Start slowly. It takes beans a few minutes to soak up the salt so you don’t really know how much you have right away. Don’t forget the pepper.
  • Serve over rice with hot sauce, cilantro & a squeeze of lime.

During our conversation I referred Chuck to this blog and he joked he was going to start his own, ChuckVision.com. Domain not available Chuck, you’d have to talk to the Iowa City Astronomy Club about that.

Quick & easy cauliflower potato soup

Looked in the fridge tonight and there was the head of cauliflower I’d intended to use over the weekend. If I didn’t make it tonight it was going to go to waste. With my new commitment to eating more vegetables I couldn’t let that happen (not to mention throwing organic food away, bad karma that). So I decided to throw together a quick soup. How bad could it be? Turned out great. Thick. Creamy. Luscious. The recipe I adapted this from (in the recent Nutrition Action newsletter) had 2 cups of milk. SO doesn’t need milk. It was super easy and it was on the table in about 30 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 3T extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped, core removed.
  • 2 medium potatoes, diced, skins on
  • 4 cups (1 box) Pacific brand organic chicken broth (yes, the brand matters, I’ve found no equal)
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper

Directions:

  • In stockpot sauté onions in EVOO with a large pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper until they take on a little color (5-10 minutes).
  • Add cauliflower and sauté 5 more minutes.
  • Add potatoes and chicken broth. If liquid does not cover veggies add water (I didn’t need any). The liquid will deglaze the pot so it’ll have some color, don’t freak out.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes or until veggies are fork tender.
  • Whiz with immersion blender until smooth but don’t overdo it, potatoes can get gummy. Add additional salt & pepper to taste.

Next time I may start with a mirepoix (2 parts onion, 1 part carrot, 1 part celery) but I wanted super quick & easy tonight.

The nutrition on this recipe is pretty impressive. Low cal, 4 grams of fiber and all the good stuff that’s in those veggies. And please don’t freak out over the fat %. a) it’s olive oil, it’s good for you. b) look at calories or fat grams, not percentages. c) fat is not your enemy, in fact it’s necessary to get the most of the nutrients in those vegetables.

Grandma Marie’s Sugar Cookies

Am I a health freak? Yes. Yes I am.

Does that mean I don’t make cookies? Absolutely not. Living a healthy life is about enjoying some indulgences occasionally. And my Gram’s sugar cookies are one of those worthy indulgences. A basic little sugar cookie. Rich. Lightly sweet. Begging for frosting &/or sprinkles.

My Dad and Grandma Marie

I don’t even try to health these up (except to use all organic ingredients). The only modification I’ve made to the original recipe is to substitute Fiori Di Sicilia for the lemon & vanilla extracts of the original.

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp Fiori Di Sicilia (a lovely orange-y vanilla extract). You can substitute 1/2 tsp lemon extract and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.
  • 2-1/2 cup flour for drop cookies. 3 cups for rolled.
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 425° F

Cream well: butter and sugar

Add & mix: eggs, then extracts

Then: rest of ingredients. It doesn’t specify in my recipe (you know those old recipes, short on details), but I sift the dry ingredients together before adding.

Can be made as a drop cookie or rolled out and cut. If rolling, split dough in half, wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate for 2 hrs. Dust rolling pin & surface with confectioner’s sugar if desired. Or make them down & dirty like I was taught – roll into a small ball and flatten with your hands or the lightly floured bottom of a glass.

Bake at 425° F for 5-7 minutes until lightly browned on the edges.

Store in an airtight container for up to a week (yeah, like they’ll last that long).

What you need to make your own kombucha

I didn’t start brewing my own kombucha until they yanked it off the shelf. I was hooked on the stuff, I was having on average one a day. I had no choice to brew my own, but the math was also compelling. What I was paying $3.50 retail for I could make myself for about 20 cents once I had the equipment (it’s only sugar & tea!). My all in, including equipment I now know I don’t need, was $137.65 so I’d pay for my investment after 42 bottles, or 6 batches.

What you’ll need for initial brewing (primary fermentation):

  • (1) Large stainless steel stockpot (big enough for 20 cups of liquid).
  • (6) 64 ounce (1/2 gallon) wide mouth canning jars.
    • You’ll use 3 jars per batch, so 6 is enough for 2 rotating batches.
    • Jarden 68100 6 Count Wide Mouth Canning Jars were the perfect solution for me. About $20 including shipping ($10 if you can find locally).
    • Some sites will say to use 1 gallon jars, and you certainly can, but I don’t have room to store such a large container and didn’t cherish the thought of lugging such a big heavy thing around. Plus, as it turns out, brewing 1.5 gallons is what fits in my stockpot and gives me a week’s supply (7-9 bottles).
  • Basket style paper coffee filters
  • (6) rubber bands. If you shop at Whole Foods they’ll keep you in plenty of rubber bands if you ever buy sushi or eggs.
  • SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria & yeast), aka “mother” or “mushroom”. I got mine from Nick’s Natural Nook on ebay. She shipped immediately and it arrived in perfect condition. Or try the Worldwide SCOBY exchange
  • pH Strips. You want your kombucha to have a pH of 4.6 or lower upon initial fermentation and 3.0 or below when you bottle. The strips you’ll most easily find are designed to test saliva or urine and won’t go low enough. You want to have strips that will measure from 0-6, or those designed for wine testing have an even narrower range.
  • Organic Tea (green, black or a mix). Nothing fancy required but I always use organic when available. I use the cheapest bags of 365 organic tea from Whole Foods.
  • Organic cane sugar. Again, nothing fancy. Plain organic sugar.
  • Gloves? Don’t bother. Wash your hands.

Equipment for secondary fermentation (bottling):

  • Straws…or you can go overboard and buy a Wine Thief like I did for $5, but free straws you can swipe from your local Starbucks or Whole Foods? Much cheaper.
  • You’ll be using those pH strips again, at least until you get the hang of what your kombucha should taste like when it’s ready to bottle.
  • A dozen 12-16 ounce bottles ($20-$50, you’ll use 7-9 per batch if you use my recipe).
    • I like the .375 liter Voss water bottles which retail for about $1.50 a piece. They’re heavy, glass, have a plastic cap (important, kombucha doesn’t like metal) and I know the only thing that was previously in them was clean water. I use these for bottles I give to other people. I don’t feel bad if I never see it again.
    • For reusable bottles, I love E-Z Cap Beer Bottles. I got mine online from a place that asked me to remove their link – that’s a first). $26 for a dozen bottles plus shipping which was $16. I could have saved myself the shipping fee had I done a Google search for home brewing beer supplies, there’s a specialty shop in my city. C’est la vie.
  • plastic funnel. I like this one (which happened to already be in my kitchen): Oxo Good Grips 3-Piece Funnel and Strainer Set, $8. It has little rubber grippy things so it stays put when you put it in the bottle and fits perfectly into the E-Z Cap Bottles. It also has a stainer which comes in handy for catching seeds when squeezing fresh lemon juice into a bottle of ‘buch.
  • If you use a 1 gallon jar to brew in, you’ll need a plastic ladle to transfer into your bottles. Oxo Good Grips Nylon Ladle, $7. Remember, kombucha doesn’t like metal! But if you use 1/2 gallon jars you won’t need this, it’s light enough to just pick it up and pour.
  • If alcohol is a concern – or you’re just plain curious like I am – you’ll want to test the potential alcohol level of your kombucha with a hydrometer & a test tube. Completely optional however. I tested my home brew and it tested almost zero alcohol. If there was one thing I bought that I consider a waste of money it was this.
  • SCOBY hotel. At some point you’ll have extra SCOBYs. You’ll want to hang onto a few just in case you have a batch go bad (very rare from what I understand). As much as you want air to get into your kombucha as it’s brewing, you don’t want your SCOBY hotel to breathe. One of your canning jars with lid will work fine (it’s ok if it has a metal lid – as long as it doesn’t touch your kombucha). I’m using some smaller canning jars I had. Too small for brewing, but big enough for a SCOBY hotel. A pyrex container with a plastic lid also works. Don’t store in plastic though. Glass please.

Time to brew! My basic recipe and brewing instructions are here.

Basic Kombucha recipe

See Related Post: What you Need to Make your own Kombucha with equipment list and helpful links.

Ingredients:

This recipe makes three 1/2 gallon jars (8-9 bottles).

  • 20 cups filtered water (filtered, bottled, RO’d or distilled. Tap water will have chlorine in it = SCOBY killer).
  • 2 cups organic cane sugar.
  • 4 bags organic green tea (as in individual tea bags, or use loose tea and strain)
  • 4 bags organic black tea
  • 3 SCOBYs plus 1-1/2 to 3 cups of kombucha (1 SCOBY and 1/2 to 1 cup of kombucha per brewing jar)

Sweet Tea

“Kombucha” is the finished product. It starts out as sweet tea.

  • In a large stainless steel stockpot bring water to a boil.
  • Remove from heat, add sugar and stir to dissolve.
    Sounds like a lot of sugar, I know. But it’s not for you. It’s for your SCOBY. It’s fermentation baby. Sugar is required. Don’t worry, studies show there’s not much left by the time your SCOBY has done its magic.
  • add tea bags and let tea steep for 10-15 minutes
    Recipe is very forgiving, you can add more tea if you’d like a stronger brew, or try using more black or more green tea proportionally. You can, of course, use loose tea and strain it after steeping. I’m a big tea drinker, I have tons of different kinds of loose tea in my cabinet, but I use the most basic of teas for my kombucha and I like the convenience of using tea bags. I use Whole Foods 365 brand organic teas.
  • Remove tea bags, squeezing between 2 spoons to extract out the tea goodness back into the pot of sweet tea (or strain out loose tea leaves).
  • Cover and let cool to room temperature. Below 90°F is a MUST or you’ll kill your beautiful SCOBY. The easiest thing I’ve found is to make your sweet tea at night and jar it the next day.
  • In a rush? Use 4-5 cups of water, keeping amount of sugar and tea the same. Boil, steep, remove tea, let cool to 90 degrees or so then fill to 20 cups with fresh water (again, no tap water).

Initial Fermentation (Jarring)

  • Ready 3 clean 1/2 gallon glass jars (or if you’ve just bottled a batch, you can re-use the jars you just emptied, just rinse them out with distilled white vinegar).
  • Pour sweet tea into jars, leaving an inch or more space at the top of the jar (room for the SCOBY and some started tea).
  • It’s SCOBY time! Remove any rings and wash your hands well. No antibiotic soap please. I like to finish with a dip of my hands into distilled white vinegar.
  • Add SCOBY (disgusting brown side down if it has one) and at least 1/2 cup of kombucha tea from a prior batch to each jar. Careful. That sucker will be slippery! Your old SCOBY may float, sink, or somewhere in between. Matters not. After adding the SCOBY and some of the “old” kombucha tea there should still be space at the top of the jar. A new SCOBY will grow and it needs room.
  • Draw out some of the new-old blended tea using a clean straw or wine thief and test the pH. If not 4.6 or less (it should be already, but you never know) add either more kombucha tea from a prior batch or white distilled vinegar until the pH is 4.6 or lower.
  • Cover jar with coffee filter and secure with rubber band. Do not use the lid that came with your canning jar. Kombucha needs air to ferment. A clean dish towel will also work. I’ve found paper towels too dense. Cheesecloth isn’t dense enough and fruit flies will feast on your beloved brew. Coffee filters seem to have the right density and you don’t have to wash them.
  • Label your jar with the date.
  • Stash your new brew somewhere where it won’t be disturbed and out of direct sunlight (another SCOBY killer). On top of the fridge. Pantry. Mine goes into a bathroom cabinet but I leave the door open (kombucha needs air). Warmer is better than colder.
  • Wait 7 days at least. Mine takes 12-14 days. Brewing takes longer in the winter. Patience grasshopper.
  • Look for signs that your kombucha is ready to bottle. It will have a new white SCOBY sitting on top at least 1/8″ thick. It will smell faintly (or not so faintly) of vinegar.
  • Extract a sample with a clean straw or wine thief (careful going around that new SCOBY, try not to tip it upside down just in case it’s not done doin’ its thing). Give it a sip, it should be slightly sweet. Test the pH. If the pH is 3.0 or less you’re good to go. Where to get pH strips? Click here: What you Need to Make your own Kombucha

Bottling (Secondary Fermentation)

  • Once you get going this is the first step, not the 2nd.
  • Remove any rings and wash your hands well (no antibiotic soap).
  • Mise en place. Fancy cooking term meaning “everything in its place”. Assemble:
    • (clean) plate to put stuff on, funnels, measuring spoons, lemon reamer, whatever
    • (clean) plastic funnel
    • (clean) plastic ladle if using a large brewing jar (kombucha doesn’t like metal remember)
    • (clean) bottles – I get 7 to 9 per batch
    • any flavoring you want to add (that’s a whole other post).
  • Wash your hands with water. I know. You just did. Seriously. Again. And you took your rings off, right? You’re about to touch your beloved SCOBY.
  • Extract SCOBYs. Careful! Slippery little sucker. A new one grew on top, so now you have two. Or perhaps they mated. SCOBY lovin’ isn’t a bad thing. You can usually gently separate them with your hands. One might rip. It’s ok. SCOBYs don’t have feelings. Or leave them mated. Who cares?
    • I put my SCOBYs in a my large pyrex measuring cup or a big (clean) bowl and cover them with about a cup of kombucha tea until I turn around and make my next batch.
    • Take your kombucha from the top of the jar as your starter tea for the next batch, not the murky stuff at the bottom of the jar. From the top will keep the right balance of bacteria & yeast.
  • Ready for bottling. You’ll need that funnel. And if you’re using a jar that’s so big you can’t easily pick it up you’ll need a plastic ladle (no metal ladles, SCOBY killer). You can use a plastic strainer to catch any errant SCOBY goo which might be left in the jar. It’s a personal preference, it’s not bad for you. It will bubble so go easy. Before it’s entirely full put in any flavoring you’d like to add. Ginger and lemon is a favorite of mine. But as I said, that’s a whole other post. Most people like their kombucha on the fizzy side. To get carbonation you’ve got to fill that bottle UP. If your first few batches don’t fizz, fear not, it’s still good for you. And future batches with more “mature” SCOBYs will be fizzier.
  • I label my bottles with the date and the flavoring I used. But that’s just me.
  • SCOBYs!I know, I know, you want to just drink it now. But it's not done. Stash it back in the cupboard for another few days. A week even. Then into the fridge. Kombucha should definitely be enjoyed chilled.

    Oh, the SCOBYs you have from each old batch? If you’re organized you’ve got a new batch of sweet tea ready for jarring and one can go right into a new batch, along with 1/2 to 1 cup of the finished brew. If you’re not ready to start a new batch, store them in an airtight container. A canning jar (with lid this time, no air please), a pyrex or corning ware container with a plastic lid, or short-term in a plastic ziploc baggie (plastic’s not suitable for long-term storage). You can put them in the fridge but they’ll go dormant so it’ll take them a while to perk up when you decide to brew with them again. If you’re going to brew in the next week or two they’ll be just fine at room temp. Once you have enough SCOBYs you’ll want to set up a SCOBY hotel for your spares just in case you have a batch go bad. After that do the world a favor and give a SCOBY to a friend.

Timing

After your brew your sweet tea you’ll need to let it cool to room temperature (less than 90F or you’ll kill your SCOBY). This takes longer than you think it might. Save yourself the waiting and brew it before going to bed and let it cool overnight.

If you always want to have kombucha on hand you’ll have to have at least 2 batches at different stages. My initial fermentation takes about 2 weeks. I brew sweet tea every Saturdays, let it cool overnight. On Sundays I bottle and jar up a new batch. I bottle the 3 jars that are ready to go, and re-use those jars for my next batch. The following week 3 more jars are ready for bottling. Btw, you’ll always use a little kombucha from the old batch in your new batch and will lose more if you’re storing extra SCOBYs (or giving them away) so there’s never 100% “harvest”.

Cleanliness is next to godliness.

Part 1: Contact!

Before touching your SCOBY wash your hands. With hot water. For 30 seconds. You can use disposable surgical gloves if you’d like (nothing with powder in them!). But I think they’re a hassle. I do a final dip of my hands into white distilled vinegar before touching the SCOBY.

Part 2: Mind Your Surfaces.

If you need to take your SCOBY out of it’s brewing jar and set it down before putting it to work in the next batch, place on a clean plate or bowl. Do not put on a cutting board. God knows what’s still living in there.

Part 3: Brewing Jars

Either immediately re-use your brewing jars for your next batch or clean them in the dishwasher. Use the antibacterial setting if it has one. And/or use the hot water rinse if it has it. I rinse mine with a little distilled white vinegar if I’m feeling like being extra godly.

Part 4: Bottles.

Rinse your used bottles immediately after use and wash in the dishwasher. Again, use any extra cleanliness settings it may have. You can boil the bejesus out of your bottles if you want. I choose not to. Rinsed and dishwasher is clean enough for me. Yup, that’s me. Living on the edge.

More Kombucha Info

I’m a kombucha newbie, here are some links from more experienced brewers with brewing tips and other info on kombucha:

Ginger-Lemon Water. So refreshing!

A great virtually calorie-free refresher. Alkalizing to boot.

Ginger-Lemon Water

Ingredients:

  • 1-2″ knob of fresh ginger
  • juice of 4-8 fresh lemons
  • optional: 30 drops liquid stevia (or your natural sweetener of choice)

Directions:

  • Into a large (1qt) container, juice lemons. If I have plenty of lemons I use this Lemon Squeezer (it’s not very efficient). Or, if I need every drop or want lots of yummy pulp, I use a good old fashioned Wooden Citrus Reamer, in which case I juice through a strainer to catch the seeds or fish them out when I’m done juicing with a spoon. Or I just say screw it and leave the seeds in there.
  • Peel and thinly slice the ginger. For a stronger ginger flavor, grate it. Peeling ginger tip: use the back of a spoon.
  • Add plenty of ice and water to fill container, adding 25-30 drops of Liquid Stevita Stevia if you want more lemonade than lemon water. If using powdered stevia you’ll need to dissolve the powder in a small amount of hot water as stevia powder does not easily dissolve into cold liquids. Naturally you can substitute with your natural sweetener of choice or leave the sweetener out altogether.

Serve over ice. Extra nice with a slice of lemon. I hope you enjoy. This is a staple around our house. Particularly in summer.