We recently held a class here at Lockeland and taught the art of fermentation. I was joined by Leslie Garbis, who is an avid fermentor of sorts. I have been making Kombucha at LT for at least 6 months now, and we even serve two drinks here at the bar from what we have fermented in our own kitchen. It’s fun to be doing this. Will it go over well with our clientele? Stay tuned.
One of the reasons I initially got into fermentation was that I have become serious about my health. I entered a self defense class taught by Leslie’s husband, Evangelos, that was based around cardio activity. Cycling didn’t work for me. Neither did running. But exercises based around a self-defense class did. Cardio activity is important in self defense because if you can’t breathe, you can’t fight, and if you can’t fight you’re f*****—which is one of our sayings in class.
As the class went on and Evangelos and I hung out more, he would bring me things to try that he and Leslie had fermented. We started originally with kefirs for the probiotics. That eventually turned into kombucha, then vegetables.
Fermenting is coming back around. People are wanting to make their own sauerkrauts and kimchees at home. There’s so much you can do. I think this year I may ferment more than I preserve in the form of canning.
So what exactly Is Fermentation?
Fermentation is the process used to produce wine, beer, liquor, yogurt, kombucha and other products. The sugars are converted to acids, gases or alcohol, and heat is even produced. Which is appropriate, as fermenting is very hot right now. (ha) It is the old method of preserving food and was an ideal process as it does not require any energy (meaning electricity). It happens at room temperature. People tend to get this and pickling mixed up, however, they are not the same.
As the items you are wishing to ferment sit at room temperature they begin to do things, such as bringing good bacteria into the environment for one. That’s the opposite of pickling where you kill most bacteria, good and bad, by boiling before you submerge the product—which prevents spoilage by creating a vacuum. In Fermenting you are actually welcoming the bacteria.
So we have been making Kombucha here at LT. And we taught people in the class how to make their own as well. It’s so much better and cheaper than the mass produced kombucha you buy at the store. Who knows where the Kombucha is really made and bottled that you purchase at the store. You’re also paying way too much. When I make Kombucha here I am making it for at least a fourth of the price that you are paying when you buy it commercially.
How it’s done.
We start with one gallon of filtered water. All of our water at LT is filtered before coming out of the faucet. It’s important that the water has a low chlorine count. If the water has a high count it can sit at room temp for a day and that will dissipate from the water.
We then take eight bags of an organic black tea and one cup of organic sugar. I brew the tea, and allow it to naturally come to room temperature. Next, I remove the bags and place the tea into a glass vessel. And it needs to be glass. Then at that point I add my scoby (symbiotic communities of bacteria and yeast) which is the mother.
I then set it on the shelf in an area of the kitchen that gets little to no sunlight for about 6-12 days, (depending on the temp in the kitchen and the desires of sweet to sour that I am looking for). It will stay sweet for 4-6 days then it begins to take on a sour effect. You want this for the probiotic benefits. Some people enjoy the acidic more than others, so they might let theirs go an extra day or two.
After you do the first ferment of kombucha and get it where you want it, in terms of sweet vs. sour you remove the scoby (which doubles in size and produces another each time you ferment). You have to separate the scoby. That allows you share it or use it another one of your rotations.
The 2nd ferment is where you achieve carbonation and flavor. This is where I add organic fruit juice or sliced fruits to add my flavor of choice. Then I jar it and return to shelf at room temperature for about 3-5 days.
After achieving carbonation and flavor from the second ferment, you put the kombucha into the refrigerator and enjoy drinking.It won’t stop the fermentation, but it will slow it. At this point you have also achieved the health benefits, so slowing the process and enjoying it in the days to come is your reward.
In the early phases, as you make your own, you will learn a lot about what you like and don’t like. So it is very important to take notes, take measurements and learn how to adjust to find the method, length of time and the recipe that you like.
My first few batches of kombucha were not perfect. I learned a lot. An extra day here or a day less there. My latest batch is mango, mint and ginger and it is by far my best. It includes sugar from the fruit and the sugar I add, but the sugars are getting eaten. It’s not a high sugar beverage. If you buy it, you’ll pay $4.50 for about 10 ounces, I can make it for a quarter of the price.
More Than Just Tea
I want to continue to do more with fermentation, like mustards. I will do this by letting one of my kombuchas go too long. It will be more acidic which will help to create the mustard.
As I go on a journey to work on my own health and learning to eat better, which is a continual study, I plan to keep a small corner of the dry storage area here in the restaurant committed to fermentation. I have some kombucha, some cauliflower, carrot sticks, garlic cloves, and more.
It’s the idea that I am the one choosing the ingredients, I prepare them, and then I consume them. If I am in control of the whole process, I am aware of what I am consuming. It’s better all the way around. People need to better understand where their food comes from. Do you really know whose hands have touched it? People today aren’t necessarily aware of what they are consuming. We need to be aware and involved, or it will become an issue and a problem not just for individuals but at some point our world. It’s better all the way around. Also, the things you can ferment are endless.
Now the truth is, this takes time and attention. You have to keep the rotation going. But it’s fun. Not only are you providing for your family, you’re creating and sustaining health. It’s been a journey for me. And it’s not one that’s close to being over.