Kombucha and other fermented foods have become very popular over the last ten years or so partially due to the teachings of the Weston A. Price Foundation and new science showing the gut-brain connection. Ninety percent of our serotonin is produced in the digestive tract. Serotonin is a brain neurotransmitter often referred to as a feel-good happy hormone.
Many of us are aware that Kombucha is supposed to be good for us and you may have even grabbed a GT’s from the grocery store and tried one. Yet, you still have no idea how it is made or where all the health benefits come from that you have heard so much about. Today I am going to share with you some of the basics about fermented food and drinks and supply you with information so that you will be able to make these beneficial foods right at home for a fraction of the cost in the store.
Fermentation occurs naturally when bacteria is given an opportunity to transform the carbohydrates into more complex substances. The microorganisms (beneficial bacteria) in fermented food and beverages help support your microbiome, the collection of bacteria, yeast, viruses and fungi that live in your gut and on your skin.
Lacto refers to lactic acid. Lactobacillus is a beneficial bacterium, present on the surface of all living things especially on the leaves and roots of plants growing near the ground. Lactic acid inhibits harmful bacteria and acts as a preservative. Fermentation is a process of conversion of carbohydrates to alcohols and carbon dioxide or organic acids using yeasts, bacteria or a combination of the two under anaerobic (oxygen-free) conditions. Usually, microorganisms are desired; these bacteria convert sugars into lactic acid. This bacterium helps acidify the digestive tract, ultimately creating an environment able to grow healthy bacteria in your gut. As many of you already know a healthy gut leads to a healthy life.
When we go back in history it seems as if every traditional society has some kind of lacto-fermented food in their diet. They were aware of how to preserve their food long before electricity was invented, but unaware of the many health benefits they were receiving by eating these long-lasting foods. The people in Alaska would ferment fish and other sea life to keep a food supply through the long winter months and many still do to this day. Europeans are known for fermented dairy, grape leaves, sorrel leaves, fish, herbs, wine, alcohol, chou croute (cabbage/sauerkraut) cauliflower, brussel sprouts, broccoli and pretty much any autumn root vegetable. This was and still is done in preparation for the winter months. Brined sour pickles, sauces, tofu, soy milk, miso, natto, squash, onion, turnip, winter radish, mooli, daikon and burdock (gobo) are consumed all over Asia; kimchi is served at almost every meal in Korea. The Indian culture is known for the tradition of fermenting fruit along with spices to make chutneys and Dosa, a fermented crepe made with fermented rice batter or black lentils is a staple food in many parts of India. Jamaica has long been known for its Ginger Beer and traditional American cuisine includes many types of fermented jams and relishes such as cucumber relish, watermelon rind and even pickled cucumber jam and more well known is Raw Apple Cider Vinegar (with the mother).
Bulgaros or milk kefir is a fermented drink that originated in the Caucasus Mountains. Traditional kefir is a unique combination of kefir grains (a yeast/bacterial fermentation starter) and fermented goat’s milk. Traditionally it was made and hung in a goatskin bag near a doorway so that people passing by would knock into the bag keeping the mixture well mixed during the fermentation process.
Kefir can also be made with cow or sheep milk and make sure you always read the ingredients and make sure you are purchasing an organic version made from an animal that was grass fed/grass finished and pasture raised. If you are Vegan or milk intolerant you can use rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk or cashew milk. Kefir is a relative of yogurt containing high amounts of antioxidants, lactobacilli and Bifidus bacteria. You can sweeten or flavor it with, fruit, maple syrup, honey or even make ice cream with it. You can always purchase raw goat or cows milk from a local organic pastured farm and make your own kefir at home. Watch this video for Milk Kefir Basics with Dr. Susan Humphries and Tips and Tricks Making Kefir from Donna’s Whole Food Life.
Fermented foods can help reduce your cravings for sugars. If these foods are not some of your favorites to consume, start with a tablespoon with two meals a day until your palate gets used to them.
Kimchi is an Asian version of spicy, pickled nappa cabbage often flavored with garlic, ginger, paprika and hot peppers. Kimchi is one of the best probiotic fermented foods you can add to your diet. It is a rich source of B-vitamins, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, calcium, iron potassium and dietary fiber. I personally love Kimchi with my eggs and sauteed vegetables, I often go for months without eating it and then slowly add it back into my diet again because I know the health benefits. I also notice that when I am not eating fermented foods and b-vegetables all the time is usually when I have fallen off my normal healthy eating habits. Try this Kimchi Recipe at home.
You can ferment just about any vegetable you choose, all you need is some Himalayan sea salt, a glass jar, your favorite root vegetables and cabbage. Below are videos I have used to make my first few batches of fermented vegetables.
Kombucha has been around for so long it’s hard to say exactly when this amazing health elixir, often referred to as “immortality tea”, was discovered. Kombucha is a tangy effervescent tea, reddish brown in color with a hard cider-apple cider like flavor. This tea was traditionally brewed using Black tea but can also be brewed using green or oolong tea as well. After the tea is brewed organic cane sugar is added. When the tea has cooled down to room temperature it is poured into a glass jar settling underneath a rubbery looking disc is known as a “Scoby” (a fermenting culture that is a “Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast” made from previous batches). The sugar in the tea is consumed by the yeasts in the scoby. It then turns into Carbon Dioxide (Co2) and alcohol (ethanol). This is how the bubbles get into your batch of kombucha. The bacteria consume the alcohol and express the healthy trace minerals, vitamins and amino acids, along with all the healthy bacteria. It’s no wonder this was used in ancient Chinese medicine. However, if you suffer from candida issues of any kind Kombucha may not be for you.
Kombucha dates back to the Qin Dynasty of China (221-206 BC)and is written on Chinese medicine scrolls. However, kombucha is directly related to black tea so it is believed to have been used as far back as 8 centuries before the written documents referring to its use in Chinese Medicine. Kombucha was very popular in Russia and throughout Europe until World War 11, when it was hard to come by, the sugar and tea were rationed. After the war, it’s said to have resurfaced in the wealthy Italian households and eventually making its way through Europe once again.
My good friend Lara introduced me to Kombucha quite a few years ago. I remember her telling me stories of how her parents always had a batch brewing when she was a child. When she started brewing her own she taught me how to make it and sent me home with a baby scoby of my own. Now you can find bottled Kombucha in almost any grocery store. Kombucha acts as a probiotic and has many health benefits as a side effect. If you don’t have a friend to give you a baby scoby you can order them online or you can grow your own using a plain bottle of GT’s Kombucha.
Grow a Mother Scoby at Home
Purchase a 2-gallon glass jar (may not have metal on it such as a pour spout); clean it using white vinegar or Vodka only. Only use wood, silicone or plastic spoons to stir (no metal).
Buy a raw unflavored Kombucha from the store
Pour the kombucha into a 2-gallon glass jar.
Cover lid using cheesecloth and a rubber band or you can use a paper towel and a rubber band.
Keep jar out of sunlight.
Keep the jar in an area that can maintain a temperature of 68-80 degrees.
If you live in a warmer climate you may have to set it near an air vent and for cooler climates, you may want to set it close to a heat source.
First you will see a foggy film start to form on the top of the tea (takes about a week).
It will get thicker and white in color.
Wait until the scoby is about ¼ inch thick before starting your first batch of homemade kombucha (can take up to 30days).
If nothing happens in two to four weeks throw away and start over.
Making Kombucha at home
1 gallon of filtered clean water
8 tea bags (1 ounce) Organic black, green, oolong
1 cup Organic cane sugar
Wooden or metal spoon
2-gallon glass jar (pickle jars work well)
Cheesecloth or paper towels to cover lid with a rubber band
6 to 8 ounces of your previous batch
Boil water, add tea bags, remove from heat, add sugar, stir sugar until it dissolves. Let stand until tea is room temperature. (hot tea will kill the scoby, refrigerated tea will take much longer to ferment)
Pour room temperature tea into a jar containing tea from previous batch and scoby. You can remove scoby before adding tea or pour on top of scoby (it will eventually float back to the top)
Cover jar with a paper towel or cheesecloth and rubber band
Place in an area with the desired temperature
Ferment for 1 to 4 weeks depending on taste you desire, the longer it sits the more vinegary it will taste. Remove tea from fermentation jar and store in glass jars with plastic lids. Save used store-bought kombucha bottles.
If you would like to flavor your kombucha, a second fermentation is necessary.
Remove tea from the main batch after a week or so (should have noticeable bubbles and not taste like sweet tea anymore).
Save store bought Kombucha bottles (they are glass with a plastic lid, which is hard to find).
Fill old bottles leaving space at the top for pressure to build.
Add a teaspoon of the minced herb, fruit or root you chose as your flavor(ginger, lemon, peach, mint, blueberry, mango, guava to name a few).
Let sit on the counter for another couple of days until the desired flavor has been reached.
You will have to open the lid and burp the bottles every day during second fermentation, otherwise, bottles may explode from the pressure.
Things to know about your bubbly batch of Kombucha!
The fermentation process will stop once you place the tea in the refrigerator.
Your mother scoby will produce a new culture with each batch or two (baby scoby).
You can remove the bottom culture and start a scoby hotel (glass jar just for baby scobies). It should easily separate with your hands; if not, sterilize a pair of kitchen scissors with vinegar and cut them apart from each other.
Always leave at least ¼ inch of the mother for fermenting a new batch.
Cover the baby scoby with kombucha and store in a cool dark place. Use a lid on the hotel (plastic is best; if the lid is metal, cover it with plastic wrap before closing).
Maintenance your hotel every two to four months.
Give a friend a baby scoby and spread the goodness.
Fermented Soy Sauce Marinade Recipe
½ cup organic fermented soy sauce
Juice from 8 to 10 limes
2 teaspoons organic chili powder
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
4 medium cloves of organic garlic minced
½ cup cold pressed olive oil or almond oil
¼ cup packed brown sugar
1 large white onion sliced
3 large bell peppers, use different colors if desired, diced into small pieces, discard seeds and core
2 pounds of organic grass-fed skirt steak
Cut into 6-inch-long pieces or marinated and cut after cooking
Place steak into a container with the lid, pour all ingredients on top of steak and shake with the lid closed
Marinate over high or for at least an hour before cooking, I use cast iron cook ware, it’s much healthier than the grill.
Sauté peppers and onions in a separate pan to top the steak with later. You can also use this marinade on Vegetables & Miracle Noodles to make a nice stir-fry.
Cook until middle is still pink (if cooking steak whole), remove from heat, let it sit on wooden cutting board for 5 minutes before cutting to maintain moisture inside of meat.
Disclaimer: The strategies, suggestions and techniques expressed here are intended to be used for educational purposes only. The Author, Kira Miller, is not rendering medical advice nor is she trying to diagnose, prescribe or treat any disease, condition, illness or injury.
If you are under the care of a physician, it is imperative that you consult their advice before beginning any new exercise or nutrition program.
Kira Miller claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss or damage alleged to be caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application or interpretation of the material presented here.