Sunday, July 22, 2012


This is a little out of the ordinary for this blog, but I wanted to share my new hobby.  The reason I say it's a little out of the ordinary is because this is one of those recipes that probably few people will make or be able to make.  It also takes an ingredient that you practically have to stumble upon:  A SCOBY


No, this is not a cartoon dog.  "SCOBY" is an acronym for "Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast".  It's a little like a sourdough bread starter in that you have to get it from someone or somewhere that already has one.  Also, it reproduces and makes more than you need, where you eventually have to get rid of some of it.

Where can one fine this SCOBY?  Well, it's likely you may know someone who makes Kombucha and would be happy to give you one.  If you ask nicely and I have one available, I'd be happy to share.  You can also order them online or buy one from a health food store.  

My interest in doing this (and healthy cooking in general) has something to do with the fact that I've had stomach problems for years.  I spent most of this past December 23 in the ER because of my stupid stomach issues.  Anyway, Kombucha with it's light fizziness and probiotics has seemed to be helpful in keeping it settled.  It's also rather tasty.

So, what is Kombucha?  It's effectively a fermented tea, however it's not really alcoholic.  The alcohol level is usually somewhere around .5%.  It's more tart, vinegary and sweet with a slight fizz.  You can buy it commercially, but bottles of it tend to be somewhat expensive.  Making it at home, though is pretty cheap and easy.


1/2 - 1 c. Vinegar

One gallon of boiling water

Enough tea bags to make a gallon - any kind you like

1 1/2 c. Raw Sugar

1 SCOBY (and maybe a little of the last batch of Kombucha with it)

It's sort of a slimy, white disk


1.  Get a gallon pickle jar and sterilize it with the vinegar by swooshing it around inside the jar, making sure the vinegar gets every part of the surface of the inside.  (You may be forced to buy a gallon of yummy pickles and eat them all.  This is a sacrifice some of us have to make.)  Pour the vinegar out and rinse the inside of the jar well with hot water.  If you do not sterilize the jar, the Kombucha may become contaminated.  So, this is very important.

Freshly sterilized

2.  Boil a gallon of water to make the tea.

3.  While you're waiting for the water to boil, put the sugar in the bottom of the sterilized jar, like you're making Sweet Tea.  Next, put the tea bags into the jar, and pour the boiling water into the jar with the tea bags and the sugar.  Stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved.

The massacre

4.  Let the tea steep until it is the desired strength.

5.  Take the tea bags out, and let the tea cool to room temperature.  Make sure that you put a cloth, strainer or some light covering over the tea as it cools, so it won't become contaminated with mold spores.  Cooling may take a couple hours.  

6.  Once the tea is cooled, drop the SCOBY in.

7.  Cover the jar with a cloth so that it can breathe, but not be exposed to the air.

8.  Put the jar in a room temperature place that is not exposed to too much direct sunlight.  Let it sit there for 14 days.  (The time may vary depending on the size of the SCOBY.)  The SCOBY will normally float on top or a new SCOBY will form on top.  After a few days, you may see bubbles forming under the SCOBY.  This is a good sign that fermentation is happening.

9.  With a funnel, pour the partially-brewed Kombucha into jars or bottles and seal them.  Set them aside for another five days.

10. Keep the SCOBY stored in a little of the leftover tea until you use it again.  If you are going to put it aside and not immediately use it, keep it covered with a cloth.  The smooth SCOBY on the top is called a baby, while the brown one underneath is the mother.  It comes in layers.  You can peel off the layers if you are going to give some of it away.  Make sure it always stays in a little bit of Kombucha if you are going to transport it. 

11.  Chill the bottled Kombucha in the refrigerator before serving.

*Just as a heads-up, as the Kombucha brews in the sealed bottles, it may begin to form new cultures in it.  It won't hurt you, but if you feel better about it, you can pour the Kombucha through a strainer before drinking it.

*Also, sometimes - although, it's rare - Kombucha can become contaminated with mold spores.  This is why you have to keep the tea and SCOBY from direct air exposure as much as possible.  If mold forms, unfortunately, you have to throw the whole batch and the SCOBY away.

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