[MUSIC PLAYING] ERIN HARPER: So now we're going to make kombucha. Kombucha is a beverage that originated in China about 220 BC. So it's been around for a couple thousand years, as well. Back then, the SCOBY or culture used to ferment kombucha was called a "tea fungus," which sounds really appetizing, right?
SCOBY, as you'll see on your sheet, stands for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. We're just going to call it a SCOBY. Some people also call it a "mother." So it's similar to what is used to ferment vinegar. If you've ever seen the real fermentation of vinegar, it's called a SCOBY.
So what we're going to do is take about 12 cups of water and put it in a large pot and bring it to boil. So we're going to bring our pot to boiling. Once our pot is boiling, we're going to add eight tea bags. You can also use loose-leaf tea.
You can use black tea or green tea but the trick with the tea is it must have caffeine in it. Caffeine is one of the compounds that feeds the bacteria and the yeast in the culture so that it can grow. So the caffeine part is quite important. So once this comes to boil, I'm just going to add the tea bags.
SPEAKER 1: So is there caffeine in the final product?
ERIN HARPER: Is there caffeine in the final product? That's a great question. Most of the caffeine is consumed by the culture, but there is some left in the final product. If you use green tea to start, you will have less in the final product than if you use black tea.
SPEAKER 2: Can you mix and match green and black?
ERIN HARPER: You can, yes. I do not recommend using any flavored teas of any kind, especially when you're getting started. Flavored teas-- some compounds in different flavors, things like ginger, can actually kill the bacteria. So you don't want that. You want to just start plain and then later, I'll show you how to flavor your kombucha after it's done brewing.
So we're going to bring this to a boil and then simply add our eight tea bags and let them steep for about 15 minutes. All right. So it's come to a boil. We've steeped our tea bags for about 15 minutes. I'm going to do some behind-the-scenes--
Use our pre-cooled version. So we're going to pretend-- use your imagination here. We're going to pretend that we just steeped our tea.
So we just steeped our tea for 15 minutes. We took out the tea bags and we added 3/4 of a cup of cane sugar. So we added that in and we stirred it up so that all of the sugar dissolved.
SPEAKER 3: But not beet sugars-- it has to be cane?
ERIN HARPER: I would recommend using cane sugar. The reason I'd recommend using cane sugar is because it's not genetically modified and we know that for sure. Beet sugar is very commonly genetically modified and like I was saying with the cabbage, you want to use as clean ingredients as possible to promote healthy cultures. So I used organic cabbage.
So when you're doing-- I used organic green tea. So you want to have as little pesticides, as little additives, as little chemicals in your product as possible just to promote healthy cultural growth because remember, we're trying to repopulate our guts with good bacteria. So we want to make sure that those are healthy.
SPEAKER 4: Instead of sugar, could you use honey as a sweetener?
ERIN HARPER: Great question. Never ever, ever stray from this recipe the first time you do it. So use sugar to start, green tea, black tea, or sugar only. The next time you do it, save some of your SCOBY so that if it doesn't work, you still can re-culture your own beverage. And I'll share with you how to do that in just a second.
So we've now let this cool and cooling our green tea takes about four hours. So we're just going to leave it in the pot covered up with a dish towel, if you'd like, and I usually just cover it up so new foreign objects get in. And we're just going to let it cool. It's going to take about four hours.
Once you get to this point, we are ready to add our new culture. So when you add your new culture, you have a few options. You can either get a starter culture from a friend or from a store. There's a couple options listed there, places to get cultures, on your sheet or you can use a SCOBY from a previous batch of kombucha.
So you can use the kombucha to just keep making more kombucha because every single time you make a new batch, it will make a new SCOBY. And you can give the old one away. You can cut it up and give it to multiple people. So there's lots of different things you can do with that at this point.
So this is our kombucha that has been brewing for about 15 days-- so about two weeks. And I apologize. Usually, the second SCOBY is growing at the top of the jar. When I transported it, it fell a little bit, which is fine. Either way is totally healthy.
So what we're going to do is take our large jar of kombucha-- and you're going to get to try this. Don't worry-- and use our strainer. And we're going to pour it into the jar.
The reason you're going to want to strain it is because you'll see a number of little strings in here. If you look closely, you'll see some sediment and you'll see two large things that look almost like pancakes.
SPEAKER 5: Alien [INAUDIBLE].
ERIN HARPER: Many people have funny names for them and there are a number of funny names out there for what these things look like. But all I'm going to do is reach in here with a big spoon and take out the SCOBY.
Now, this is the new SCOBY. So it's nice and smooth. It's white. It's thick. It's really, really healthy.
SPEAKER 6: So is it edible?
ERIN HARPER: Some people do eat it. Some people make it into candy. Some people dry it and make leather products out of it. There's a number of things you can do with this, many of which are quite odd.
SPEAKER 7: It's just bacteria and yeast.
ERIN HARPER: It's just a colony of bacteria and yeast. And this, as you start to make kombucha, is one of the hardest things to get over mentally. But when you buy it from the store already prepared in a bottle that looks like this, that has no large mushroom-like thing at the top, it's a little easier to wrap your head around it first.
So this is one brand of kombucha that's quite popular that you will also get to try today. So you'll get to try some just regular original kombucha that hasn't been flavored and you'll also get to try the homemade version.
All right. So I'm going to pass this over to Beth. I'm going to put a lid on it so she can pour it nice and easily for you guys to sample.
BETH: And the blueberry?
ERIN HARPER: Yes. So I'll show you that in just a moment.
All right. So I'm just going to pour this off. As you can see, when you're making a new batch of kombucha, there's a little bit of juggling involved. I only have one of these gallon jars so you can use gallons or half-gallons. The recipe makes one full gallon.
SPEAKER 3: Where do you get your big canning jars?
ERIN HARPER: This large canning jar actually came from target. I heard recently from someone that Agway also carries them. So I'm just going to give this a rinse because we're going to make our new--
SPEAKER 3: How long is the kombucha good?
ERIN HARPER: Say that again.
SPEAKER 3: How long does it keep after--
ERIN HARPER: Months. Most of these products will keep for months and months. They don't really go bad.
SPEAKER 4: You have to keep them refrigerated.
ERIN HARPER: They need to be refrigerated. Yes, that's absolutely true.
All right. So ideally, I would boil some water and pour it in here but I don't have any already boiled so we're not going to worry about it today. I have done both and I forgot to boil water and rinse this out and it worked just fine. There was no extra growth. But it is a good practice to boil it.
So what I'm going to do now is pour our tea, our steeped, sweetened tea into our jar to make our new batch of kombucha.
The next thing I'm going to do is take the SCOBY. I'm just going to use my fingers here. And this is the old SCOBY and this is the new SCOBY. It doesn't matter which one you use. They both look like little pancakes. I usually use the new one because it's the newest, the freshest, the healthiest, and I drop it right in our new jar.
And sometimes, what I do is I'll just stick this in the refrigerator and save it, in case I want to experiment by using honey or maple syrup or something else or even flavored tea. That way, if I kill my new SCOBY, I still have another one as a back-up. So I can keep making a new kombucha without having to replace the SCOBY entirely.
So that's definitely a good idea. You can also cut this up into pieces and give it to friends. Whoever's wanting a SCOBY, there's an extra one. If you want to buy a new starter culture, they cost about $10.00 so they're a little bit expensive.
SPEAKER 6: Can you dry them and then reconstitute when you want it another time?
ERIN HARPER: No. No. If you want to put your SCOBY to rest, put it in the refrigerator in a jar covered with kombucha and just let it be. If you have more questions, we can answer them at the end. I just want to make sure that we get out of here on time.
So the next thing we're going to do is there's one more ingredient to our kombucha. So we're going to fill about one cup of kombucha and we're going to put it in this jar as our starter culture. So what that'll do is it will acidify the tea immediately. So it creates a nice environment for the culture to produce a new kombucha.
So now, we're going to do here is take a clean rag. It can be a old t-shirt. It can be a dish towel, whatever you want. Wrap a rubber band around it and put it in-- about 80 degrees is ideal. Many of our houses this time of year are not 80 degrees. Basically what you just need to know is that it will take longer to ferment kombucha in the winter versus the summer.
So in the summer when it's nice and warm, our house is nice and warm, it takes about seven days. And in the winter, it might take between 14 and 21. So it'll take a little bit longer. And when you're ready to try your kombucha, start trying it after five to seven days.
All you want to do is take off the rag, get a clean spoon, stick your clean spoon in there, and give it a try. At this point, it's just sweetened tea so I'm not going to actually drink it. So that's all you're going to do. And just let it sit until you're ready to drink it.
SPEAKER 7: How do you know when it's ready?
ERIN HARPER: You know when it's ready when it tastes how you want it to taste. Now, the gold standard really is some of the commercial brands on the market. So when it tastes like a commercial beverage, then it's great.
If it goes too long, it will start to taste a little bit vinegary and it'll be a lot less palatable. If it ferments maybe five to seven days, it often tastes sweet. So the longer you let it ferment, the more of the sugar is going to be converted.
Also keep in mind that there may be just a wee bit of alcohol in the final product. So they can't sell it if it has more than 2% alcohol. But just keep in mind that this process does convert to a little tiny bit of alcohol in the product. So just be aware.
BETH: Question-- if some of us with tender intestinal systems sample one of everything that has been fermented today, is there a chance that we might feel the effects of it in our gut?
ERIN HARPER: That's a great question, Beth--
So a great question that I was unprepared to answer.
Actually, so there's a big difference between eating fermented foods or eating fermented food products versus taking a probiotic. So our body is a lot better at handling sort of heavy-duty bacterial organisms from foods than it is from a capsule. So there is much less likely an opportunity or a potential for a problem with fermented foods than taking a capsule of bacteria.
So if you do have a very tender stomach and you're not used to eating fermented foods, maybe just go slow. Or if you-- I think it'll be fine. If not, you'll increase the diversity of the bacteria in your intestine and we'll see what happens. No. If you have specific questions, just let me know.
I will share one more thing before we wrap up. Beth, I'm going to give you these so you can pour them to sample and then I think we're ready to sample. So at the point where you are done making your kombucha and you want to put it in a jar-- let me-- so we've made our kombucha. This is our kombucha that's fermented for about 15 days. It's ready to drink.
What we're going to do is we're going to put it in some jars. You can use little jars. You can use big jars. You can use whatever jar size you like. I typically don't recommend drinking more than about one cup of kombucha a day. It is pretty potent and it is fairly acidic. So I don't recommend drinking more than one cup per day.
So I typically put them into half-pint jars because a half-pint is one cup and it's a single serving. Then, all you're going to do is just put the lid on. You can also do quart jars, whatever size jars you want.
You just do want to store it in glass. Don't store it in metal. Don't store it in any other substance or plastic. You want to make sure that it's inert and there's nothing going to leach into it.
So at this point, too, if you wanted to, you could add some other flavors. On your recipe, I gave you a link to a website that has links to 20 different flavoring recipes. So that's a great thing if you want to flavor your kombucha into blueberry or whatever you want using fresh fruit or juice. These ones are blueberry kombucha.
So essentially, all I did was I took the kombucha and I added about a teaspoon of blueberry juice, just organic blueberry juice, and it gives it a little bit more flavor, makes it a little bit more potent, a little bit more like soda. So some people love drinking kombucha because it's fizzy. It's naturally carbonated and it's very, very low in sugar, about 30 calories per cup. So it's a great, great replacement if you like fizzy beverages.
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Learn how to make this fermented and slightly fizzy ice tea beverage. This fermented food provides healthy probiotics. Demo presented by Cornell Wellness staff Erin Harner, RDN.