My pet scoby …

I am a complete novice when it comes to fermenting Kombucha.  But I decided to try making it myself after sampling several bottles of commercially produced and boutique organic Kombucha. I found them to be either overly effervescent, or the flavours not to my liking.  So after consulting the internet, I decided to “give it a go”.  And it’s fascinating – like having a small, well-behaved but slightly repulsive pet.

I managed to grow my own scoby, the hard way, from the dregs of a bottle of local organic Kombucha. It took six weeks, but it may well have taken less time if I hadn’t sniffed, prodded, poked and held it up to the light every day.  I probably didn’t give it enough sugar either, because once I added a little sugar syrup, the sad looking scoby perked right up, and within a few days “she” was blowing bubbles.

Happily blowing bubbles

So throwing caution to the wind, I made up my first big batch of sweet tea, let it cool and then slid the scoby into the jar. She promptly flipped on her back and sank like a stone.  OMG – I’ve killed her!  Consult the internet – apparently not a disaster, it happens quite often.  After a couple of days she rose to the top of the jar and I was able to flip her back.

OMG I’ve killed her!

Then she started growing all sorts of trailing appendages and dropping bits of sediment.
Consult the internet again – apparently normal.  I’m a bit dubious because “normally” something that looks like this would go in the compost.

What’s going on here?

And then yesterday, on the seventh day of fermentation, I drank my very first glass of home-made Kombucha and it was delicious. Just a touch of sugar, a little effervescence, and a hint of black tea.  Poured over ice cubes on a horrible, hot and windy 36 degree day, it really hit the spot.

I’m not a tea drinker, and I’ve always found black tea to be somewhat bitter, but I really felt like it didn’t need any other flavouring.  Well, perhaps just a bit of ginger or a little Turmerix powder for extra health benefits.  The next batch is already fermenting …

Some hints:

  • Here is a link to the website I used to get me started – she is very informative.
  • I used the proportions: 1 litre filtered water, 2 organic black tea bags, 55g sugar, 100 ml of store bought organic Kombucha. I used the dregs from the bottom of the bottle.  Once you have fermented your first batch, you can use 100 ml of that to start your next batch.
  • Make sure you keep the scoby covered with cloth, and sterilise your jars and bottles by filling them with boiling water.
  • Start tasting from the seventh day, when it should be slightly sour and fizzy. The longer you leave the scoby in, the more vinegary it gets.
  • I filtered the Kombucha through cheesecloth to remove most of the sediment
  • Finally, here is a link to a website which shows what your scoby should and should NOT look like.

Burnt Citrus Syrup recipe …

I have recovered from my tasting session – so here is the printable recipe from my previous post

Ingredients

  • You will need a selection of sweet and sour citrus – orange, mandarin, cumquat, grapefruit, blood orange, lemonade fruit etc – this is a great way to use up ugly, misshapen or blemished citrus.
  • A selection of herbs and spices, for example – coriander seeds, rosemary, cinnamon sticks, black peppercorns, cloves (not too many), star anise (ditto)
  • Two or three large wide mouthed jars – sterilised with boiling water
  • Enough sugar syrup to fill the jars and cover the burnt citrus. There are plenty of recipes for sugar syrup on the internet. I used two parts sugar to one part water dissolved over low heat. Warm the syrup when you are ready to fill the jars.
  • Optional – ½ tsp each of Tartaric Acid and Citric Acid for each jar to help preserve the fruit.

Method

  • Chop the citrus into chunks, pop them on some baking paper in a large roasting pan and sprinkle over the herbs and spices.
  • Slow roast them in the oven at 130C (260F) for four to five hours. It will look a bit like a baking disaster but never fear, it’s all good.
  • Allow to cool and then split the citrus pieces and herbs roughly evenly into the sterilised jars. Add the Tartaric and Citric acid, fill with warm sugar syrup, seal and wait for one month. This is the hardest part.
  • Spoon the syrup and a piece of citrus into your glass and add sparkling wine, gin and tonic or just plain sparkling water for a mocktail. Unless you like crunchy spices in your drink I would suggest leaving them out.
  • Eat the sozzled piece of citrus when you have finished your drink.

Notes: This makes a very sweet, unctuous syrup which can be diluted. The citrus pieces will probably only last for a few drinks after which they will become a bit soggy and you’ll need to throw them out.  Prolong the life of the syrup by storing it in the fridge.

Warning: This is completely deadly when combined with alcohol – so be careful!

Black Sapote ice-cream …

Black Sapote Ice Cream (or Mousse)
(
read in conjunction with my previous post on harvesting Black Sapote)

Because Black Sapotes contain useful quantities of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Potassium, Fibre, Calcium, Phosphorus and Iron and zero fat, they make a good base for a dessert. That is, until … you start adding naughty things.

This is an adaptable recipe depending upon your preference for yoghurt, sugar and flavourings. If you don’t have enough Black Sapote flesh, you can bulk it up with very ripe banana.  If you don’t want to use coconut sugar, you can use another sugar.  You virtually can’t go wrong.

Basic Ingredients

220 ml/1cup yoghurt of your choice
220 ml/1 cup of ripe sapote pulp (15-20 fruit depending upon size)
50-100 g coconut sugar – or sugar of your choice
30g good quality cocoa or cacao powder
1 tsp cinnamon
½  tsp nutmeg

Scoop out the seeds and the pith from the middle of the sapote. Discard. Then scoop out the flesh making sure you don’t include any skin, and purée in a food processor until completely smooth.

Add the yoghurt, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon and nutmeg and process again until completely combined. (you can add a ripe banana here if you like)

Taste and adjust sugar – remembering that freezing intensifies the flavour.

Place in the fridge to chill for about 30 minutes, and to allow the sugar to dissolve.

Process in your ice-cream maker for 10-20 minutes according to directions. If you don’t have an ice-cream maker you can just eat it like a mousse.  It’s delicious either way.

And here are a couple of other flavour ideas:

  • Add a shot of espresso and/or a shot of your favourite liqueur right at the end of churning. Don’t add it at the beginning or the alcohol will stop the mixture from freezing. I added Frangelico which is my favourite liqueur.
  • Add a ripe banana to the sapote pulp when processing.
  • Add some home-made shredded mandarin or cumquats in syrup. There are plenty of recipes on the internet

Lilly Pilly time …

Three years ago I turned a section of the garden into a small native plantation, hoping to cut down on erosion and mowing, and to provide a bit of extra bird habitat.  Unsurprisingly, this year ALL the Lilly Pillys flowered and fruited abundantly and I panicked and was forced to pop several kilograms of fruit in the freezer.

Way too much fruit
Way too much fruit

To process the Lilly Pillys, first you leave the container outside on its side for a few hours to give the insects a chance to escape … especially the ones that bite.

Let the insects escape
Let the insects escape

Then you rinse them and pick out the rubbish – stems, leaves and bruised fruit etc…

img_6522-1280x1280

Then you either pop them in the freezer for later use, or …

You make Lilly Pilly Gin (of course!) Give them a quick blast in the food processor, and then put them in a glass jar with a bottle of reasonable quality gin.

Now I have to wait for a few weeks for the Lilly Pillies to infuse their colour and taste. Which will give me time to research Lilly Pilly cocktails …