Fermented bevvies

HoneyWe all know and often love too much some fermented liquids or other. Unsurprisingly, Sandor Katz is a fan and producer of many and various home-made fermented beverages.

Mead is shockingly easy to make – to a point. Sandor cited Claude Lévi-Strauss who claimed it as the original cultural act, and humanity’s oldest intentional fermented product.

Easy it may be but it does require vigilance and frequent agitation until it reaches a point of drinkability, 10 days to 2 weeks after you dilute the honey with water (and add optional fruit: on this occasion, a handful of goji berries). It’s a low tech affair, requiring at its most basic a jar, some honey and some water. And, as Sandor suggests, a few friends around the jar at the end of the process to enjoy some probiotics with a mildly alcoholic kick. But if you want to take it further, to a dry wine-like alcohol, you’ll need to take things into a more sophisticated realm and lay your hands on some winemaking equipment: an airlock and carboy.

Salt Spring KombuchaKombucha is becoming more well known and is fairly widely available in Victoria, but much cheaper and better to make yourself. It’s typically a somewhat sweet, fizzy beverage, rich in probiotics, made by fermenting tea and then flavoured and sparkled in a secondary ferment. You’ll need to get a kombucha SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast) – in appearance a big jelly-like pancake – and brew up and cool some tea (black, white or green). Sandor said he’d heard of non-caffeinated versions – hibiscus for example – that worked fine, but he went with the conventional method.

He put a pot of cooled black tea into the jar, poured in some of the mature kombucha liquid, topped it up with water, and flopped in the SCOBY. Will be finished fermenting in a couple of weeks, at which point you can add flavourings like fruits, ginger etc. which will carry on with a secondary fermentation in a strong glass bottle.

The amount of CO2 generated can make this stage very dangerous. Sandor warned about the notorious “kombucha bomb” which you can avoid by bottling one of your batch in a plastic pop bottle. By checking the give in the plastic you can judge the stage of its fermentation. When the bottle is firm to the touch, get those glass bottles smartly into the fridge or drink before they explode. He suggested as well that plain tea should be used: Earl Grey or other flavoured teas contain oils which may affect the fermentation in unexpected ways.

Adding Kombucha LiquidKombucha+WaterAdding the Kombucha Mother




Beet kvass is less well known, but super easy to make. Sandor chopped some scrubbed beets into a jar and poured in about 3x purified water, leaving lots of headroom, added a pinch of salt and with an occasional shake to keep sediment from hanging out on the surface, that would be that for anywhere from 3 to 14 days, depending on how sour you like it. Unless you are following the Nourishing Traditions recipe and/or like the milky undernotes Beet Kvassthat whey will give to the finished product. It’s basically a fermented infusion. You leave it until the water takes on the dark, beet-red colour and the flavour is to your liking. You can add flavourings too, like grated ginger. And you can add fruit etc. for a secondary ferment to add flavour and fizz if you like. (This orange-ginger golden beet number sounds good to me!)

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