As a child, I grew up watching my father put bottles of milk out in the sun to ferment.
Yup, you read that right.
I’m sure most children, as I did, would question such methods after being repeatedly warned to take caution over spoiled and moldy foods… foods that, we’ve been told, have “gone bad”.
We’ve been conditioned to fear the natural process of fermentation. And the fear, for me, was real– I was even the one who would avoid the entire banana if I saw a brown spot on it.
But my eyes have been opened, and things have drastically changed.
I’m now the one with containers of various food and drink fermenting, bubbling and leaking gases all over my kitchen.
Here’s why: it’s fun, and contrary to what we were taught, fermented foods have not “gone bad”, they’ve “gone good”. (Good for you… see what I tried to do there?)
I’ve experienced firsthand the health benefits from adding fermented foods to my diet. Fermented foods have helped to clean up my body from the dietary mistakes I’ve made, and that are so easy to make these days. I’ve improved the health of my digestive system significantly, and therefore seen a true increase in my energy. This newfound health and energy has ultimately allowed me to make greater observations within my body, given me greater knowledge of self and therefore greater power and control over my entire system. This is something that they didn’t teach in school when I was growing up.
My favourite fermented product right now is my homebrewed kombucha. For those of you not yet acquainted with this delicious, fizzy, probiotic drink, kombucha is a simply fermented tea. It involves a funny and sometimes funky white film that grows over top of your brew, which keeps it safe from other potentially harmful molds and bacteria. This white film (which can range anywhere from white to creamy brown colour) is called a S-C-O-B-Y; an acronym for “Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast”. The SCOBY is also often referred to as “the mother”, as it is truly what gives the life to your kombucha.
The best part about homebrewing kombucha is the potential for experimentation and play. The SCOBY will self replicate, leaving you with the potential to play around and experiment with new batches, while holding onto the tried and tested versions. (You will totally come to appreciate this if you’re open to the wonders of home fermentation.)
Your ‘mother’ (SCOBY) would certainly approve of playing around with her in the kitchen as you experiment with different variations of teas and sugars.
In fact, I taught my own mother (the person, not the SCOBY) how to brew kombucha and the last time I saw her she was churning out floral tasting batches of heavenly fermented tea that I wanted to bottle and run with.
For those looking to get started, all it takes is a bottle of store-bought kombucha with enough starter residue in the bottom to get the yeast and bacterial cultures going, and you only need a small amount. In addition to that you’ll need a clean container, your favourite caffeinated tea and a source of sugar. Ratios vary depending on the end result you’re looking for, and every homebrew is slightly different. For more about kombucha and great recipe for getting started, click here.
I want to stress how wonderous and playful the experience of fermenting at home can be. To me, it’s like playing with a layer of the microcosm of the universe!
I’ve used kombucha for things ranging from marinating chicken with the more ‘fermenty’ tasting batches, to cleaning appliances with the more vinegar-like batches.
I hold the attitude of embracing the outcome of my experiments, whatever they may be, and so this practice of experimentation leaves me on my toes. It’s like a practice for rising to the uncertainty and change held within every moment of life itself.
Somehow things usually work out for me, but I imagine it’s because I have faith that they will, while finding a way to appreciate the mistakes. This makes it difficult to say that mistakes happen at all if you can bring the right mindset and attitude to the table…
But I digress. We’ll save mindset and attitude for another article.
Go get started on your first batch and when things seem like they’re going in the right direction, trust your newly cleaned gut and start to challenge yourself to take more risks with this fun little project.
Finally, for those experienced brewers that would like to impress their friends with the new hot ticket item I’ve been brewing up on the underground scene, I’ve got a fun idea for you to play around with.
I’ve grown fond of Japanese culture and taken a page out of their book when it comes to tea. I toast wild rice and add it to some matcha kombucha for a genmai-like concoction. I like to playfully call it “Gen-Y”, after my generational peers who are working together to re-culture this global civilization towards greater consciousness.
So go crazy, have fun, experiment and expand your awareness and consciousness as you feed your body with fermented food and drink that you’ve crafted at home.
I truly believe that this kind of real food and drink, and the playful experimentation and process of crafting it ourselves, is something we all need to do more of. In my eyes, this is the foundation for what allows us to keep growing and evolving in this wild world… and who doesn’t want to keep growing and evolving?