Earl Grey Kombucha

Makes 2 qt (or litres)

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While I’m pretty sure I had had some kind of fermented tea during my Japan days, I can’t really be sure.

So, it has to be said that my first official introduction to fermented drinks was in culinary school.  Everyone was drinking kombucha, and everyone was making it.  Except for me.  Kombucha Brooklyn (especially) provided me with some delicious choices so I never really had to dabble in the art of bacteria breeding.  It seemed easy enough.  I just never felt the urge or desire to venture down that scary bacteria-ridden road.   Frankly, I was relieved.

Then I moved to the UAE.  Suffice it to say that there is no Kombucha Brooklyn here.  But what I did find was an incredibly friendly community of bacteria breeding foodies eager to share their knowledge and SCOBYs.  When you suddenly find yourself in a place where every assumption is challenged, every belief is toyed with, every conviction slightly to drastically changed, you realize you are a bit more capable of whatever it is you weren’t before.  So, bye-bye fear and hello bacteria.

What was I afraid of?  Well, bacteria!  What if I didn’t “grow” it right?  What if it gets moldy?  How will I know if it tastes right?  Will I get sick from a bad batch?  There’s nothing like a good experiment to put all those questions to rest.  That and support from the previously mentioned community of just as crazy as I am health nuts.  Who knew I’d fit in so well here?

So, everyone in culinary school was drinking it because it is incredibly nutritious, and it’s the same reason everyone here is, too.  It is known as ‘the immortal health elixir’ and the biggest reason is kombucha’s unique ability to detox the body.  Kombucha has many acids and enzymes beneficial to the detox process, already produced in the body.  This alleviates the work of the pancreas and liver and helps them do a better job.  Glucuronic acid (GA) is the key word here.  The main function of GA is to bind to toxins and escort them from the body.  And, the GA in kombucha is very effective.  It is even effective at eliminating several environmental toxins.  (Think plastics, pesticides, etc.)  Studies show that GA has also been linked to cancer prevention¹.  Read that sentence again because it’s amazing.

Other health benefits include a very happy digestive system.  Food and drink that have been fermented have, in a manner of speaking, been pre-digested.  The bacteria formed during this process not only aids the gut by populating it, but also helps you fully digest.  Kombucha is a true probiotic (which from the Greek means “for life”).  It helps rid your body of excess candida, helps keep allergies in control and does wonders to boost immunity.  It actually does all those things.

It starts as a quest for better health but soon you begin craving that slightly vinegary, yet subtly sweet effervescence.  Trust me, you will.

And trust me, it’s worth the experiment.  But just so you know, it’s a bit like opening Pandora’s box.  There is no end to what you will learn and no end to the myriad ways different drink and food can be fermented.  It’s a wild, bubbly ride!

You’ll need:

2 T loose Earl Grey tea (or 6 tea bags)

2 qt (or litres) water

1/2 – 3/4C organic sugar

1 Kombucha SCOBY* (SCOBY is an acronym for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast.  You can get one from a friend or if you are the first brave soul of your circle of friends, you can get a starter here or here.)

about 1C of kombucha (which will have come with the SCOBY)

2 qt glass jar (sterilized), clean kitchen towel or a couple of layers of cheese cloth and rubber bands

To make:

1.  Boil your water and remove from heat.

2.  Add tea and sugar and let steep until water is cool.  I usually let mine sit for a few hours, mostly because by the time I remember that’s how much time has passed.  Tastes great still!

3.  Add the tea to the jar and then add the 1C kombucha.  Let this mix of teas get acquainted and then introduce the scoby.

4.  Cover the jar with the kitchen towel (or cheese cloth) and secure the rubber band around the mouth of the jar.

5.  Keep the jar in a safe place where it won’t be moved or jostled, where it’s room temperature and out of direct sunlight.

6.  Let ferment for about a week, untouched.  After a week, give it a taste test to see where you are.  Don’t be surprised if another scoby has begun to form at the top of the jar.  This is good and is a sign that your kombucha is healthy.

7.  When you’ve finished about half of the kombucha, you can add another quart/litre of fresh (cooled) tea to the batch.  This is called a continuous brew.

*Disclaimer:  There are plenty of sources that recommend NOT using Earl Grey tea for kombucha because of the bergamot essential oil.  It is thought that the oil could compromise the health of the scoby.  However, many people have used Earl Grey and had successful batches and beautiful scobys.  I am now part of that list!  The beautiful thing about fermentation is experimentation!  Brew away!  And if you’ve got a great flavor working for you, please share it!

¹http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2208084?dopt=Abstract

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Blueberry Coconut Pancakes with Coconut Yogurt

Makes about 10 (1/4c) pancakes

Blueberry Coconut Pancakes

I get excited about food.  Back in the States, the days we got our CSA boxes were happy days.  My husband and I would go through the box, checking out our goods while talking about this meal or that for each beautiful piece of produce we touched.  Here in the UAE, that excitement has doubled…at least doubled!  We don’t get the exotic, heirloom treasures that the Hudson Valley has given us over the years but then again, we do live in the desert.  And I don’t mean that figuratively.  We actually live in a desert.  So, any produce (and so far we’ve gotten arugula (aka rocket), strawberries, peppers, sweet potatoes, chard, beets, carrots, celery, green beans, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, a whole bunch of fresh herbs, organic eggs, organic, low-heat pasteurized milk, to name a few) we get that is local AND organic is amazing!  What really doubles our excitement is that Claire is now very much a part of our conversation and investigation of our beloved farm fresh boxes.

This week she went straight for the blueberries.   Like mother, like daughter.  They were like blue little pearls peeking up at us underneath all that glorious green.  They were irresistible.  While Claire got through one box, I managed to put another away for a special breakfast.  Little did I know how special it would turn out.

Berries in general are super stars (and why you should always go organic when buying some).  When you hear about blueberries especially, and their amazing health promoting properties, the first word to come to mind is likely, antioxidants.  And, rightfully so! Blueberries are not messing around when it comes to its antioxidant power.  What’s special about it is that the antioxidants in blueberries offer whole body support.  Each and every system in our bodies, from the cardiovascular system to the nervous system to the digestive system, benefits from the antioxidants in blueberries.

Another word that should come to mind is, phytonutrients.  While anthocyanins are the most popular, given that the berries get their blue from them, there are a myriad of other phytonutrients that work together to make this berry the super star it is.  Got cholesterol issues to deal with?  Eat blueberries.  Need a cognitive boost (as in memory, especially)?  Eat blueberries.  Got insulin issues to contend with?  Eat blueberries.  Want general protection from cancer?  Eat blueberries.

I’m sure by now you’re getting my drift.

More good news.  If you find yourself having to freeze blueberries, or buying frozen blueberries, you won’t be compromising much of the antioxidants at all!  Buy out your farmer’s blueberries and make a home in your freezer for them.  This way you can enjoy this super berry all year long!

On to the recipe now.  It became this on its own.  I’m not sure what I even had in mind anymore, but this one is a winner.  If you’re a GF eater, opt out the spelt for GF all-purpose flour OR GF oat flour.  My new favorite topping for pancakes is yogurt and I can get some pretty decadent yogurt here!  Next time I may try putting the yogurt into the actual batter to see how that goes, but if you get to it first, please let me know how it goes!

You’ll need:

  • 1 C organic spelt flour*
  • 1/4 C organic coconut flour
  • 1/4 C unsweetened shredded coconut (or dessicated coconut for my new UK and AUS friends 🙂 )
  • 2 T coconut (or date) sugar
  • 2 t baking powder
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 3 medium eggs (I used farm fresh eggs which are typically smaller, so 2 large eggs would probably be OK, too)
  • 1 1/4 C organic whole milk
  • 1/2 C coconut oil or melted butter (organic of course!)
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 C organic blueberries + more for garnish

To make:

  1. In a large bowl, mix flours, shredded coconut, sugar and baking powder.  Combine well.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt, milk, coconut oil (or butter) and vanilla.
  3. Add wet ingredients into dry (make a little well in the dry ingredients to incorporate evenly and prevent too many lumps) and mix just to combine.  Resist the urge to over mix!  The batter will be slightly thicker than you’re used to because of the coconut flour.  Don’t worry.  It’ll even out when cooking.
  4. Add blueberries and stir again, gently.
  5. Heat a cast iron griddle over medium heat and melt some butter.  Using a 1/4C measuring cup, pour the batter into the pan and cook for 3-4minutes or until golden brown.  Flip pancake over, gently!  Resist the urge to press on the pancake!  It will cook evenly and quickly without any tampering. 😉
  6. Keep pancakes warm in the oven until ready to serve.
  7. Serve with a dollop of yogurt, a few fresh blueberries and your favorite sweetener such as maple syrup, date syrup or honey.
  8. Enjoy!