Foraging for plants in your neighborhood. Fermentation and bubbling jars. Homemade concoctions and kitchen experiments. Community. Joy! Can the combination get any better?
I received a free copy of the Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.
If you’ve been reading for the past few months, you may know that I was gradually working my way through the Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course from Herbal Academy. Today, I wanted to follow up on my previous posts and sum up my experience with the course.
Lacto-fermentation is a hot trend right now. However, though it may seem like a new thing for young, health-conscious weirdos, the practice has been around for thousands of years. In fact, for about as long as there have been people, there has been fermentation. As it turns out, it’s also been a huge part of culture and community for all that time.
Fermentation is a fantastic way to preserve food without refrigeration. How does it work? While methods vary from food to food, generally the process is the same. Fermentation occurs when the naturally occurring bacteria on food is combined with some sort of culture: whey, wild yeasts, or, in modern days, a purchased strain of starter culture. Keep the fermenting food away from oxygen and leave it at room temperature. The good bacteria will grow, and the food will transform into a tangy, bubbly treasure that can safely be stored in a cool environment for months.
There you go. Now you, too, can sing this song to yourself repeatedly when rhubarb comes into season.
However, today, I am not going to talk about rhubarb pie or give you a recipe for one. (Though I might sing about it still.) Rhubarb pie is delicious, but let’s face it. There’s already a gazillion and one recipes for it out there and you don’t need mine too.
What you do need, however, is fermented rhubarb. If that makes you want to gag, you should first read about the awesomeness of fermentation. If you’re still with me, then you need to try this. Honestly, fermented rhubarb doesn’t taste terribly different from regular rhubarb. Besides that, it’s easy to make and it’s good for you. So there. 🙂
Simply mix all ingredients together and put in the fermenting vessel of your choice, leaving about 1″ headspace if you’re fermenting in a jar. Use a weight to ensure that the rhubarb stays beneath the brine. Install an airlock or properly burp your jars each day to allow for the venting of CO2 that builds up during the fermentation process. Allow to sit on the counter at room temperature for 4-7 days, then move to cold storage.
I use a Fermentools kit any time I ferment. It’s one of the least expensive kits out there, and you don’t need special jars or crocks because they fit on top of any wide mouth mason jar. It takes the guesswork out of fermenting for me. Less mistakes= money saved in the long run.
And of course, I promised you a Rhubarb Lemonade recipe too. This is super simple, and should use about half of the fermented rhubarb you just made, leaving you the other half to experiment with or eat straight from the jar. 🙂
Probiotic Rhubarb Lemonade
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 cups chopped fermented rhubarb & its juices
3/4 cup lemon juice (preferably fresh squeezed)
More water to make a quart
Mix sugar and water in a small saucepan. Heat and stir until sugar dissolves to make a simple syrup. Let cool and chill.
Mix simple syrup and rhubarb in a quart sized mason jar or other container. Add cold water to make a quart total.
And that’s it! You’ve got the good juices from the fermented rhubarb in your lemonade, so you’re getting a dose of probiotics with each sip. I haven’t tried this with a “double brew” technique as you would with kombucha, but if you’re feeling adventurous, give it a go.
“What is kombucha?” ask many of my inquisitive visitors. They’re inquiring about the jars sitting on my countertop filled with brown liquid and unidentifiable floating clumps.
Now, in my world, kombucha has been around for several years as those pricey little bottles in the health food store. I really liked it, but only bought it once a month or so. I was finally given a scoby a few months ago (more on that shortly), and after some repeated prodding from one of my high school voice students I finally got a batch going.
If you’re not familiar with it, the name “kombucha” may sound pretty exotic. However, the beverage is straightforward and easy to make. Komucha is simply fermented tea.
It can be made as an iced tea, or turned into a bubbly soda. It can be had plain, or enjoyed with a variety of flavors. While every brewer may have his favorite methods, I’ll share with you the most basic instructions for creating your own homemade kombucha.
First, you’ll need to obtain a “SCOBY,” or symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. This serves as your “starter” for the kombucha. The scoby encourages the growth of the right cultures to turn your tea into certifiable ‘booch. Scobys are generally best obtained from a friend who brews kombucha, or from a cultured food supplier like Cultures for Health.
Here’s how to make kombucha tea.
Brew a gallon of tea. I usually use 8 regular sized tea bags for a gallon of water.
Add a cup of sugar to the tea. Mix well and let cool completely.
Pour tea into a gallon glass jar, or split it up between quart sized mason jars. (I prefer splitting it up for storage’s sake.)
Gently add SCOBY to each jar. (Make sure those hands are clean!)
Cover each jar with a coffee filter and secure it with a rubber band. Let sit out at room temperature for about a week.
Ta-da! You have kombucha! Pour off the liquid and save a little tea and your scoby for another batch. (Keep the scoby covered with the kombucha in the meantime.) You can store your finished kombucha in the fridge til you’re ready to drink it.
If you want kombucha “soda,” you need to let it ferment a second time, this time with some fruit or juice. You don’t need the SCOBY for the second ferment.
For each quart jar of kombucha, add a handful of berries or a half cup of juice. (I’ve been told to stay away from citrus juice.)
Cap jar tightly with the lid and let sit at room temperature for about another week. If it’s warm in your kitchen, watch to make sure the lid isn’t bulging. If it is, “burp” your jar by unscrewing the lid and closing it again.
A word to the wise for newbies: Kombucha will detox your system if you start drinking a lot of it at once. Be kind to your body, and start with 2 oz a day and gradually work your way up to a full glass. Trust me. Your digestive system will thank you.
A couple of commonly asked questions:
What if I’m avoiding sugar and caffeine? Good news: I’m told that the fermentation process eats up most of both of these substances.
Is kombucha alcoholic? Technically, there is a small amount of alcohol leftover from the fermentation process, but it’s so minimal that it can hardly count. Any age can buy and consume kombucha without concern over alcohol level.
I have to apologize for my recent fermentation kick. I went a couple months without fermenting much of anything, but spring has renewed my efforts. I don’t know what it is about warmer weather, but it always inspires me to start afresh and try to live healthier.
Along with spring and sunshine comes St. Patrick’s Day. And if you have children, you know that St. Patrick’s Day necessitates the celebration of all things rainbow. We’ve already had rainbow veggies around here:
Next, weigh down your vegetables under the brine and use your favorite method to allow for the release of CO2 gasses put off during fermentation. (More info on that in this post.) I love my Fermentools weight and airlock kit for this purpose!
Now, let it sit and do it’s thing. It should take about a week at room temperature until it’s ready to eat. After that, move it to cold storage and enjoy for months to come!
Have you fermented before? Answer your fermentation FAQ’s here.