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My Homemade Kombucha Recipe

After 7 years of spending way too much money on GT Dave’s Kombucha (which is delicious, but in Hawaii is almost $5 per bottle), I decided to take the plunge and started brewing kombucha myself.  Kombucha offers an extensive list of health benefits including but not limited to hormone balance, cancer prevention, detoxification support, and even improvements to bone and tooth quality.  I personally drank it through both pregnancies to prevent nausea (which I never had, thank goodness!) and when not pregnant would drink it for the week prior to my period to prevent migraines and PMS during that time.  At $5 a bottle that really adds up!  To be brutally honest, I was resistant to brewing my own kombucha because in my mind the next step after entering the world of home fermentation is Birkenstocks and hairy armpits (not that there’s anything wrong with either of those things!) but I realized I was being ridiculous and my resistance was costing me money that could instead be spent on practical, important items like stilettos and waxing (okay, now I’m really being ridiculous but I’m too hopped up on coffee and homemade kombucha today to have a filter and I’m perceiving myself as funnier than I actually am).  But back to the point – making kombucha at home was shockingly easy to do and my very first batch (pictured above) turned out well so I wanted to share the recipe with all of you who may also be skeptical of home brewing.  Here’s what you do:

  1. Find a SCOBY (the starter – stands for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast).  I recommend checking on Craigslist.org for someone in your area (just type in “SCOBY” or “Kombucha”) or contacting your local Weston Price chapter leader.  If you can’t get a SCOBY from either of these places, you can get them on Amazon, but this tends to be the most expensive option.  I found someone through Craigslist here on the North Shore of Oahu (relatively far from me) who referred me to their friend in Waimanalo (close to me) who was nice enough to meet up and gave me a free SCOBY.  Here’s what they look like:  While it may seem a little disturbing to meet up with a total stranger and leave with a ziplock baggie full of something that looks like an alien organ suspended in a solution of brown liquid, it is totally worth it.
  2. Get a half gallon glass jar (or gallon, or any size glass container really, but my recipe is for a half gallon because that’s the biggest jar I have), fill it with purified water, and then dump that water into a pot and bring it to a boil.  Stir in approximately 3/4 cup sugar, but don’t dump it in all at once or it might boil over.  White sugar is actually the best (and cheapest) but you can use any type of sugar you have on hand – white sugar, brown sugar, organic sugar, I’ve even heard of people using molasses.  The sugar is just to feed the fermentation so the bacteria and yeast should eat most (if not all) of it anyway. Just don’t use honey since it has antibacterial properties.
  3. Remove solution from heat and add 2 black tea bags (any type of black tea, I used plain old Lipton’s because I had it in the cabinet but since then have started using organic black tea from Vitacost).  Steep for 10 minutes to brew a strong tea.  (You can also use an equivalent amount of loose tea, you just have to strain it and that’s 5 seconds I’d rather spend doing something else.)
  4. Cool to room temp.  If you’re in a hurry you can throw in a few ice cubes and put it in the fridge to cool faster, just make sure you stir well to avoid any “hot spots” that might kill the bacteria in the SCOBY.
  5. Once the solution is cool enough, add your SCOBY along with 1-2 cups of kombucha from a prior brew (use storebought kombucha if you didn’t get liquid with your first SCOBY, or if storebought isn’t available add 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar to make the tea acidic enough for fermentation) and cover loosely with a cheesecloth or other breathe-able cloth (I used a thin dishcloth, but Gerber diaper cloths work well also) and secure with a rubber band.  Place this in an area where the temp is around or slightly warmer than room temp (between 74 and 84 degrees F) and leave it alone.  Here’s how my first brew looked:
  6. Depending on how sour or bubbly you like your kombucha, you can let it brew for a minimum of 3 days up to a month.  My first brew I fermented for 5 days (it was sour and tasty, but not too bubbly), my second brew I fermented for 2 weeks (more sour and tasty, and more bubbly) and my third brew is in the works now.  You can check the fermentation process by gently dipping a clean spoon into the mix and tasting to check how sour and bubbly it is.  Also, one of the fun things to notice as your kombucha is brewing is that the SCOBY “mother” produces a “daughter” which starts out as a thin, clear film on the top and eventually turns into a perfect little disc the exact shape of the top of your brewing container.  Mine looked like this:
  7. Once the kombucha has fermented to your liking, you can pour off what you want to drink and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to enjoy it!  Be sure to reserve at least 1-2 cups of your brew as the starter for the next batch, which you can store at room temp if you’re going to use it in the next few days or in the fridge if it’s going to be a while before your next batch.  You can drink the kombucha straight, or add juice or fruit for flavoring.  It is sweet on its own so doesn’t require additional sweetener but I find that it mellows nicely when you add something tart for balance, such as lemon juice or frozen berries (but I personally don’t recommend adding these to the fermentation unless you really know what you’re doing – I would wait until your brew is complete to add them to the final product).

Obviously, after 3 batches at home I don’t consider myself a kombucha expert but I did want to share this info with you to let you know that you don’t have to be an expert to make your own! For more practical tips, I recommend visiting the SustainabiliTEA site on kombucha.  I did not read the entire site (yet), but what I did read was very helpful and concise and explains some important issues such as how to avoid and detect mold.

TURD IN THE PUNCHBOWL ALERT: For the sake of full disclosure, I must confess that the frozen berry mix used in the beautiful picture of the finished kombucha at the beginning of this blog is the very same organic antioxidant mix that was recently recalled from Costco for containing pomegranate seeds from Turkey that were giving people Hepatitis A!!!  Luckily I only used it once to flavor that particular glass of kombucha.  I didn’t like the flavor (maybe my body could innately taste the Hepatitis A – but more realistically it’s because I didn’t like the flavor of the variety of cherries used in the mix) so it stayed in my freezer untouched until it ended up on the news.  Now it’s still in my freezer until I can take it back to Costco and exchange it for something with a little less communicable disease.  I don’t have any hepatitis symptoms and thankfully my kids and husband didn’t have any of the berry mix, but just to be safe I’m taking milk thistle herb (for liver support) and eating lots of coconut oil (for its anti-viral activity).  In the future I will try to stick to flavoring my kombucha with fresh fruit that I have washed myself.

June 5, 2013   9 Comments

Easy Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

The amount of laundry required for 2 kids and a husband who works outside is staggering!  To save money and ensure a non-toxic product, I’ve started making my own laundry soap.  It’s a “quick and dirty” version of my friend Annie Tryon’s recipe and takes about 5 minutes to assemble (not counting cooking time).  Here it is!

Ingredients needed: 2 cups Borax, 2 cups Washing Soda, 1 bar Castile Soap (I use Kirk’s castile because I can buy it locally but any natural castile brand is fine, scented or unscented depending on your preference).  This makes 4 gallons of laundry soap or enough for 128 loads.

Using a food processor or hand grater, grate the bar of soap into a pot.  The larger your pot, the faster your soap-making will go because you can add more water to make everything dissolve faster.  As I type this I’m realizing you could probably just buy liquid castile soap if you want to skip the step of grating the bar soap, but I’ve found the Kirk’s castile bars to be a lot cheaper than any liquid castile soap out there.  And I don’t know how much liquid soap is equivalent to a bar of castile so if there are any soap experts out there who want to share that info in the comments section I would appreciate it!

Add the Borax and Washing soda and enough water to cover everything. Cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally until everything is dissolved.  You can turn the heat higher if you want it to go faster but do not step away for even a minute on high heat or you will have an overflowing volcano of crystalline soap that gets down in your stove and takes so long to clean up that you will WISH you had just gone to Costco and bought expensive and possibly toxic laundry soap instead.  Not that I know from experience…

Personally, I set it to low and then go about my day around the house stirring it whenever I’m in the kitchen and within an hour or so it has all dissolved to a clear (if I was really good about stirring occasionally) or somewhat cloudy (normally the case since I forget to stir) solution.  Once everything has dissolved and there are no large chunks, you can pour it into your containers.  If you have a 4-gallon container that’s great but if you don’t, just use any combo of containers that will add up to 4 gallons.  The best way to do it is to have several of the same container so you can eyeball it when dividing it up rather than having to measure it.  I personally use 3 empty vinegar bottles from Costco.  Since they are plastic and the soap solution is hot, I fill each halfway with cold water and then divide up the soap in thirds, pouring it through a heat-resistant canning funnel.  Then I fill each container to not quite full since each holds 1.5 gallons (I fill each to approximately 1 and 1/3 gallons to make 4 gallons total).  Give each a good shake, and continue to shake each time you walk by them for the next couple of hours to help everything homogenize as the solution cools.  Here’s a photo to help you visualize this, sorry it’s out of focus – it was hastily snapped before the little Godzilla attached to the tiny brown foot in the photo was able to exert destruction on his intended target (my laundry soap).

After the solution has cooled you should be good to go!  Just give it a quick shake before you use it each time to help break up any little clumps that might have formed in the cooling process.  Use 1/2 cup (4 ounces) per load.  Works well for everything from baby clothes to super dirty work clothes and anything in between.

Cost breakdown vs. Seventh Generation Free & Clear Concentrated Laundry soap from Costco:

  • Costco natural soap: $24.72 for 1.17 gallons @ 1.5 ounces/load = 25 cents/load
  • Homemade natural soap: $8.23 for 4 gallons @ 4 ounces/load =  6 cents/load

 

 

 

 

April 24, 2013   5 Comments

Low-Allergy Baby Formula Recipe

This week I received several requests from friends with babies asking for help finding something to supplement their breastmilk supply, which may have decreased since they returned to work or may not be enough to keep up with their babies’ growing needs.  The priority for these mothers and for me is to help them get their supply up by making that they are drinking enough water, eating enough healthy fat, and using herbal teas or tinctures to promote milk supply.  In addition to this, they may want to take their baby in for an osteopathic or chiropractic evaluation to see if any cranial work needs to be done to improve the sucking reflex – I actually had a miraculous experience with this recently that I hope to blog about in the future.  If after these two measures there still is a need for a supplemental source of nutrition, I would recommend the recipe below.  I created this by looking into the chemical composition of human breast milk on the USDA nutrition website.  Interesting reading!  From there, I put together a list of ingredients to mimic the composition of breast milk as closely as possible while using healthy, low allergy, and easily obtainable ingredients.  I also added an infant probiotic to supply healthy bacteria, one of the most important things a nursing child gets from its mother.  The base for the formula is coconut milk, which is very low allergy and supplies brain-boosting fats as well as lauric acid, a fatty acid found in breastmilk that protects against infection, especially from viruses.  This is by no means a recipe that should be a child’s sole source of nutrition, but it makes a great supplement to babies who are breastfeeding or on formula and also to toddlers in place of other milks.  If you are a parent looking for formula recipes that can safely supply everything your baby needs (but that are a little more complicated to make), I suggest visiting the Weston Price Foundation’s formula recipes web page.  Here is the recipe, I would love any feedback from parents out there who try it!  Some of the ingredients in it are practitioner-only supplements so if you have a hard time finding them, feel free to contact me and I can help you find a practitioner in your area or if you are a client of mine I can just have it drop shipped to you.

Low-Allergy Baby Formula Recipe

In a sterile quart-sized Mason glass jar, combine the following:

  • 1 cup full-fat canned coconut milk, preferably Native Forest brand (they don’t use BPA in can lining)
  • 1 heaping Tbsp unsweetened, unflavored whey protein Dairy free babies can use an equal amount of unflavored rice protein or pea protein
  • 5 Tbsp. Lactose A note about lactose: Lactose is the primary form of sugar in breastmilk and it has special nourishing qualities for the brain and the healthy bacteria in the gut.  Lactose also has the benefit of being one of the least likely sugars to promote tooth decay.  Many babies who are allergic to cow’s milk formulas can still handle pure lactose as long as their gut bacteria is healthy because the most allergenic item for a baby in cow’s milk is the casein protein.  I know 5 Tbsp seems like a lot!  But if you’ve ever tasted breastmilk you’d know it tastes like melted ice cream :).  For toddlers this amount can be decreased to 3 Tbsp.  Parents of babies who are truly lactose intolerant can use 4 Tbsp of Grade B maple syrup instead to supply the carbohydrate content – this is a much better choice than the white sugar and corn syrup used in many dairy-free infant formulas.
  • 1 tsp Standard Process Calcium Lactate Powder (preferred) or 1/2 tsp KAL brand Dolomite Powder
  • Contents of 2 capsules Allergy Research Group Dessicated Liver from grassfed cows
  • 2 tsp Udo’s Infant Probiotic powder
  • 2 tsp liquid Cod Liver Oil, either Nordic Naturals or Carlson or 1 tsp Green Pastures Brand
  • 1 large egg yolk (for children over 4 months only) from a healthy chicken that has been raised on pasture.  This supplies cholesterol, arachidonic acid, and other nutrients that are extremely important for brain growth.  I boil the egg for 3 1/2 minutes (just long enough to harden the white but not the yolk) then peel, and release just the yolk into the formula.  This is optional and can be omitted for egg-free babies as long as they are getting healthy cholesterol somewhere else, such as in grassfed butter or meat.
  • Distilled or Reverse Osmosis water to 4 cups

Shake to combine (using one of those springs that comes with protein powder shakers
can be really helpful).  Will keep in fridge for up to 48 hours.  Formula will separate, so shake before pouring into bottle or cup and gently warm to drinking temperature in a warm water bath or bottle warmer.

 

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: This recipe is intended to supplement a nursing or formula-fed child’s diet.  It is not intended to be a complete replacement.  This blog does not replace the advice of a qualified healthcare practitioner.  Jessica Stamm assumes no responsibility for the reader’s interpretation of the contents of her blog.

September 9, 2011   39 Comments