People are addicted. There isn’t enough kombucha to line grocery store shelves, and its lesser-known cousin, beet kvass, is slowly making a name for itself. Although it may seem like a modern trend, fermenting is anything but. “It has been around for centuries and in every culture,” says Dave Dougherty, part-owner of today’s featured company, Food & Ferments.
Dave and his wife, Carly, began Food & Ferments in Philadelphia one year ago. Today, they brew some of the best kombucha on the market, along with other fermented goods such as sauerkraut, pickles, and another we’ll delve into here: beet kvass. Their artisan flavors are punchy, sour, and satisfying. When it comes to kombucha, Dave likes a, light to medium sweetness, a little natural effervesce, and the perfect marriage between herbs and fruit. Carly thinks that ginger, in anything, is delicious.
But they didn’t developed these opinions overnight. Dave and Carly have been studying the market and taking customers’ opinions into consideration for some time now. The perfect kombucha flavor is a personal choice, yet somehow, these two seem to have gotten it right for a whole lot of locals.
The duo approaches fermenting like a philosophy. For them, it’s all about the artistic process, one that is natural and happens to be really good for their customers. “It’s kind of the new processed food,” says Carly. Fermentation changes ingredients’ properties and adds probiotics, a healthy bacteria that facilitate smooth digestion in the gut. Beet kvass, in particular, is also great for the blood and liver. “We’re basically extracting all of the really good stuff out of beets, and putting it into a very intense drink,” affirms Dave. They both find it addictive. And a really great cure for hangovers…
Although fermenting is gaining notoriety in today’s health-obsessed world, many are still scared to try it at home. For those that want clarification on what they should and shouldn’t do, Carly and Dave have a few tips to offer. Above all, they tout cleanliness. For any home operation, soap and hot water will do. Get a good scoby – the couple sells kits at their Saturday farm stand, but if you’re not a Philadelphia resident, they suggest purchasing from Kombucha Kamp – and avoid brewing your scoby with herbal teas. Stick to black, white, or green tea as kombucha needs caffeine to thrive. Cover your jar with breathable cotton (laundry-washed is fine), and set it an optimal 75-80F, out of direct sunlight. Your scoby may look a little odd, with brown bumps, but as long as you don’t have grey or green mold, you’re fine. “They’re super hardy,” assures Dave.
Once you get the process down, it’s time to experiment with flavoring. This part of the game is done as a second brew. Strain the kombucha, and then mix it with your flavoring agent. Get funky with it; use bottled or fresh juice, herbal teas, actual fruits – whatever strikes your fancy. Combine the flavoring agent with the kombucha, bottle it, and leave it for a few more days to build carbonation. It will become, “almost like soda.”
We love the current offering, but for the couple that is making waves in fermenting, and helping to introduce beet kvass to the masses, we had to know, “what is the next big thing?” They both agree: more fun combinations. Things are going to get crazy. Tempeh might take off, and jun, a kombucha-like drink with green tea and honey, might just be the next big thing. It’s up to Carly, Dave, and all other fermenters to decide.
Read on for the couple’s basic kombucha and beet kvass recipes to get fermenting for yourself.
HOW TO MAKE KOMBUCHA TEA
• 1 Cup sugar
• 6 Bags organic black tea – or a combination of green and black tea (if using loose leaf, 1 tea bag = 1 tsp loose tea)
• 1 SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria & Yeast)
• 1 Cup of starter liquid (this can be plain kombucha from a pervious batch or, for your first batch, use the starter liquid that comes with your SCOBY)
• Spring or filtered Water
• Large spoon
• Sauce pan
• 1 Gallon glass jar
• Cloth to cover jar
• Rubber band
1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil, add tea bags and steep for 10 minutes.
2. Remove tea bags, add sugar, and stir until dissolved.
3. Once cool, pour the sweetened tea into the gallon jar and fill with filtered/spring water until the the liquid is within two inches from the top.
4. Stir in the starter liquid.
5. Gently add the SCOBY (which may float on top or sink, either is okay)
6. Place a clean cloth over the mouth of the jar and secure with a rubber band.
7. Place your new gallon of tea in a warm location (SCOBY’s love it when it’s 80 degrees), that is out of direct sunlight. Note: The tea will culture more slowly in colder temps, and faster in warmer ones.
8. Let ferment, undisturbed for seven days.
9. Taste your kombucha after a week. You can use a straw or baster to easily extract some from beneath the SCOBY. If it’s too sweet, let it continue to ferment for a couple more days and then retest. The great thing about kombucha, is that it can be created to suit your preferences; some folks like it super tart, while others enjoy it at a sweeter, younger stage.
10. Decant into clean bottles and place in the fridge to enjoy! You can also flavor it by making an herbal tea (both lavender or mint work well) or play with the flavor by adding high quality or freshly pressed fruit juice. Brew tea in a couple of cups of hot water, and once cooled, add it to the kombucha. For fruit juice, use a 1/4 cup per quart of kombucha. You can also do both! Either way, enjoy the process, and embrace the philosophy that making good food and drink can take time, but is well worth it in the end.
HOW TO MAKE BEET KVASS
- 3 medium beets, peeled & quartered
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled & sliced
- 1⁄4 head of cabbage, roughly chopped into shreds
- 1⁄4 cup whey or sauerkraut brine for starter
- 1 gallon filtered or spring water
- Place beet pieces into a one gallon glass container, or divide between a few smaller glass jars. Add sliced garlic and chopped cabbage. Sprinkle in sea salt and fill jar with water, leaving a one inch space at the top. Stir gently and screw the lid onto the container. Leave the beet kvass on the counter or in a closet at room temperate (ideally about 65-70F, as higher temps can speed up fermentation, increasing chances for mold and negatively effecting flavor).
- Taste it often and experience how the flavors develop and change over time. We like beet kvass best when it tastes sour, tangy, and a bit salty with a light fizz. Ferment anywhere from 7-21 days.
- Once the beet kvass is to your liking, remove any kahm yeast (a harmless white yeast that forms on the top of the kvass) and strain through cheese cloth into clean bottles. Store in the fridge and enjoy!
- Use as a daily tonic, by drinking 2-4 ounces morning or night, or with a meal. The rich, tonic is packed full of nutrients and micro-flora.
Many, many thanks to Carly & Dave of Food & Ferments for sharing their knowledge, expertise, and mouth-watering fermented works of art. Before we bring this blog post to a close, we must ask, “What does free mean to you?”
“I know it doesn’t sound like it, but being committed to something is freedom. Things have gotten simpler because I’ve become committed.” – Carly
“To have the ability to make choices. To be able to choose to do what we’re doing. It doesn’t mean its always easy or fun, but its freedom.” – Dave
Check out Naomi’s blog Numie Abbot!