Kombucha Crazy

1464976333515

So, I’ve become a bit of an addict.  A kombucha addict.  Who knew some fermented tea would make a girl so happy?  But it does.  And I’m too cheap to buy it.  A friend told me someone at the market in Shediac was selling it for $20 a bottle.  Ummm…yeah, I’ll make my own, thanks.  My friend Stacy gifted me a scoby and some starter tea back in February and I’ve been brewing ever since.  I’ve experimented with a few things and now I’ve got it down to what I like.

IMG_20160619_113522Generally, I like to start with a plain black tea, so I’ve been using a strongly brewed English Breakfast for the most part, and I let mine ferment for about 10 or so days.  Once it hits the 14 day mark, I find it’s getting a bit too vinegar-y for my taste.  So I strain, bottle and drink like crazy.  I don’t always do a second ferment, because it’s pretty good all by it’s lonesome, but add in some strawberries or flavoured tea and let sit for a few days and bam!  Fruity deliciousness.  And fizzy, fruity deliciousness at that.  If kombucha brewing is up your alley and you want to find out more, check out http://www.kombuchakamp.com or http://www.culturesforhealth.com.  Those are great resources.  I’ve also joined a couple of kombucha brewing groups on Facebook, and they’ve been a great source of inspiration.

Since I’ve started my kombucha addiction, I’ve had a lot of friends ask how to get started.  One thing that happens when you brew your own is that you may eventually be over run by extra scobys.  I’m going to be adopting mine out this weekend.  On Sunday, I’ve got some friends coming over to learn how to make their own.  And they all get their own scoby and starter tea to take home.  Awe!  Scoby babies are heading to new kombucha families!

20160530_141318This was the first little scoby I put in here.  The jar is now almost packed solid with them.  My husband says he will be glad to see the “jelly fish” disappear from the pantry cupboard.  But I’m sure it won’t take long for more to take their place.  I may have to do a kombucha how to party every couple of months if my brew keeps going this well.  Today, I’ve got three gallon jars on top of my fridge brewing.  One is English Breakfast black tea, one is Classic Sencha green tea (and the scobys are so white!!!) and the third one is a mix of the two teas.  It will be fun to see what everyone prefers.

Do you brew your own?  I’d love to hear about your experiences!

1464783695897

Strawberry kombucha

Chickens and Jam

Chicken and Nugget checking out the yard

Back in the spring, my daughter’s biology class hatched eggs. Quails, ducks and chickens. And one day, while I was literally out in a field interviewing a farmer for a news story, my phone rang. It was her. I thought it was important. (Mommy’s working, call the cell phone if it’s important.) But as I have learned over the years, what consitutes “important or urgent” to me is a bit different to my children. I once took a call from her while at work that had me so exasperated that all my co workers heard from my end was “Really? You’re serious. Okay. Has anyone lost a limb? Been maimed? No? No massive blood loss? Okay, I will call you back to discuss this WHEN I AM NOT BUSY!” Click. It’s not always like that, but there was awhile there where she was very attached and seemed to need to talk to me often. By the time I was standing in the field it was much more reasonable. So, thinking it was important or urgent, I answered. “Mom, I can take my chicken home but I have to know if it’s okay right now because I can take it home today or it goes to the farm. Can I? Please Mom! Can I?” I pawned her off on her father, who was home on his day off, and hung up. And when I came home from work I found a cardboard box with two chicks in it on her dresser.

Chicks getting comfortable

So, here we are. With the aptly named Chicken and Nugget. Turns out Nugget is a hen, Chicken is a rooster. My husband made them a lovely little chicken house, my daughter insisted on painting it red, and then we moved them in. They spent the summer wandering around the yard, while we waited for Nugget to start laying. We waited some more. And we continued to wait. Finally, our wait has been rewarded. An egg a day for the last two weeks! Lovely eggs with pale brown shells. My daughter is a little attached to the eggs and wanted to leave them in the hen house in hopes we would have more little chicks. But with a New Brunswick winter coming on, and let’s be honest, I’ve been waiting for some return on our feed investment, they are washed and in the fridge.
I think we will have more chicks come spring so we can have a flock of layers. My youngest loves to check the roost boxes for eggs. It makes his morning to bring it in. My daughter has yet to eat one, but they were delicious scrambled this morning for breakfast.

Nugget outdid herself one morning.

Meanwhile, I’m back to jam making. I’ve had some orders for jam baskets for the Christmas season, and the blueberry lemon jam is pretty popular. There are so many wild blueberries around here that it’s not hard to pick a good stash for the winter. This morning, I took some out of the freezer and got my jars ready to go. As I type this, the jam is at the simmer stage, while I wait for my hot water bath to get hot enough to sterilize my jars.

Blueberry lemon jam in the making

Blueberry Lemon Jam

6 cups of fresh or frozen blueberries
3 1/2 cups of sugar
zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon, plus a 1/4 cup of lemon juice

Combine ingredients in a pot, simmer for a half hour or so, until you reach the stage where some dropped on a frozen plate will “wrinkle” when you touch it with your finger. Pour into hot, sterilized jars and leave a quarter inch head space. Cover with sterilized lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for ten minutes. Makes about 5-6 250 ml jars.

Baskets wrapped and ready to go.

Is it winter already?

Well, I think it’s safe to say that summer got away from me.  I started doing one farmers market on Saturdays for fun, but that Imagequickly became one on Sunday as well.  Add in a very busy few months doing political media relations, and kiss any “free” time goodbye.  I ended up being that person with a smartphone attached to her hand, which has never happened before.  So many of my carefully laid gardening plans went awry because of it.  Ahhh, another learning experience!  But I did get a lot of things done.  And some new experiences.  Like pickled scapes.  

ImageThese lovely little fellows were given to me by a local farmer, otherwise known as The Pumpkin Lady.  If you’ve never seen them before, they are the green shoot from garlic, kind of like a green onion.  I ended up making several pints of pickles scapes, and they were a hit at the market.

ImageThey joined things like strawberry margarita jam, cranberry orange marmalade, chipotle ketchup and cranberry mustard on my shelves.  I also steeped some in some white balsamic vinegar, which was amazing.  It smelled so good, and looked pretty in the little jars I put it in.  

Another one of my new adventures was beekeeping.  I’m really new to it and have a lot to learn, but my friend Brett, who brought me the hive, was terrific in helping me out.

Image

 

Because it’s the first year for the hive, we wanted to leave the bees lots of honey to help them get through the winter.  So after we inspected the hive and made sure the queen was well and laying her eggs, we took out one frame for honey collection and left the rest.

ImageBut without any equipment, like an extractor, how to get the honey off the frame?  Eventually, we suspended the frame over a foil pan to catch it as it dripped out after uncapping the wax with a hot serrated knife.

ImageIt took awhile, but eventually we got as much honey as we could from the frame and then put the frame outside on top of the hive to allow the bees to clean off the rest.  One frame gave us three beautiful pints of honey.  Really, the best agricultural bang for your buck and your time.  I’m looking at making a top bar hive over the winter and trying to establish a new colony using natural (no chemicals or antibiotic) techniques next spring.  And looking forward to a lot more honey next summer.

Image

 

So much more to do and plan for.  Today looks like a great day to fill the woodbox, wash some floors, make some yogurt and have a hot supper waiting for my husband and the kids.  Maybe make some cheddar cheese scones for supper?