Brewing Booch

Now that Alex and I brew Kombucha, I feel like we have entered a new level in our development as hippy DIY foodies. I think I have a slightly weird complex about it. When I list the things I like doing – practicing yoga, tending to my succulents, baking my bread, going to craft breweries, and now brewing booch – I kind of want to roll my eyes at myself. But what can I say…? This stuff brings me joy!

Alex and I are brewing kombucha together. It’s perfect because he is patient and scientific, whereas I am quick to make decisions and do things on the fly for the sake of experimentation and efficiency.

I first thought that kombucha was a new craze,but I actually read that it has been around forever and has experienced a number of surges in popularity. Right now you can buy it in almost every grocery store and it seems like there are new brands on the shelf every week but it is not a new trend – booch has stood the test of time! Its probiotic properties, low sugar content and delightful tang & fizz have make it a delicious and healthy beverage. It also contains caffeine so it kind of serves as a better-for-you alternative to soda!

Scobys are weird. There’s no way around that. They are yeasty bacteria slimy things (scientifically known as: Symbiotic Cultures of Bacteria and Yeast) that somehow eat the sugar in the tea you feed it and ferment the beverage – giving it the vinegary & effervescent properties that booch is known for. It’s amazing and disgusting all at once. Lucky for us, our brew jar is opaque so we didn’t really see the whole process. Now that I’ve gotten accustomed to our scoby I kind of actually wish I could see the entire thing going down, but it definitely helped soften our introduction to kombucha brewing.

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We purchased our scoby online and it arrived quickly, complete with full instructions on how to begin brewing. I highly recommend this. It was wonderful to have a comprehensive guide to get us started. Now that we’ve done it once, we’re excited to start experimenting with recipes, but the simple instructions were perfect for getting us started.

Filtered water + black tea + white sugar + white vinegar + scoby + 7-10 days = BOOCH!

After that initial period of fermentation in your brew jar, you bottle it with any flavoring you want to add and then you seal the bottles and leave them at room temp for 2 days to get bubbly, then pop it in the fridge!

Our first batch yielded 2 bottles full of this delicious drink – and we flavored it with slivers of fresh ginger. For our second brew, we doubled the recipe to yield more (image above) and are excited to experiment with juiced ginger, lemon, and other flavors to find our favorite combos.

I’ll keep y’all posted on how our experiment continues. But for now, I can tell you that making booch has given me the same satisfaction I get from all our DIY kitchen projects…no longer do I have to spend $3 or $4 whenever I want a bottle of booch. I feel liberated knowing that I can make it at home, and you can too. So get brewing!

Next on our list? Sourdough starter…can’t wait!

 

 

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For the love of compost

Upon setting the goal for ourselves of creating less waste in 2016, Alex and I promptly started composting. Honestly, I am not sure why we waited so long to begin with. We cook with so many vegetables that there were always raw vegetable scraps going into our trash can, but for some reason we didn’t think much of it until all of a sudden we did. After making the decision, it was a pretty easy process…

Step 1 – Decide to compost

This part is pretty easy. In our case, it was brought on by our goal to reduce our waste and be more environmentally conscious. Most of us don’t realize how much of our trash can is filled up with useable food waste until we start composting. Since beginning our compost bin in January, Alex and I find we take the trash out significantly less often. Between our compost bin and our recycling bin, there is considerably less trash in our can. Meanwhile, we empty our compost bin once a week and we find it fills up really fast! Sometimes it is even overflowing by the time we empty it. Cucumber & citrus peels, the tops of zucchini, the innards of bell peppers, the skin of avocados, the leafy part of carrots, etc. All of that can go into the bin and if you’re like us – you’ll be much more aware of how much food waste you actually produce!

Since deciding to compost, I have read Philip Ackerman-Leist’s book, Rebuilding the Foodshed. In his book, he talks about the destructive and unsustainable practice of mining for minerals to use in fertilizers. He talks about the need for alternative sources of minerals and highlights the importance and virtues of composting within organic and local food production.

Compost brings to the soil numerous benefits compared to synthetic fertilizers: minimal nutrient runoff, enhanced nutrient retention, increased absorptive capacity, superior drought tolerance, improved biological diversity, and better structure. For our purposes, one other benefit stands out: compost can be locally produced under local control with local dollars, creating local jobs and local resilience. Next to good food, I cannot imagine anything that has more potential to bring together bleeding-heart liberals and die-hard conservatives than locally generated compost…There’s something for (and from) everyone in compost!

You hear that? There’s something for everyone in compost, so get your sh*t together and make a decision to save your scraps!

Step 2 – Get a bin you can put food scraps in!

Composting is somewhat popular these days so it is easy to find compost bins online, with some trendy options from Etsy, World Market, etc. OR you can go the route that Alex and I went and head to your local Goodwill. We searched through their homewares section, finding a jackpot compost bin for $1.50. We have determined that it is most likely an old ice bucket – complete with a handle and a snug fitting lid. (See below!)

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A handle and a lid is important so you can transport your compost easily to wherever you decide to use it. The lid should be easy to remove so you can do it one-handed while holding your food scraps in the other. The lid will also keep fruit flies away and can trap any odors in there!

Step 3 – Find a place that can use your composted food waste for good!

Most likely, there are gardens or environmental organizations near you that have a composting program and would LOVE to have your food scraps. It may take a little digging at first, but I am sure you can find some. In my area, there is Occidental College which has a college garden and composting program run by students. There is also Debs Park which has a native nursery and a composting bin – which is where Alex works and where we take our compost to once a week.

Can’t find a nearby garden that can put your food scraps to waste? In Los Angeles, you can put raw food scraps in the Green Bin! Don’t put any animal products in there, but your fruit and veggie scraps will be combined with lawn waste from other people’s bins and then used in a variety of ways – including donations to local gardens or organizations that need compost!

The importance of compost

If we want to build sustainable food systems, compost is going to be a key ingredient. Mining minerals for fertilizers is not going to be an option forever. According to Ackerman-Leist, the US has “only about another twenty to twenty-five years of available phosphorus within our borders” and other countries are protecting their domestic sources of phosphorus with high tariffs due to its extreme importance in agriculture and crop yield.

Compost is a way in which we are able to recover energy from our food by using the decaying matter to enrich our soil and improve crop production. Hopefully, increasing the amount of compost available (in addition to looking for ways to sanitize and use natural sources of phosphorus like human waste) can help build a more sustainable and resilient food system!

Most frequently asked Compost Q:

Does it smell up your kitchen and look gross?

No. Limit your compost to just raw vegetable matter and it will not be a gross experience at all. We do not put any animal products in there (no egg shells or anything), and honestly – it usually smells like orange peel or coffee grounds. Nothing nasty or particularly gross there. If you go a longer time than usual without emptying it, things will get a little moldy, but that’s good! That breakdown and decay is what feeds soil vital nutrients. And in any case, that’s why you get a bin with a tight fitting lid!

Get on it – and start composting! 🙂

 

 

 

Sesame & Flax Crackers!

Making bread really changed my attitude about what is possible to make at home. I had never even considered baking it at home, so it really opened my eyes to the possibilities. Making my first batch of crackers was a similar experience. When I announced to my coworker that I had made crackers – she looked at me funny and then was like “Wait, how do you even do that?”

To be honest? It is so flipping easy, I wish I had discovered it sooner. The base is quite literally flour, water, salt and baking soda. Add a few extra ingredients to make it tasty. Roll it super thin and cut into your desired shape and TA DAAAAAAA!

The scary thing is how easy it is…because once you realize that, you’ll be making them all the time and eating your weight in these thin & seedy crackers. Not a huge problem, because I guarantee these crackers are more nutritious than those sold in a box, but everything in moderation is still a guiding principle I fully support.

So do what you will with portions- but definitely make these because they’re so dang easy and so delicious topped with cheese or hummus!

Sesame & Flax Crackers

Ingredients

  • 1 – 3/4 cup spelt flour (I also did a batch with white flour & whole wheat flour – they were all delicious)
  • 3 tbsp melted butter (vegan? Veg oil or melted smart balance would work!)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar (optional – I’ve done with and without and both were great)
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract (adds complexity and delicious flavor!)
  • Sprinkle of paprika (feel free to experiment with different flavorings…rosemary would be delicious!)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Add in: 2 tbsp  flax seeds, 2 tbsp sesame seeds

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Melt the butter in a microwave safe bowl. Then add honey, vanilla, paprika and water. Once mixed, stir in the spelt flour. Mix and knead with your hands, forming a ball with the dough.
  3. Sprinkle salt and baking soda evenly over top of dough and knead until you are confident they are mixed throughout the dough.
  4. Add flax & sesame seeds and knead to mix thoroughly.
  5. Divide dough into 4 small dough balls. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen cloth so the dough is kept moist while you work with each piece.
  6. Cover a work surface with a rectangle of parchment paper and cover it with flour. (If you don’t have parchment paper – you can do it right on the counter and then transfer the crackers to the baking sheet after, it is just slightly annoying to transfer each cracker!)
  7. Take one dough ball and place it on your floured parchment paper. Use a rolling pin and some muscle to get the dough as thin as possible. If you think it’s as thin as you can get it…roll for another 2 minutes! The thinner it is, the more crisp your crackers will be. The first time I did this, the crackers turned out tough because they were too thick, so take this part seriously!
  8. Once formed into a very thin, large rectangular shape (the edges will be uneven, don’t worry), use a knife to cut the crackers in 1.5 inch strips. Then cut them into squares by cutting them the other way. The edge crackers won’t be square, but they’ll still be delicious and perfect for dipping into hummus.
  9. Lift the edges of the parchment paper and carefully transfer the crackers to the baking sheet.
  10. Put into the oven for 8 minutes. After 8 minutes, take them out and check how they’re doing. You want them browned on edges and crisp. If not ready, flip them over and put them in for another 2-5 minutes, keeping your eyes on them to make sure they don’t burn. When you think they’re ready, take them out of the oven and let cool. As they cool, they crisp up so don’t worry if they don’t seem crunchy when you first take them out.
  11. Sample a cracker once it is cool enough to eat. If you like the taste, do the same steps with the other 3 pieces of dough.
  12. If you want to add extra salt, feel free to sprinkle it on top of the crackers before baking OR mix more into the dough. I also added a lavender & oregano seasoning to one batch and it turned out delicious so you can get creative if you want to make different flavors 🙂

Note: Your first batch may feel difficult because you have to roll 4 different times and keep an eye on the crackers while doing the 4 different batches. After you make the crackers a few times, you’ll get the hang of the timing. I bake two sheets at a time and prep the next batches while the first two are baking – it just takes time to get the process down. It’s important to divide into small balls, if you try to do more dough at once, it won’t get thin enough!

Storage: Store crackers in an airtight container. They should last a few weeks, but I doubt they’ll be around that long! Top with homemade hummus or other of your favorite dips and cheeses!