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Starving Sourdough Starter

A friend recently tried to start a wild sourdough starter. It sounds like he was off to a great start, then the report was that it started to get liquidy, then look funny, then STINK. Poor sourdough. My diagnosis was that it was so vigorous that it needed to eat more than the once-per-day that the instructions he was following dictated, and it succumbed to some “bad” microbes.

Sourdough starter needs to be kept in a “fed” state or the “good” bacteria and yeasts that define a sourdough culture cannot keep invaders at bay and the mix will turn bad. An active culture kept at room temp needs to be fed once per day, but sometimes it can be more often depending on some variables. One kept most of the time in the ‘fridge can be fed just once per week; The cooler temps slow the metabolism of the bacteria and yeasts and they will work through nutrients more slowly. I’ll add that the ‘discard’ process is important — always discard at least half of the starter and replace with the same amount of fresh flour/water.

I will soon make a post that details how TO care for and bake with a sourdough starter. This is what happens when a starter starves. Sorry to the starter I sacrificed for this experiment — science thanks you!

Day 1 SD starter

Day 1 — 11pm. This is some sourdough starter that I poured off my main batch, which was then fed. It is slowing in activity, but still has a bit of body and a few bubbles.

Day 1 -- 11pm, top view.

Day 1 — 11pm, top view.

Day 2 -- 10am

Day 2 — 10am. Starter is starting to get thinner. No new bubbles have formed, a sign the mix is lacking in nutrients for the “good” bacteria and yeast that define a healthy sourdough starter.

Day 2 -- 1pm

Day 2 — 1pm. “Hooch” or liquid is starting to form on the surface of the starter. This is a telltale sign of starter that is “hungry”. It’s natural for some to form between feedings, especially if you’re keeping it in the ‘fridge. Starter is still viable at this point, but losing potency. A couple feedings will be required to bring it up to the strength to raise bread dough. You can mix the hooch  back in to the starter when feeding or pour it off.

Day 2 -- 6pm

Day 2 — 6pm. More hooch is coming to the surface.

Day 2 -- 11pm

Day 2 — 11pm. Even more hooch. No bubbles. This is not a happy starter.

Day 2 -- 3am

Day 2/3 — 3am. I’m up late. I’m tired and the starter’s exhausted!

Day 2/3 -- 3am side view

Day 2/3 3am — side view. Note the clear presence of the liquid on top of the starter.

Day 3 -- 2pm

Day 3 — 2pm. More of the same, but getting more pronounced. It still wouldn’t be too late to revive this. A couple “power feedings” every 6-12 hours and it would probably bounce back fine.

Day 3 -- 2pm

Day 3 — 2pm side view. Note that things are settling and layer of hooch is more defined.

Day 4 -- 2pm

Day 4 — 2pm. WHOA! What’s this? It’s neat looking, but it smells like gross sweaty feet. This is likely kahm yeast. This is an opportunistic yeast that is taking advantage of the drop in pH in the spent starter. Kahm yeast is not harmful but it does not taste good and it’s virtually impossible to actually remove once it sets up camp. There is a chance that at this point the culture could be saved with some power feedings, but it’s pretty far gone. The presence of this yeast is a sign that the culture is also open to mold.

Day 4 -- 2pm, side view.

Day 4 — 2pm, side view.

Day 5 -- 5pm

Day 5 — 5pm. The yeast layer is taking on a pink hue with is NOT a good color to see in ferments. I’m not sure if it’s the kahm yeast itself or a sign of another microbial invader, but at this point I would call this un-salvageable. The smell is increasing in strength and unpleasantness.

Day 5 -- 5pm, side view.

Day 5 — 5pm, side view.

Day 6 -- 2pm

Day 6 — 2pm. Kahm yeast is in full force. It looks really cool but smells awful. From looks the kahm layer is just on the surface of the hooch, but with things like yeast and bacteria, once they’re on the surface they’re likely throughout what they’re growing on too. The color has deepened. RIP sourdough starter. I’m calling it quits on the experiment. Likely within days or maybe up to weeks mold would move in and this would be a disgusting soup of things you do NOT want to eat!

Day 6 -- 2pm, side view

Day 6 — 2pm, side view

Day 1 compare

Back to day 1. This is a side-by-side comparison of the experimental starter and my main starter, which I had just fed. If you look closely you can see the line the fed starter comes to in the big jar — about half-way.

Day 2 compare

About 12 hours after the last photo. You can see that the small jar of our experimental starter looks pretty much the same, whereas the fed starter has doubled in size and fills the jar — what a healthy starter should do after a feeding.


 

Sourdough Cracker Recipe/Technique

I have tried unsuccessfully to make nicely textured sourdough crackers several times using various recipes I’ve found online, but have never been happy with the results….. ’til now! I belong to a couple online fermenting groups where the subject comes up sometimes (it’s not going to be me asking anymore!) and I have a few friends who I think will be interested so I thought I’d write up the recipe and technique notes. Enjoy!

If you’re like me and just use recipes as general guidelines and you don’t care about all the commentary I put a super simplified version at the bottom of the post.

Supplies you’ll need:

(More an ingredient, but the most important thing: Sourdough starter. If you don’t have one going, start one using any technique you like or ask me about it.)

Measuring cups and spoons

Large mixing bowl (probably the one with your mixer)

KitchenAid with dough hook, mixer for dough, or very strong arms and a wooden spoon

Plastic wrap or cover for dough while it rises

Cutting board or counter surface for working dough

Pasta-machine is a huge plus, or rolling pin

Bench scraper or knife

Brush for egg wash

Cookie sheet with silicone mat or parchment paper

Oven

Wire cooling rack

Ingredients:

1 cup sourdough starter. This can be fed starter or a relatively eager unfed starter, but unfed sluggish starter straight from the ‘fridge isn’t likely to give you the best results.

1+ cups flour. This can be white or whole-grain or a mix. I have used mostly all-purpose white flour (organic, but that’s up to you of course), with a bit of rye or whole-grain.

1/4 cup oats. This is optional, but I think it’s a great add-in. If you don’t use oats you’ll need more flour.

1/4 cup softened butter.

1/4 teaspoon baking soda (Doesn’t go in right away!)

1/2 teaspoon salt. (Also doesn’t go in right away!) You can use less or more to taste, but this is where I think it’s best. I also recommend an unrefined salt like Redmond Real Salt, the various sea salts, or Himalayan pink salt.

1 egg plus some water for a wash to brush on top. This is optional but will help the salt stick and will make them brown better.

More salt for sprinkling on top. A nice coarse specialty salt is good, or more of the same of your regular salt. Again, optional, but this is how I make them.

More flour for dusting your work surface and working into the dough ball. For this I use whole-grain flour to give them a little more texture. White would be fine too.

Technique:

I think this is where I was lacking enough info for getting a nice crispy cracker. You might have to fine-tune to get the crackers just how you like them, but this is what I do:

The night before or early in the day (or whatever schedule allows lots of rising time) mix together the sourdough starter, cup (+) of flour, oats, and butter. I use a KitchenAid mixer with the dough hook. I’m sure you can mix by hand (if you’re really strong!) or use any other type of processor suitable for dough. Mix ’til it’s a nice stiff dough ball that ‘cleans the sides’ of the bowl. If it’s too wet, add more flour little bits at a time. If it happens to be too dry to incorporate all the flour, add a splash of water ’til it’s right.

Let this sit covered for 8-12 hours or so at room temperature. It won’t rise like regular bread dough, but it will increase in size and when you poke it you should be able to tell that bubbles have developed. It will be stickier now than it was when it was first mixed. Scrape it out of the bowl onto a floured surface. I have been using whole grain flour for this. Because the dough has become softer and stickier you will be able to incorporate more flour into the dough, and I think the whole grain offers a nice texture and flavor. At the same time start pre-heating the oven to 350 degrees (F). The rack should be in the middle.

Before you start kneading measure out your baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stretch out your dough a bit and sprinkle about half of the salt and soda onto the surface. Fold it over, and sprinkle on the rest. Then fold and knead, working the salt and soda through the dough and incorporating the flour from your surface into the dough as it will take it. If your work surface gets sticky put down more flour as needed. Knead and fold until the ball is not sticky anymore and a it’s a nice solid but stretchy consistency.

  

Form an even shape and use your bench scraper or knife to cut the dough into four even sections. Keep out two, and return two to your bowl and cover it. This will keep them from drying out while you work with the other two.

Then it’s time to roll out your crackers. This is a CRUCIAL step, as crackers that are too thick will be dense and more like a hard bread. My first few tries I thought I was doing well, but they all ended up too thick and dense. I thought they were awful, but my boss’s dog loved them, so maybe not all is lost if you mess up a batch. Crackers that are too thin won’t have much substance and will not be good for eating with dips or toppings.

I use a pasta roller, which makes the rolling VERY easy and very even. If you don’t have one but have thought about getting one, I recommend that you do consider spending the money! This one was bought for me as a gift, but I happen to know it came from a thrift store, which is a great place to keep an eye out. This is an older Marcato model from Italy with a hand crank that I think dates to the 70’s or so. The new versions look pretty much identical (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it) and I’ve seen them new for about $100. That’s a little spendy for a kitchen utensil, but I’ve found mine to be really useful for many things including tortillas and every kind of pasta you can imagine (which can all be made with sourdough). I’ve thought of other uses but I’m too afraid my “creativity” might damage the rollers to try! If you’re hand-rolling the crackers you’ll have to figure out what the right thickness is, but you’ll want to roll them out quite thin — just 1/8-inch or so.

Back to the pasta roller, I squish my quarter-sections and run them thru on the #1 setting.

After the first pass at #1, cut your strips in half with the bench scraper or knife, then you can run these sections thru at #3, then #5. (Don’t try to run dough thru at your desired thickness without working through the other steps up to it — it doesn’t work.) I have decided #5 is the perfect thickness for my crackers, but you might try something else.

Put your rolled strips on a cookie sheet that has a non-stick silicone mat (like in the picture below) or greased parchment paper. The silicone mats are great because you don’t have to mess with grease, they’re reusable, and they don’t curl up like parchment paper does.

     

I’ve chosen to keep my crackers pretty “rustic” in shape, mostly because it’s easier. If you want to make perfect shapes you can. Use a pizza roller or knife to cut even pieces. You can ball up your trimmings and run them thru the roller again and again ’til it’s all used. Give each shape a poke with a fork in the middle so that you don’t end up making bubbles instead of crackers. I just keep mine like in the picture, and perforate them with a fork so I can break somewhat even shapes after they’re baked.

I’m getting ahead, though… Once your shapes are on the cookie sheet, mix up the egg and a splash of water with a fork. You want a thin consistency. Brush your proto-crackers with just a touch of the egg wash, then sprinkle with the coarse salt or whatever you choose to use. (This includes dried herbs or seeds if you want to get all crazy.)

If you’re keeping yours in large strips like this, use a fork to make perforations. When baked the crackers can be broken along these lines. They also serve to keep large bubbles from forming in your crackers, so if you choose not to perforate you will want to press a few holes into your unbaked strips.

Then into the oven! All ovens are a bit different, but mine turn out best if baked for 10 minutes at 350, then flip them, over, and bake for 3 minutes more. That’s it! They’re done when they’re slightly browned and you can tell they’re crispy and not bendy. Repeat the process with the other two dough lumps in the bowl.

Break along the perforations into cracker shapes, and….. Enjoy! One batch makes between 315-350g of crackers, which is 11-12 ounces.

  


Simplified version……..
Mix 1 cup SD starter, 1/4 softened butter, and about a cup of flour.
Let it rise at room temp for 8-12 hours.
Sprinkle dough with 1/4 tsp and 1/2 tsp salt.
Knead on floured surface.
Roll out sections, perforate, egg wash, sprinkle with more salt.
Bake for 10 minutes @ 350F, flip, bake 3 more minutes.
Cracker Time!


 

Kombucha!

I’m about to share a kombucha SCOBY so a friend can get started on her own journey with this amazing fermented tea drink. I thought I’d write down some steps and tips here so that they’ll be here for any future kombucha SCOBY sharing I might do, or in case anyone else is interested in my particular routine with kombucha.

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What’s kombucha? There is TONS of info on the web with everything from basic explanations to troubleshooting to creative ways to use ‘extra’ SCOBYs. (Like as band-aids. SERIOUSLY.) My favorite resources and articles are on a Pinterest board I keep for fermenting/brewing/etc. Find it here: https://www.pinterest.com/manteega/yeastsourdoughbrewingfermenting/. You might have to scroll down the page. I do a lot more to harness the awesome powers and benefits of microorganisms these days than just kombucha, and am always trying to learn. The top pins will be whatever I’m most interested in at any given time. The kombucha stuff is there.

I’m not sure exactly where to start, as kombucha’s kind of a cycle. I guess it makes the most sense to start where you will when you get your SCOBY/starter! Obviously when you’re making your first batch with the SCOBY and starter tea you’ll skip the whole bottling thing. All you need to do is make tea, and pour it (the cooled tea) into your brewing container with the starter, and release the SCOBY. Cover and wait! The following is going to seem like A LOT of steps and info, but the whole thing is really easy. Don’t let my wordiness turn this into more than it is! Chances are if I gave you a SCOBY you know who I am and my propensity towards endless verbosity. It doesn’t even take me a half-hour to bottle my KT. Maybe like 15-20 minutes.

(1) Make sweetened tea in the amount you want to brew. This will likely depend on how big a jar you have. I use a gallon ‘sun tea’ jar (the one with the flowers in the picture). This makes about 6 Grolsch-bottles of ‘booch on bottling day.  For my gallon of kombucha I put about 14 cups of water into a large stainless-steel pot and bring it to a boil. As soon as it boils I turn off the heat and pull the pot off the burner. I give it a minute or two while I get the tea out. I use two tablespoons of loose black tea, or 6-8 tea bags. I let it steep for 10 minutes, then add one cup of sugar — I get the bags of organic cane sugar from Costco, seems to be working great. I’ve gotten in the habit of making tea the night before I want to bottle, so that it’s TOTALLY cooled to room temp by that time. A gallon of boiling hot tea takes a LONG time to cool, and if you put your SCOBY into tea that’s too hot you might kill it.

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Here’s a chart from a page on the Cultures For Health website for the ratios of water/tea/sugar for different amounts of final KT:

One-Quart Batch:

  • 1½ teaspoon loose tea OR 2 tea bags
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2-3 cups water
  • ½ cup starter tea or vinegar

Half-Gallon Batch:

  • 1 tablespoon loose tea OR 4 tea bags
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 6-7 cups water
  • 1 cup starter tea or vinegar

Gallon Batch:

  • 2 tablespoons loose tea OR 8 tea bags
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 13-14 cups water
  • 2 cups starter tea or vinegar

A note on tea: Kombucha likes plain black tea the best, though I’ve heard of people doing mixes of herbal teas and or/green tea with black tea with success. I’d recommend letting your SCOBY grow another one and use one to experiment and one to keep doing the “tried-and-true” in case you kill it if you want to try different teas. (There’s a different kombucha-like culture you can make with green tea and honey called “Jun”. It requires a different SCOBY, as it’s different bacteria/yeast.) So far I have used a couple different sources of tea. One was a box of loose organic black tea from Portugal I got at that GJ Andrews place on Academy road. It worked really really well. When I ran out I needed tea like right now and got a box of T&T brand organic Chinese loose black tea at Superstore. I found the taste was kinda blah after using it a couple times and the SCOBY didn’t seem to like it as much, either. I picked up some different organic black tea bags at VitaHealth the other day. Can’t remember the brand but the box says it’s sourced from “various countries”. (I’ve now tried it and it’s GOOD!)

(2) So, the next day when I’ve got my room-temp tea ready I gather the things I need to bottle:

6 Grolsch bottles
A 2-cup glass measuring cup
My trusty enameled metal 4-cup measure
A little plastic 2-oz measure (oops — not pictured)
A little tiny funnel
A plate
Whatever juice/syrup I’m using in my second ferment (see step 5 for more info)
The jar of kombucha that’s been brewing
Paper towels and/or a clean dish rag
Labels and a marker (optional but recommended)

KT_bottling

This pic shows most of what I use when bottling. It’s taken mid-process.

(3) I take the cover off the big jar of ready-to-bottle kombucha and lay it so that I remember which side is “up” in the interest of not flipping it over and accidentally introducing dust or anything into the kombucha I don’t want. I guess if you’re the fastidious type you could use a clean fresh piece of whatever you’re using as a cover each time. Then I reach in with clean hands (soap and water is fine), fish out the SCOBY and put it on the plate. (See step 12 for what to do in the case your SCOBY has grown or seemingly duplicated itself over the brewing process.)

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(4) I pour 2 cups of the kombucha tea (shortened to KT after this) into the glass measure and set it aside. This will be my starter for the next batch. Starter tea is important, as it immediately acidifies the brew so that “bad” microorganisms can’t take hold and ruin your KT. I read somewhere that pouring it off the top of the jar is best, as free yeast tends to settle in the bottom of the jug and using that can throw off the balance. I poured off the bottom of the jug for the first several months I was doing this, and it did fine, but I do notice that my SCOBYs tend to be cleaner and happier looking since starting to pour from the top for my reserved starter.

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(5) Then I put my juice/syrup into the bottles using the little funnel. I do all the bottles at once, so each of the 6 bottles has a little bit in it, and the KT goes on top. Efficiency, baby. I use my little bitty 2-ounce cup with tablespoon marks for measuring juice. I’ve been finding that anywhere from one to three tablespoons of juice/syrup is perfect. 4 is too much. (Both taste-wise and carbonation-wise…. more sugar = more bubbles = explodeyness when opening bottles = KT on the ceiling = friends/family/pets that are surprised/amused/scared and/or pissed off depending on how well KT comes off the kitchen ceiling. I’m totally hypothetically speaking, though. The permanent stain on my popcorn-textured ceiling is actually from a different homebrew experiment, but I’d imagine my boyfriend would be equally less enthusiastic about a KT stain.) Anyway….. Use less of things that are sweet and/or concentrated (like syrups and fruit “juice” that’s more like a puree), and more of things like actual juice. I have used SO MANY different things for my second ferment (called ‘2F’ from now on). You can use pretty much anything, even whole pieces of fruit, though I haven’t really tried that. (Seems easier/better to use liquids from a bottle-cleaning standpoint.) So far my favorite 2F add-ins are the elderflower syrup from Ikea and cherry juice from home-canned water-packed cherries. Orange juice is quite good. I thought blueberry juice would be really awesome but I didn’t like it. I was excited about strawberry juice, but it was kinda weird. Mixed with sour rose-hip juice, though, strawberry is good! (I’m drinking that now!) Apple juice was a total fail. I think because KT tastes reminiscent of apple on its own that it conflicted in a weird way. You can use jam/jelly globs too. I used the Ikea lingonberry jam (lingonberries are kind of like little cranberries) for a couple batches — like a teaspoon or less per bottle. It was kinda good and the closest thing to whole fruit I’ve used. You end up with pretty much whole little lingonberries soaked in KT at the bottom of the bottle. It’s kind of good and gross at the same time. ANYWAY, you can get super creative, OR you can also bottle it plain. That’s good too. If you’re bottling it before all the sugar is spent in the brew it will carbonate fine. You can always add like 1/4 teaspoon of granulated sugar or honey to the bottle if you want to make sure it’ll carbonate. (Not too much — reference ceiling stain story above.)

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Oh, I guess I’ll mention that the 2F juice/sugar is for added taste, but also to give the yeast a little extra snack so that they make you bubbles. The carbon dioxide the yeast make when they eat sugar can’t escape the bottle, so it’s forced back into the KT giving you a delightfully bubbly drink. It’s really easy to get awesome bubbles, and the *pop* of the bottle and sight of the poured KT is as satisfying as actually drinking it. It’s sure to impress anyone, even if they don’t actually like the taste of kombucha.

(6) Then I take whatever clean implement is closest — fork, spoon, knife, whatever — and give the big jug a stir. Doesn’t have to be thorough, all you’re doing is giving it a little mix to pull some of the yeast from the bottom and distribute it throughout the KT. Don’t worry about fully mixing it up — sediment staying at the bottom is fine.

(7) When you’ve got your bottles each with the 2F juice in them, you’re ready to pour in the KT from the brewing jug. I pour from the big jug into the 4-cup measure first and pour from that into the bottles — it’s a lot easier to manage. The KT will tend to foam up in the bottle as you’re pouring unless you’re better with the little funnel than I am. Be careful not to lose precious KT to overflowing. You want to fill the bottles to about 1-inch from the top. With the actual Grolsch bottles that’s easy because that collar at the top of the bottle-neck is about an inch. If you fill it to less than an inch it might not carbonate properly. If you fill too much you’re in ceiling-stain territory, or, worse, bottle explosion. I have yet to experience that, and hope I never will.

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(8) When the bottles are full, wipe the top with a paper towel or cloth and clamp down the top. Use a dampened towel to wipe the bottles and clean off any drips. (Unless you want ants… because that’s how you get ants.) Labeling is a good idea unless you like surprises or your memory is a lot better than mine. You can get these awesome dissolving labels at Canadian Tire in the canning section made by Bernardin. They wash completely off in warm water, but actually last as long as the bottle’s dry.

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(9) You can then put the bottles anywhere to do their 2F thing — I put them in my large pantry space that’s above a set of stairs in my kitchen. I’d recommend keeping them at ‘room temp’, not anywhere too cold or too hot. Too hot and it’ll work too fast (KT on the ceiling), too cold and it won’t work fast enough (weak bubblyness).

(10) Then you’re ready to set up your next batch. I just give the big brewing jar a thorough rinse with warm water. I don’t use soap. You could, but if you do MAKE SURE to rinse it really really well. Anything like soap or cleansers that can leave residue could kill or really inhibit your brew. The jar comes nice and clean with just a rinse. If there’s any hanger-onner bits just use your finger to loosen them. If you’re squidgy about not really cleaning the jar each time you could  swish some white vinegar around in there. Vinegar will clean, but is just an acid and any remnants won’t negatively affect the brew, which is acidic anyway.

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(11) Add your reserved starter tea to the jug, then pour the sweetened tea that’s been sitting overnight (or is at least cooled to room temp) to the jug. (Be careful. I’ve found I can maneuver my pot pretty well, but I’ve poured tea all over the counter once or twice!) I used to fill it damn near the top of the brewing jar, but recently I had a SCOBY that tried to escape! It was kinda cool, but messy. The jar was so full that the SCOBY was able to ‘grab on’ to the cloth cover, and from there it grew and oozed up over the side, and presumably it pulled liquid with it that gathered in the bottom of the plastic basket thing I use under the jar in the pantry (good thing it was there!) It actually created a thin SCOBY film on the entire bottom of the basket that peeled off like a fruit roll-up. Like I said — cool, but kinda messy. Now I leave it about 2 or 3 inches of room from the very top. No travelling SCOBYs since!

(12) After you fill your jug with the starter and the sweet tea, you can return the SCOBY that you took out of the jar at the beginning. Just slip it back into the jar. It might float right away, it might sink, might go sideways. Healthy SCOBYs will usually level out on top eventually. If for some reason it doesn’t, another one will probably form. (If neither happens that might be a sign of trouble, as in your SCOBY community is out of whack and not thriving.) SCOBYs will last a LONG time, but they’ll grow in size by either adding layers onto the surface, or sometimes if the SCOBY was in the jar crooked you’ll have a brand new independent SCOBY on the top of the brewing vessel. The bigger the SCOBY the faster the fermenting happens. In order to keep a nice balance, you’ll want to just use one ‘layer’ of the SCOBY — whatever part strikes your fancy. Any ‘extras’ — be it the new or old — you can do whatever you want with. You can start a “SCOBY hotel” in another jar to keep extra SCOBYs alive and working so that you can give them to friends or do something neat with them. I just made SCOBY ‘candy’ that’s like mildly KT flavored gummy-bears — really freakin’ good! I’ve dried some just for kicks — it’s kinda like leather. I have some ideas but haven’t used my kombucha leather pieces for anything yet. I’ve read about making savory ‘jerky’ out of SCOBY — might try that next. Some people feed their extra SCOBYs to their dogs or chickens. You can compost them, or even throw them out if you get over-run.

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(13) Replace the cover. A note on covers: Kombucha is one of the very very few ferments that actually requires an aerobic environment to work. It actually likes a fair amount of air-flow. This is why you want to use a wide-mouth vessel and not a juice jug or anything with a narrow neck. The cover should allow air flow, but keep out dust, pet hair, fruit flies, and other floaties. I have used an old clean cut-up T-shirt, and now I’m using some porous organza-type fabric. The holes in cheesecloth are too big, and I think tea-towels are too thick. Coffee filters don’t last long enough. Whatever the top, I just secure it with rubber bands.

(14) Return (or put) the jug wherever it’s going to ‘live’ and let it work ’til the next time you bottle. Timing will be a personal thing based on a few factors — mainly how you like your KT to taste and how warm or cold the area is where you’re keeping your KT brew going. This, of course, may change seasonally. Here in my house in Winnipeg I have a large pantry thing in my kitchen that is the space above the basement stairs, so it’s high-ceilinged in there and presumably there’s quite a bit of air-flow. I’ve read that closets, cupboards, and smaller enclosed spaces aren’t great for kombucha because of their air-flow needs. Mine are in the dark in that pantry, but you can supposedly keep them in the light or the dark. (I’d imagine direct sunlight probably isn’t so good.) Keeping the KT in close proximity to stored vegetables is supposedly also not good given potential yeast and bacteria and mold-spores they might have on the surface, but I keep potatoes, onions, and garlic in the same general space as my KT and so far so good. My pantry stays between 20 and 22 degrees (Celsius) all year given heat and A/C use, BUT I’ve noticed that despite barely fluctuating temp that the brew has been working faster in the summer. I like my KT fairly strong, and given work and stuff time is a factor. I tend to let my brews go anywhere from one week to two, often somewhere in between. I think about a week-and-a-half is actually my taste ideal. You can sample the KT to get a taste for how it progresses with time, or — what I do — just do it when time allows and learn from there. The worst that happens is that it turns really vinegary due to a long brew time. If you have a batch that goes too long it won’t hurt the SCOBY. You can actually use the resulting vinegary tea as you would apple cider vinegar, either in cooking or other household stuff. I’ve started using the super-strong tea from my SCOBY hotel as a conditioning hair-rinse (diluted with water at the time of use). You can also use the yeasty dregs and strong KT as a sort of faux sourdough starter to make bread or pancakes (see my Pinterest board for recipes and techniques). The possibilities are seriously endless.

The bottled KT I let sit for 3-5 days depending on the sugariness of my  2F juice and the season, and if I remember that it’s time to move it. (I’ve let batches go a full week, and without total disaster.)  After the 3-5 days I move it all into the fridge and then it’s time to actually DRINK it!!!! Since carbonation is building in the bottles, if you let it go too long it will be too fizzy and overflow when you open the bottle. If it doesn’t go long enough it won’t be fizzy enough. Of course desired fizz is personal. Maybe you’ll like yours a bit less fizzy. I’ve noticed that most online directions for making KT say only to let the 2F go at room temp for 24-48 hours with horror stories about exploding bottles, but I can only imagine that they’re in warmer climates or something. That amount of time has never resulted in fizzy enough KT for me, and I’ve talked to other Canadians online who concur.

(15) Drink your bottles of kombucha and enjoy, then in a week or two do it all AGAIN! I’ll mention that it’s totally normal for a little tiny baby SCOBY to form in the bottle. It’ll plop out of the bottle into your glass when you pour. You can just drink it down or fish it out and do whatever with it.

KT_glass


A note about my current SCOBY (the one you’re getting a version of): I got my first one from a lady on an online culture sharing group online who lives in Steinbach. I drove down there in January 2016 in a snow storm and met her in a gas-station parking lot. Unfortunately the transaction was quick and I didn’t get to ask where she got her original from. I’ve been brewing with the generations of microorganisms from that original SCOBY since — it’s August 2016 now.

If you get all into this and want to talk about it or ask questions (of people besides me) or get into other fermented drinks and foods there’s a couple awesome forums on Facebook you might want to join:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/WlidFermentation/ — This is an AWESOME group about all things fermenting. It’s big and active and there are some really amazing people who use it. Before joining the group I had NO IDEA what all was possible!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/181445115312844 — This is mostly a group for people who are looking to get or give different cultures, but they talk about using the cultures too.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/fermenterskitchen/ — This is a slightly smaller (at like 28,000 members!) and more loose group than ‘Wild Fermentation’ and totally awesome in its own right.

CHEERS!


 

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Spoofwafel Productions

 

spoofwafel_WEB

I first met Kevin Page through the forum related to the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise. It was 2010, the year before the maiden voyage. None of us knew what to expect from the event itself, but we were all bursting with anticipation. Many of us spent countless hours on that forum, and friendships and partnerships started to develop before we even set sail. The fun didn’t stop after that first cruise, and that’s when it all started to happen when it comes to what has turned into an almost-annual design collaboration between myself and Kevin, something that I decided to give its own name and logo — Spoofwafel Productions. (If you don’t ‘get it’ now, keep reading and it’ll all come together.) Over several years and projects Kevin’s been the idea guy, and I develop those ideas and create the graphics using, well, just about anything I can get my hands on. Normally I’m of the mind that true originality is always something to strive for and appreciate, but I’ve really enjoyed these projects as an artist and a metalhead. The opportunity to learn from other artists by mimicking their techniques and manipulating their original works has been both fun and valuable.

Hagelslag of Bullets

Want your own Hagelslag of Bullets T-shirt or tote bag or other item? Click on the picture to go to the Society6 order page.

I honestly don’t quite remember how it started, but “Hagelslag of Bullets” was born in 2011, and we made it a reality for Kevin to be able to wear it as a T-Shirt to Maryland Deathfest in 2012. If you’re unfamiliar with the components of the joke, Hail of Bullets is a Dutch death metal band, and a good one, too. Hagelslag is a Dutch way of serving toast — with chocolate sprinkles!

*** Design now available for purchase as T-shirts (in men’s or women’s styles and long-sleeves), hoodies (zip or pullover, front or back print),  tote bags, art prints, even throw pillows and more! Clicking links will take you to the Society6 page for ordering. Thanks! ***


KEVIN:
So how did you create the photo anyways? I’m stumped as I don’t think you had bread and bullets lying around the pantry.

ANIKA:
Asking me to divulge my secrets, huh? Nah, just kidding.

The first one I did by simply copy/pasting images off the ‘net, seeing as I was at work and didn’t have actual bread or bullets at my disposal. I imported them both into Photoshop, layered them with the bullet one on top, and to put it easily I “cut” around the bullets in the bread shape so the right part of the bread would show thru using several different tools. I was going to leave it at that, then thought it would be SO much better to have the actual “Hail of Bullets” logo say “Hagelslag” so I took that off their website and then sort of re-built the letters using cut pieces of the original and some other tools.

Since I was stealing photos off the ‘net the resolution was really low and the size was small, so when it came to the shirt I wanted to start from scratch so I’d have a bigger and better image. I actually went and bought a loaf of white bread and took an actual photo to work with. (I also made the mistake of eating a piece — YUCK! Good thing it was on sale and only cost me $1.) I was then stumped on how to get a good bullet image, as I learned that Canada’s stringent gun laws require a full firearms license to buy ammo, nevermind it probably costs an arm and a leg. I wrote my ex-brother-in-law in Alberta who owns guns and asked him to take the photo of the shells for me, which he did. I couldn’t get across to him to email the file instead of posting it on an online sharing site to preserve resolution/size, though, so the image was still a little small, but I made it work.


Of course the namesake band, Hail of Bullets, was playing MDF that year and the inspired graphic was shared with them. Fun stuff! Here’s Kevin in the shirt with drummer Ed Warby.

kevin_ed_hagelslag

We gave Hail of Bullets a bit of a break in 2012 when Kevin’s obsession with the salty savory Australian spread, Vegemite, took the spotlight for a while and we made Kevin another T-shirt that was part of his “Viceroy of Vegemite” ensemble that he wore proudly on the second voyage of 70,000 Tons of Metal. The original work was a vintage Vegemite ad. A mutual friend, Marlo, had a hand in this project. Kevin is fond of his “minions” who help him realize his visions. While the T-shirt was a little more straightforward, this alternate take is my favorite.

vegemite_mat_kevin_web

In time for Maryland Deathfest 2014 Hail of Bullets was once again the subject of a spoof. This one honored both their new album, The Rommel Chronicles, and their Dutch heritage. Another one of Kevin’s favorite foreign snacks was featured — the stroopwafel. For those who may be missing out on this treat, stroopwafels are thin sweet waffles with a caramel filling. Rommel turned to “caramel” for this spoof of the album cover, and just about every element altered within the original design just slightly.

HOSW

The latest in the series is a piece Kevin conceived when it was announced by Hail of Bullets that the bad was parting ways with band member Martin van Drunen and bringing on board vocalist Ben Ingram. Ingram happens to be a huge Dr. Who fan and is to make his debut with the band at Maryland Deathfest 2016. Another image was born…

HOT-FINAL-ONLINE

Thanks to Kevin and Hail of Bullets, and to everyone who’s cracked a smile at the work we’ve done so far.

— Anika
May 2016


 

Food Staples Spreadsheet

A friend and I have been discussing food choices quite a lot lately. I made up this spreadsheet of basic staples I like to make sure are always on hand so that a reasonably healthy meal can be constructed even if a “big shop” for more specific and exciting ingredients is really overdue. Posting as an Open Office spreadsheet (.odf) file.

Click to download: FOOD STAPLES SPREADSHEET

 

 

Valentines Here! Get Your Valentine’s Day Cards!

In January of 2016 I started using Society6 as a way to make my designs available as prints, shirts, tote bags….. and greeting cards! Here’s the selection of Valentine’s Day cards.

Cards are blank on the inside and include a soft white European-fold envelope. $12 USD for a set of 3 cards. Click on the image to take you to the order page.


I-heart-you-card

Tell anyone you “heart” them anytime of year with this image as a print or card. Especially great for Valentines Day, though! This is a photo of a cross section of a real elk heart, an animal that was ethically harvested and every last bit of it used. (Used for more than just greeting cards, too.)


beet-kvass-valentine-cards

Kvass is a healthful fermented drink that can be made from red beets. Show your love for any fermented drink aficionados in your life with the help of this fun card.


scoby-my-valentine-cardsSCOBY is pronounced “sco-bee” and stands for “symbiotic community of bacteria and yeast”. It’s a slimy gross looking thing, but what makes regular tea into good tasting and good-for-you kombucha tea. This particular SCOBY is shaped like a heart and will warm the heart of your fermented food and drink loving Valentine.


Strep Throat 2015, or “Hey! I wasn’t done yet!”

I am a 38-year old female who recently got strep throat?!?! My boyfriend’s doctor told him once upon a time that strep only affects children, and it’s pretty common knowledge even among people who like to choose a “natural” approach that strep should be answered with antibiotics. It’s just what you do, right?. I have learned a bunch of things over the last few months and I’d like to get them all out here. Right now it’s just a log of days’ events without much formatting or analysis.


 

October 21 (Monday) — Very slight “something’s not totally normal” feeling in throat

October 22 (Tuesday) — Wake up with legitimately sore throat, but one of those ones that might go away during day. It didn’t go away and by about 2pm I was running a fever. I was at work and turns out judging by what I discovered later — careless mistakes, couldn’t remember talking to customers — that I should have been there at all! Had tickets to pre-season Jets game I had to bail on. That’s how sick I was. Went home, got into bed, and cried. Justin made me check my temp (39C/102F) and urged me to drink fluids and take some Advil.

October 23 (Wednesday) — Had scheduled day off. Throat felt awful, still feverish, laid around and was just sick all day. In afternoon finally decided to look at throat with flashlight and see if it was strep. Throat COVERED in white pustules and very swollen. Realized I was not going to be OK for work and called in.

October 24 (Thursday) — First thing in the morning Justin took me to the walk-in clinic by Polo Park. Only had to wait a little over an hour *groan*. Doc did quick test, diagnosed strep and then prescribed 10 days of penicillin. He actually explained how the antibiotics are to guard against rheumatic fever and how strep is self-limiting and I should just take care of myself with soft foods, OTC pain/anti-inflammatory drugs, etc. That was news to me! Though I started to question whether I should take the antibiotics right away, I was too sick to really analyze things. Filled the prescription and started the dose.

October 25 (Friday) — I believe I took this day off work, too. One more day of laying around and feeling sick. I recall expecting the antibiotics to kick in and make me feel miraculously better, but they really didn’t.

October 26 (Saturday) — Went in to work. Recall feeling better, but not great still.

October 27th (Sunday) — Remember waking up feeling GREAT. Overkill/Symphony X show was that night and I remember being almost fearful of going, as I was worried about overdoing it and all of a sudden feeling sick at the show, but I continued to feel really good. Throat wasn’t sore at all.

…..Continued antibiotic course for allotted days and life went on. Antibiotics totally messed with my gut flora and yeast balance, uh, elsewhere. Life going on included a life that didn’t go on for Justin’s mom, who died on October 3rd pretty unexpectedly. Clearly grieving and stress have been the name of the game lately. Last week (since about Halloween) Justin and I haven’t been eating great and too many nights have involved beers and philosophizing…….

November 5th (Thursday) — Justin had caulked windows downstairs with silicone and the house STUNK. Blamed very minor throaty feeling upon waking up on that. Felt better during the day, didn’t think much of it.

November 6th (Friday) — Think I was fine thru the day, but Justin kept waking me up during the night as apparently my snoring was even worse than usual.

November 7th (Saturday) — Woke up feeling OK, though in the afternoon my throat started to get thick feeling. Did errands, got dressing table thing from Mike’s. Started dinner for Ken/Cecile coming over, even ate dinner. Throat was thick but OK. Had one beer that I started after dinner and suddenly felt like shit and had to admit my throat was actually sore. Checked and saw that right tonsil was covered in white. Read in bed ’til 11pm while Justin hung out with Jason and Derrick. Woke up at 1:30am and had to yell at Justin about the noise which usually doesn’t bother me. Oh yeah — took a dose or two of homeopathic Ferrum Phos. 30CH.

November 8th (Sunday) — Woke up around noon really feeling my throat. Moved to the couch and read for a while, fell asleep, read, and so on ALL DAY and ALL NIGHT. Felt like an ass for squandering what will almost assuredly be one of our last nice days of the year off work just laying around being sick. Checked throat in morning. White moved to left tonsil, and got a bit worse thru most of the day. Started salt-water gargles every couple hours and took a few more rounds of Ferrum Phos. Noticed by around 8pm that white in throat seemed to be waning, not getting worse. Had debate with Autumn about whether or not I was committing myself to a week or more of horrible sickness that would end up at the doctor anyway for not going to the doctor for more antibiotics now.

November 9th (Monday) — Woke up in time for work with my throat feeling more raw than swollen, but otherwise OK. Check in mirror revealed white on left tonsil back down to almost nothing and right side looking better than day before by quite a bit. Concerned that fever might come up while at work, but I’m fine and writing this, and the day is almost done. If anything I’m feeling the effects of a “hangover” from laying horizontally on the couch or in bed for 36 hours straight. Throat is still a bit swollen. Did a couple salt-water gargles here but can’t check white crap progress because my flashlight is at home. Have plans to take it easy tonight, which probably means more couch and Star Trek TNG episodes.

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End of this round of infection report, thoughts, and analysis coming soon. This will include more about misconception that antibiotics are required to get rid of strep myth, and why I think the course of my own illness followed the path it did as well as my own background to help flesh this out into something that might be useful to others.

Louisiana 2015

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