My husband doesn’t often ask me to make special things for him, so when he does make a request, I like to honor him by trying to do it. This time I thought he had lost his marbles. “Could you make some tomato jam?” My response was our special “have you lost your mind?” look. He pulled out a tiny jar of jam we had been gifted several months ago from a friend who dealt in specialty food. He was right, it was tasty. So I set off on an internet search for a good recipe for tomato jam. Apparently tomato jam is not as strange as I thought it was. There were a lot of recipes through which to sort, and I finally found one I was fairly confident I could make. I like jams made with pectin; Sure Jell is my friend. The pot of jam has been cooked and the jars are now processing. I think my husband will be pleased.
I also decided yesterday to start making kefir again. Kefir is a fermented milk drink with a ton more good digestive bacteria than yogurt. It is also extremely easy to make. My friend Beth gave me some kefir grains last year–she had named her starter Kevin–and we had been pretty active with the kefir for a while. I guess I stopped after we all got burned out on kefir smoothies. Some of us have trouble with skin yeast infections, though, so it is time to start our kefir operation back up.
As I said, kefir is extremely easy to make–much easier than making yogurt. The starter I received looked like a little cluster of clear gelatinous grapes. I have since split it a few times. The starter grows each time you make another batch. All I do is put the starter into a quart canning jar filled with milk and let it sit on the counter. It takes less than 24 hours in my house for it to do its thing. I have a jar of kefir ready for my protein smoothing tomorrow morning.
Yesterday I gifted our friend John with some. He said he likes kefir, but I am not sure he was all that thrilled to receive a small jar with milk and gelatinous grains in it. Hopefully they will love it, but if they don’t that is okay too. I also made John try some Kombucha. Kombucha is another fermented drink filled with good bacteria. My children love kombucha, but if it brews too long, it tastes like vinegar. I suppose I am used to the taste. Poor John got a very vinegary sample yesterday. I hope it didn’t sour him on kombucha for ever!
Kombucha is a deceptively easy drink to make. It starts with a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.) I received my first SCOBY from my friend Linda. I make a strong tea out of a boiling gallon of water and eight black tea bags, add a cup of sugar, and let it brew until cool. Then I pour the sweet tea into a gallon jar with my SCOBY in it. It can take anywhere from 36 hours to 2 weeks to brew depending on how hot my house is. As hot as it is these days, we have kombucha pretty quick! The neat thing about kombucha is that the scoby metabolizes the sugar and the caffeine and leaves behind a bubbly sweet drink with the alcohol content of a piece of ripe fruit. It also leaves behind lots of good bacteria, the kind your gut needs in order to perform optimally. Each time you make kombucha, the SCOBY produces a daughter, so that means that it is really easy to share a SCOBY with someone who would like to make kombucha. Kombucha is an acquired taste: a little like beer, a little like soda. Not everyone likes it, but my little people sure do! “Momma, can I have some ‘bucha?” is a fairly regular question around here.
I haven’t made a foray into the world of fermenting my own cabbage to make sour kraut. It seems like a pretty natural next step, so if and when I try it, I will let you know. Kefir, kombucha and tomato jam all seem pretty tame to me in comparison to that. I suppose weirdness is relative. What about you? Do you eat weird things, too?