Categories
Ferments

Garlic Fermented in Honey

This simple technique provides preserved garlic plus a delicious garlic-infused fermented honey, which you want in your salad dressings, marinating your roasted veg, drizzled over pasta, and spooned into your mouth.

Ingredients

  • as much garlic as you want
  • unpasteurized honey

Step-by-step

  • Peel garlic cloves and place in a jar.
  • Pour honey so the cloves are submerged. 
  • Stir in a teaspoon of water, which kickstarts fermentation.
  • Loosely cover the jar with a lid and allow to ferment at room temperature for at least a month. I’ve gone up to a year, and the results were wildly intense, almost medicinal. The cloves may float to the top, particularly at the start of the fermentation period, so be sure to stir the garlic back under so it doesn’t spend too much time exposed to oxygen.
  • To store, just seal the lid tightly and keep at room temperature, using the garlic and infused honey as needed.
Categories
Ferments

Fermented Garlic Paste

Once this ingredient enters your kitchen, you will never be able to live without it again. I use the paste in place of minced garlic. It takes some time to peel all the garlic initially, but then all garlic prep is eliminated. Use this same technique with ginger, turmeric, or a mix, and feel free to add spices and herbs!

Ingredients

  • as much garlic as you can stand to peel
  • salt

Step-by-step

  • Peel the garlic. For maximum ease, smash each clove with the flat edge of a big kitchen knife. The skins then will slip right off. 
  • Using a blender or food processor, blend garlic to a paste.
  • Calculate salt. Find a jar big enough to fit garlic paste and still will have headspace to weigh down the paste while it ferments. Place empty jar on scale, power on and tare so the scale reads 0 grams. Spoon paste into jar, try to remove air pockets as you go, and measure weight of paste in grams. Multiply the weight by .02 (2 percent). This is the salt quantity. (For example, if the paste weights 300 grams, use 6 grams of salt.) Sprinkle salt on top of paste.
  • Weigh down contents of jar. The easiest way to weigh down the contents is with a Ziploc bag filled with water.
    Open Ziploc bag, and make sure there are no leaks. Put your fist inside, and press down onto the surface of the paste. Fold the outer edges of the bag over the sides of the jar. Fill the bag with water so it comes close to the top of the jar. Now place a rubber band around the top of the jar, which will keep the Ziploc bag in place.
  • Ferment: Allow jar to ferment at room temperature for 10 days to one month or longer.
  • After fermentation, carefully remove the weight. Store in an airtight container in fridge, where it will keep indefinitely. Use as you would minced garlic.
Categories
Ferments

Smoky Fermented Hot Sauce

Scrambled eggs, takeout pizza, fried rice, mac and cheese, roasted veg … are all improved with hot sauce. I don’t mean the stuff that makes your face sweat and your heart race and your brain fog over. Those are not culinary experiences I crave.

I want something with a balance of salty, sour, and umami flavors, and a kick of heat, just enough to wake up the palate a bit. I like to add chipotle peppers for some smokiness. This process takes a couple weeks, but it’s mostly hands off. And once it’s ready, you’ll have a shelf stable product to keep in the pantry forever. Although I doubt it will last very long, with all the meals you’ll be slathering it on.

Equipment

  • Kitchen scale

Ingredients

  • A handful of hot peppers of choice, stems removed (I like red jalapeños)
  • 2 ripe bell peppers (not the green ones) or a handful of sweet peppers, stems removed
  • 3-4 chipotle peppers (dried or the canned ones in adobo sauce)
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • salt
  • fruit vinegar
  • cooking oil of choice

Step-by-step

  • Preheat oven to 450°F and lightly oil a baking pan. Remove skin and quarter onion. Cook onion in oven until charred — about 15 minutes.
  • Prep veggies by chopping into pieces that will fit in the blender. Be sure to use fresh veggies. Anything past its prime may encourage  mold and yeast growth during fermentation.
  • Blend onion, garlic, carrot, and peppers until smooth. Taste for heat level. Not hot enough? Add more hot peppers. Too hot? Add another carrot or bell pepper.
  • Calculate salt. Find a jar that is about double the volume of the veggie purée (the jar should have plenty of headspace for weighing down the contents ). Place empty jar on scale, power on and tare so the scale reads 0 grams. Pour purée into jar and measure weight in grams. Multiply the weight by .02 (2 percent). This is the salt quantity for the hot sauce. (For example, if the purée weights 300 grams, use 6 grams of salt.) Sprinkle salt on top of purée.
  • Weigh down contents of jar: Pepper purées can be very active during fermentation. Usually solids will separate from the liquid and rise to the top. They also have a tendency to grow kahm yeast in hot climates. The easiest and cleanest thing to do is to weigh down the contents with a Ziploc bag filled with water.
    Open Ziploc bag, and make sure there are no leaks.  put your fist inside, and press down onto the surface of the purée. Fold the outer edges of the bag over the sides of the jar. Fill bag with water. Ideally the weight of the water will be close to the weight of the purée, but eyeballing it is fine. Now place a rubber band around the top of the jar, which will keep the Ziploc bag in place.
  • Ferment: Allow jar to ferment at room temperature for 10-14 days (or longer!). Since this can be an active ferment, I recommend placing a kitchen towel underneath the jar to capture any spills. Also, the activity may push the water in the bag up and over the edge of the jar. Be sure to check often and add more water if necessary, so the purée is fully weighed down.
  • After fermentation, carefully remove the Ziploc bag. Blend fermented purée with an equal amount of fruit vinegar. This makes it shelf stable, plus the flavor is more complex with the acidity. Store in a tightly sealed bottle with very little headspace (the oxygen could potentially encourage mold growth). It will keep at room temperature indefinitely. If anxious about mold growth, the container can also be stored in the fridge, if you’re anxious about mold). I have stored jars of hot sauce for well over a year in the pantry, and I’ve never experienced any mold growth.
Categories
Ferments

Kosho

This past weekend’s Virtual Ferment Fest was an absolutely fabulous, heart-lifting, globe-spanning microbial love fest. For  the festival, I did a short and sweet demo on making kosho, a citrus and hot pepper paste and also my favorite condiment for all occasions. Watch me ham it up for the camera here. Or follow the written recipe below.

I like doing these demos, and want to make them a regular thing. If there is a fermentation technique (or other kitchen skill!) you’d like to be guided through live, shoot me an email at sunshineandmicrobes@gmail.com.

As you’ll see, this is more a loose guide than a recipe. I’m not telling you what exactly to use or how much. I want you to use your sensorial judgment. Be confident in your kitchen abilities and taste as you go!

Ingredients

  • Citrus (whatever you like, but skip the super sweet stuff like oranges, or use sparingly in combination with more acidic options like lemons and limes)
  • Hot peppers (pick your poison)
  • Salt

Step-by-step

  • Slice off a small segment of citrus that includes the rind and take a bite. If it isn’t crazy bitter, use the entire fruit. Simply slice and deseed. 
    If it is unpleasantly bitter, just use the rind and juice (not the white pith between the fruit and peel). Feel free to mix different types of citrus together. As for quantity, 2-3 medium lemons will make approximately 1 cup of kosho.
  • Prep the hot peppers.
    -If using a super hot variety, you may want to remove the seeds and interior white veins.
    -If using something milder, simply remove the stem.
    As for quantity, it’s all about preference. If I’m using something very mild like Shishito pepper, I might do equal parts citrus and peppers. If using something very hot, I’ll just throw one or two peppers in. For two lemons, one or two jalapeños is plenty hot for me. 
  • Blend citrus and hot peppers together in food processor. I prefer the consistency a bit on the chunky side.
  • Tightly pack the mixture into a clean mason jar, removing as many air pockets from the mixture as possible.
  • Weigh the contents of the jar to calculate how much salt to add. 
    An easy way to do this is by getting two jars of the same type — one empty and one filled with the mixture. Weigh the empty one on a kitchen scale, and press “tare” on the scale. Then switch it out for the filled jar. 
    Calculate 2 percent the weight of the mixture in salt. So if the mixture weighs 250 g, that would be 5 g salt, about a teaspoon’s worth. Also, don’t feel like bothering with weighing out all the ingredients? A teaspoon or two of salt per cup of citrus-pepper mixture should be just right.
  • Sprinkle the salt on top of the mixture. Use a wet cloth to clean the exposed interior sides of the jar and remove any bits of the mixture clinging to the walls (it’s unlikely, but they could get moldy).
  • Loosely cover and allow to ferment at room temperature for three days to two weeks. Since this is such a salty, acidic environment, it’s highly unlikely that any mold will grow on the mixture. If for whatever reason it does, just use a clean spoon and carefully skim it off, and then wipe again the interior sides of the jar.
  • When happy with the flavor, seal tightly and store in the fridge indefinitely.


Categories
Ferments

Sauerkraut

I have two early childhood sense memories of kraut. The first is the bigos — a hearty Polish stew filled with kraut, potatoes, and all the meats — my nanny Alina used to cook for me. When I went to visit Alina in her tiny Polish village in my twenties, she welcomed me with a pot of bigos. I started bawling as soon as I smelled it. 

The second is the slightly less romantic smell of my mother microwaving Boar’s Head sauerkraut directly in the plastic bag to eat with hot dogs as a snack. Definitely two extremes of the olfactory spectrum.

I forgot that sauerkraut existed until a handsome brewer I worked adjacent to in London encouraged me to make some. It was an ordeal, involving pink-stained wooden floors, the bucket of kraut getting buried under snow for months, and bugs. Lots of bugs. But even that first fiasco produced an absolutely divine final product, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I’ve refined my technique so that bugs and overwintering are no longer involved. In fact, making kraut is a snap, and I know you’re gonna love it!

Equipment

  • fermenting vessel: half gallon mason jar of ceramic crock
  • weight: small plates, rocks, ceramic weights, or water-filled ziplock bag
  • vessel cover: lid, kitchen towel and string

Ingredients

  • cabbage
  • salt
  • optional: any root veggies, apples, garlic, onions, herbs, spices

Step-by-step

  • Weigh the cabbage and other veggies. Measure out 1.5 percent of the weight in salt. For example, if I had 1000 g cabbage, I would multiply 1000 x .015 to equal 15 g salt. Set salt aside.
  • Wash cabbage and chop by hand or grate in a food processor with a slicer attachment blade (do NOT use a grater attachment; it will turn the cabbage to mush). The cabbage can be almost translucent or be thick and crunchy. No rules! Set aside a few outer cabbage leaves for packing the vessel.
    As you chop, place a handful or two of cabbage at a time in a mixing bowl and sprinkle a bit of the salt on it. Massage (squeeze and knead) the cabbage. As you continue to massage more cabbage and salt, liquid will begin to pool at the bottom of the bowl. The salt is drawing out the liquid, creating the all-important brine.* Mix in whatever else you like: Other veggies, spices, or herbs. 
    *This salty liquid brine creates the perfect anaerobic environment for fermentation to occur. The brine keeps out dangerous (rot and mold-causing) microorganisms while beneficial lactic acid bacteria flourish.
  • Put a handful of cabbage into the vessel and pack it down with your fist. Continue adding cabbage and packing it down tightly. The brine should begin to rise up over the cabbage. If this isn’t happening- spend more time massaging the cabbage.
    Once the vessel is about 2/3 filled, place a whole cabbage leaf or two over the top. This keeps little bits of cabbage from floating upwards out of the brine. 
  • Weigh down* all the cabbage so it remains fully submerged under the brine throughout the fermentation process. Loosely cover the vessel with a lid or a kitchen towel. Carbon dioxide produced during fermentation should be able to escape, but no dust or dog hair should be able to enter.
    *There are many ways to weigh down a fermenting veggie under brine- really whatever you can find that’s the right size and shape and heavy enough to keep the veggies submerged. In a large mason jar, fill a smaller mason jar with water and press it into the top of the cabbage. Or find and clean some large rocks. Or buy fermentation weights. Anything that will weigh down the veggies.
  • Let the kraut ferment at room temperature for 10 days to many months. The total fermentation time will depend on the kitchen temperature of your kitchen and personal preference. Check up on it every once in a while. Make sure the cabbage remains fully submerged in the brine.
  • After about 10 days, give it a taste. It will develop a lovely tangy flavor that will continue to change and gain complexity the longer it ferments.. I like the flavor of mine around two weeks.
    Once the flavor tastes pleasing, remove the weights and seal tightly. It will keep in the fridge indefinitely.

Notes

Flavor Ideas
  • Black kraut: apples, juniper berries, caraway seeds, and black peppercorns
  • Curry kraut: carrots, curry powder, fresh ginger and garlic
  • Chipotle kraut: chipotle powder, oregano, onions, garlic and a small handful of chopped fresh or dried pineapple
  • The Ground Floor Farm: garlic, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage
  • Zaatar kraut: beets, zaatar, garlic
 
Mold + Yeast
Once in a blue moon, mold will grow on the surface of the kraut. This normally occurs because the veggies were not fully submerged in the brine. It’s no big deal. Just carefully skim it off the top, along with any tainted cabbage, and keep on fermenting. 
When it’s very hot outside, the kraut might develop a layer of kahm yeast, which looks white and cloudy (but not fuzzy like mold) and smells cheesy. It’s harmless, but may lead to an overly cheesy-tasting kraut. At the first site of kahm, carefully skim off as much as possible and cut the fermentation time short.
Categories
Ferments Kitchen Basics

Whole Grain Mustard

Homemade mustard is infinitely more delicious than store bought. The end.

Makes: 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup mustard seeds
  • 1/3 cup fruit vinegar (apple cider works great or try our fruit vinegar recipe!)
  • 1/3 cup beer of choice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • big pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped herbs of choice
  • 2 tablespoons liquid fermentation starter (kombucha, water kefir, leftover brine from veggie ferment, etc)
  • Optional flavor add-ins: chipotle pepper, garlic, curry powder, kosho, smoked paprika, or whatever your heart desires

Step-by-step

  • Mix all the ingredients together in a container (I use a mason jar) and loosely cover. Let it sit undisturbed at room temperature, fermenting for 3 days to 2 weeks (the longer, the more sour). 
  • Blend until mustard seeds begin to break apart and a textured paste forms. The mixture will be a little thin initially but will firm up after a few hours in the fridge. Mustard keeps for months (or probably years) stored in the fridge.

Notes

adapted from David Lebovitz, who adapted it from the Joe Beef cookbook
Categories
Ferments Kitchen Basics

Cultured Butter

Butter — called “coagulated sunlight” by the poet Seamus Heaney — is one life’s great luxuries. By fermenting cream before churning it, we can produce butter with an incredible depth of flavor, plus a healthy dose of beneficial bacteria. 

Making butter is easy peasy, but it’s useful to understand the science behind the transformation taking place in your food processor. Butter is the solid fat that separates from cream when it has been churned or agitated. By agitating the cream (basically just jostling everything around a bunch), the membranes of the butterfat are ruptured, allowing the butterfat to stick together and form large fat globules.

Equipment

  • food processor
  • mesh sieve
  • an incubator (Don’t be scared! This can be as simple as a thermos filled with warm water. See below for details)

Ingredients

  • heavy cream (the nicer the cream, the nicer the butter, so stick with local, pastured, or organic)
  • a small amount of yogurt
  • salt (optional, but you really should)

Step-by-step

Culturing the Cream
  • Mix together a tablespoon of yogurt for every 2 pints of cream in a glass jar. Thoroughly mix and incubate for 6-24 hours. (See instructions below.) The cream will thicken a bit and taste pleasingly sour. Stick it in the fridge and allow to chill for at least 12 hours before churning.
Incubation
  • In order for the cream to ferment, it must incubate at a steady temperature of 110 °F for 6-24 hours. There are several ways to do this. Here are a few:
    In an insulated cooler. Place container of cream in the cooler. Pour 110 °F water about 3/4 of the way up the jar. Close lid tightly and wrap the cooler in a blanket. Check every couple of hours, and replace the water if it gets too cool.
    In a slow cooker. Program a slow cooker to 110 °F. Place the container of cream inside. Wrap the slow cooker in a towel and let it incubate. Instant Pots also have an incubating function.
    In a gas oven with the pilot light lit. A gas oven, turned off but with the pilot light lit, maintains a temperature of approximately 110 °F. Also a fancy electric oven may be able to set the temperature to 110 °F.
Churning the Butter
  • Once cream is fully chilled, place in food processor and blend until the solid butter separates from the liquid buttermilk. The cream will go through several transformations, first rising and turning into whipped cream, and then sinking a bit and getting grainy, before fully separating into butter and buttermilk.
  • Place a mesh sieve over a bowl and pour in the contents of the food processor. The solid butter will remain in the sieve while the buttermilk will drain out into the bowl below.
    Over the sieve, knead the butter to remove as much liquid as possible. To do this, press a blob of butter between your flattened palms, fold butter in half, press again, repeat until little to no buttermilk weeps out. Repeat with remaining butter until everything looks smooth (like buttah!)
  • Mix in salt and other flavorings with the butter. Be sure to save buttermilk for cooking, baking (pancakes, biscuits, or DIY hair conditioner).

Notes

Don’t feel like fermenting the cream? Just use regular heavy cream and start at the churning the butter step. It won’t be quite as delicious, but it definitely works in a pinch!
Categories
Ferments

Sweet Potato Fly

Howsabout a fizzy, slightly sweet soda that isn’t a sugar bomb? A sweet potato fly is a wild-fermented soda carbonated through yeast and lactic acid bacteria, which is present on the skins of sweet potatoes. It’s similar to kvass, another wild-fermented fizzy drink from Russia made with beets and/or bread.

Makes: 1

Equipment

  • 1/2 gallon mason jar with lid (or 2 quart jars)
  • fine mesh strainer
  • funnel
  • clean plastic bottles with caps

Ingredients

  • 2 cups grated sweet potato
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • grated ginger, turmeric, or other herbs or spices (optional)

Step-by-step

  • Add grated sweet potato, sugar, any flavorings, and water to the mason jar, seal lid and shake until sugar dissolves. 
  • Unscrew the lid but leave it covering the jar, so no dust or dog hair can get in but any CO2 built up during the fermentation process can escape. Allow jar to ferment at room temperature for 5-7 days. 
    To prevent mold or yeast formation on the surface, give the contents of the jar a daily shake. Screw on the lid first, shake, and then unscrew the lid again.
  • Strain the solids out (save them to add to bread, savory pancakes, or brownies) and drink as is. 
  • (optional). For a drier, fizzier drink, pour the liquid into a plastic bottle. Leave about 2 inches of headspace. Seal tightly and allow to carbonate at room temperature for several more days. When the bottle feels rock solid, know it’s fully carbonated. Transfer to fridge to cool before drinking. When ready to drink, slowly open and enjoy!
Categories
Ferments

Sourdough Starter

Many people think that sourdough refers to a style of bread — a crusty white loaf with big holes and a sour flavor. This San Francisco-style sourdough is famous thanks to bakers like Chad Robertson (of the Tartine empire). However sourdough can run the gamut of baked goods, from dense rye loaves to pizza crusts to croissants. Sourdough refers to the process in which bread and other baked goods are fermented or risen. 

Nowadays bakers typically use a package of commercial yeast to rise their dough. Those lab-bred microorganisms work super fast and uniformly by converting the starches in flour to carbon dioxide, which gets trapped in the dough and creates the air pockets seen in bread crumb (crumb refers to the interior of the bread). Sourdough uses wild yeasts and bacteria — found in the air, on the flour, and on our hands — to do the same job, but much slower. This slower fermentation process produces more nuanced flavors — the sweet and acid notes associated with sourdough, and if properly managed — a more digestible product. 

To bake sourdough bread (or pizza, or croissants), you need to maintain a sourdough starter. Anyone can create a sourdough starter from scratch, with one trip to the grocery store and about five minutes of work a day for approximately two weeks. After that, the starter will require regular use or occasional maintenance, and — Bam! you got yourself a collector’s item that can be shared with friends and family.

The Science

Yeast and lactic acid bacteria (LAB) like to eat sugar. Mixing flour and water together creates an all-you-can-eat buffet for the wild yeast and LAB in the kitchen environment. The microbes will gobble up the sugars (starch) and convert it into carbon dioxide and lactic acid. Happily fed, the yeast and LAB reproduce and take over the mixture. A healthy colony of microbes will thrive perpetually in the flour and water mixture as long as they’re kept fed (in the form of flour and water). Now it’s time to make delicious baked goods

Equipment

  • Kitchen scale
  • Two clear containers (I use wide mouth pint mason jars)

Ingredients

  • Water
  • Rye or whole wheat flour

Step-by-step

  • On the first day, mix together equal parts room temperature water and rye or whole wheat flour (I do 30 g and 30 g) in a clear jar. Stir to remove clumps of flour and thoroughly aerate. Loosely cover with a kitchen towel or lid (don’t screw it on).
    Check in on the mixture for the next few days. After 3-5 days, tiny bubbles should begin to form. Those bubbles are the sign that wild yeast and LAB have made their way into the mixture. This is the beginning of your sourdough starter.
    Once the bubbles appear, begin to feed the starter.
Feeding the Starter
  • Scoop out 50 g of starter into a clean jar. Add in another 50 g room temperature water and 50 g rye or whole wheat flour, mix thoroughly, and loosely cover. The leftover starter in the first jar is called the “discard”, which I save in a separate container in the fridge for other uses (it’s great in pancake batter). 
    Feed the starter (the direction in bold above) twice everyday, morning and night, at roughly the same time. Once the mixture begins to follow a regular schedule where it doubles in size and then collapses back down in between each feeding, it’s ready for baking. I recommend feeding the starter twice daily for another week or two, in order to develop its strength and flavor.
Storage, Use, and Maintenance
  • Once satisfied with the starter (taste it throughout! The flavor should be a pleasant combo of  acidic and fruity), seal it tight and store in the fridge until ready to bake with it. 
    About 4-6 hours — longer if living somewhere really cold — before baking with the starter, take it out of the fridge and feed it. Once the starter has roughly doubled in size, looks aerated throughout, and floats when dropped in water, it is ready to bake. 
    Take out the amount of starter required for the recipe. Don’t forget to reserve some of the starter and feed it, so it can be used for future bakes. Store in the fridge between uses.
To Increase or Decrease Starter Quantity
  • 50 g each of starter, flour, and water gives me enough starter to bake a loaf or two of bread. If I need more, I can increase these numbers. If I'm feeding for storage in the fridge, I decrease to 30 g each.
    If I need a ton of starter, I feed a very small amount of mature starter to a large quantity of flour and water and let it rise overnight. For example, if I needed 800 g of starter, I would mix 400 g water, 400 g flour, and 20 g mature starter and let it rise for about 12-14 hours.

Notes

Sometimes a brown or grey liquid will form at the top of the starter. This is perfectly fine. It’s alcohol from the fermenting process. Just pour it off and continue as normal. It is a sign that the bacteria are hungry, so simply feed the starter more regularly.
You cannot “kill” a sourdough starter. Even if the microbial colony in the starter dies, you can always coax more wild yeast and bacteria with fresh feedings of flour and water. So if the sourdough isn’t behaving, it’s a sign to feed it more regularly.
These are the basics to maintaining a healthy sourdough starter. If you have any questions at all, please reach out at sunshineandmicrobes@gmail.com.
Categories
Ferments

Continuous Brew Kombucha

Kombucha is a sour, slightly fizzy fermented tea that is refreshing on a hot day, or a much needed balance after eating too much mac and cheese (cuz it makes you burp! In a good way).

Although omnipresent in supermarkets and cafes now, it’s easy to make your own booch at home. It’s a simple ferment, particularly when using the continuous brew method outlined below. You’ll need to source a SCOBY (“symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts” aka a solid, gelatinous-looking fermentation mother). Get one from a friend or from the internet. Also get a large container with a spigot; check your local thrift stores or source one from just about any home goods store. 

Makes: 1 gallon

Equipment

  • Large glass or ceramic container with spigot
  • Kitchen towel and string

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6-8 black tea bags of choice or equivalent loose leaf (I love using the Fire Roasted Yaupon from Yaupon Brothers. Experiment with your favorite type of tea, but note that black teas are traditional and seem to be easiest for the SCOBY to process.)
  • Kombucha SCOBY
  • 2-4 cups mature kombucha (find at a farmers market or an unflavored, unpasteurized variety from the supermarket)

Step-by-step

  • Add sugar to water and heat until sugar is dissolved and water begins to simmer. Remove from heat, add tea, and let steep until you like the taste (3 minutes is a good rule of thumb for black tea). 
  • Strain out tea and let cool to room temperature. 
  • Pour tea into the container with spigot (henceforth “the tank”). For the initial batch, add the mature kombucha and the SCOBY.
    Cover the tank’s opening with a kitchen towel and fasten with string. This will serve as a barrier from dust and dog hair, while still allowing for airflow. Let the kombucha ferment at room temperature for 10 days to two weeks, or until it is slightly effervescent and pleasingly sour. The longer it ferments the more sour it will taste. 
  • Once the kombucha has hit the sweet spot, remove some for drinking via the spigot. Store this ready-to-drink “mature” kombucha in a bottle or mason jar in the fridge or use it to make a flavored carbonated drink (which you can research on the internet, or one day I can write a recipe if there is interest ?).
  • When the tank is about halfway empty (or the kombucha within is too sour), it’s time to refresh it with more food to fuel the fermentation process (in the form of sugars, which  the microbes in the SCOBY consume). Do this by making a fresh batch of sweetened tea (back to the beginning) and adding it to the mature kombucha and SCOBY in the tank.  
    Allow this to sit and go through the fermentation process again until everything tastes right. That will likely be another 10-14 days, but it depends on the ratio of mature kombucha to sweet tea ratio. 
    Once it's ready again, repeat for forever.

Notes

Writing about how to ferment things in a concise way can be challenging. If there is anything you are confused about, please reach out! I would be honored to hold your hand through this process.
More mature kombucha = shorter fermentation time — because there are more microbes to get things moving 
More sweet tea = longer fermentation time — because there is more sugar to be eaten up by a smaller quantity of microbes
Clean the tank as needed. Likewise, remove SCOBY layers as needed. A new SCOBY will form on the surface every time the kombucha is replenished.
Troubleshooting the SCOBY:
SCOBYs are extremely hardy. They can survive all sorts of environments and long periods of neglect (as long as they are submerged in kombucha). But occasionally, they can get taken over by bad bacteria. If you see brown discoloration on the scoby, that is fine. If you see fuzzy black mold, it’s time to toss it and the kombucha and find a new SCOBY. SCOBYs with black mold will not properly ferment the tea, creating a product that has not been inoculated with healthy bacteria and may be unsafe to drink. But don’t freak out. This is very rare and definitely won’t happen if the SCOBY is kept fed and happy with plenty of tea.