Suzanne Dale on probiotic scoby drinks and other fermented foods that do good things for your digestion.
Making your own scoby drinks is a satisfying thing to do and the effervescent brews are loaded with gut-friendly probiotics. For those of you who do not know, scoby is an acronym for "symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast'' and these fermented colonies aid digestion and keep harmful bacteria at bay. Shoba, our digital production editor, makes kombucha, which is an effervescent fermentation from sweetened organic black tea (made with filtered water) and a scoby culture that looks, a little disconcertingly, like a slimy brown disc.
The slightly sour liquid is left to ferment for 7-10 days, maybe longer in winter, and then any other flavourings are added and the kombucha is decanted and bottled. It is mostly non-alcoholic. The effervescence increases upon bottling, so don’t cap too tightly if you are not planning on drinking your kombucha soon. Refrigeration, however, stops the carbonation and fermentation. Meanwhile (and unless you’ve mistreated it), the culture will live on to produce brew after brew.
Kombucha (pronounced kom-booch-a) is not the only scoby drink, kefir sodas do the same good work. Water kefir grains look like irregularly shaped lumps of cooked rice which increase in volume as long as the right conditions are maintained. The flavour of these refreshing drinks may be changed (like kombucha) depending on what you add to the honey or sugar/water mix that feeds the culture.
We add organic raisins, a lemon half (no sprays or waxes) and sometimes a wedge of ginger. Water kefir also works with fruit juices, coconut water and herbs. Then there’s milk kefir, which makes a sour, yoghurt-like product. The culture grows in cow’s or goat’s milk, whether full-fat or skim. In cream, the grains make a sour cream substitute.
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Try your hand at these other fermented foods: yoghurt (especially Caspian Sea yoghurt that’s fermented by a scoby, not solely from bacteria), ginger beer (but not those using brewer’s yeast), sourdough bread (from a wild yeast/bacteria starter) and kimchi, the Korean cabbage pickle along with sauerkraut, the German version.
There are ready-made alternatives on the market. Look for Rene's Kombucha in Auckland stores such as Farro, Huckleberry Farms and Wise Cicada and at Moore Wilson's in Wellington. The range is created by chef Rene Archner who has a background in raw food preparation. He also runs cultured food classes.
Try Be Nourished's raw, cultured and probiotic foods, including sauerkraut and other lacto-fermented cultured vegetables, sauerkraut juice and kimchi. Find them at speciality food stores across the country.
For more on kimchi, read this from Peter Gordon. And see: