Friday, October 30, 2009

New Giveaway at

I am not personally sure of the quality of the coconut oil myself but it looks like a great giveaway! Give a look over to the kitchen stewardship site while you are there, it is full of great ideas to better manage the heart of your home!

New Contest!

I have been in a bad flare and not keeping up the blog as of late but here was an opportunity I could not pass up!

U.S. Wellness Meats is doing a giveaway of rendered beef tallow! Check out the link for the contest and good luck, I know I have my entries in!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

*UPDATE* The Kombucha Experiment

Yesterday I finally got to bottle my first batch of K-tea! I decided I wanted to start with fresh new jars so I went to the store and bought a fresh 12 pack of 16oz wide mouth jars to bottle with. I washed them in some hot soapy water and let them dry and proceeded to bottle. I opted for wide mouth in case my bottled tea decided to make new SCOBYs as it sometimes tries to do, even with the commercial stuff and I thought the wide mouth would be easier to get it out of. While I was at the store the night before, I also spotted a jug of concord grape juice in the "hippy" part of the refrigerated section and grabbed it up. My favorite flavor of the commercial stuff is the grape and I was wondering how I could replicate it at home as I was pretty sure theirs was flavored with concord grapes and not red grapes which is what my supermarkets locally stock. I also bought a pint of strawberries to run through my juicer to make strawberry k-tea with.

So when I got ready to make my tea yesterday I assembled the grape juice, the strawberries, some sliced ginger from my freezer, the clean bottles, my scale, and a reusable coffee filter. When I had tasted my tea the day before a little strand of bacteria or yeast had come out the spigot too so I had decided then to strain my tea as it was coming out to try to make my finished product as refined as possible. I'm hoping to get Mr. Discontent on the Kombucha bandwagon as well but he is grossed out by the fact that the tea is living and has stuff growing in it. So if I want him to drink it, it has to look as clean and non-living as possible. Little did I know how silly my hopes were!

I let the add-ins come to room temperature ( it means more juice out of the berries when I juice them and you don't want to shock the goodies in the tea.), juiced my strawberries, and then the fun really began. According to the bottle of the commercial stuff there is 5% add-ins and 95% tea so I figured out how much 5% of 16 oz was (.8 oz which I rounded up to 1 oz for my purposes) and used my scale to make sure I put the right amount in each bottle. A couple I experimented on. I have a bottle of grape and of strawberry at the 1.5 oz and 2 oz level to just to see if I might like it better. The ginger I added .5oz to one bottle and 1 oz to another. Dave at says that it is one of his favorites and that is how he makes it but he says that he "puts a small chunk in", not an exact amount for me to replicate. We will see.

Next, I used the spigot to pour the tea through the filter into the bottle as it sat on my scale to see exactly where 160z was in the jar. It was the bottom of the threads of the jar. I proceeded to fill all of the jars to that level. Each flavor acted differently. The grape just fizzed some as I added the tea. The ginger had a delayed fizz that was more violent. The strawberry created a foamy head like a beer. The head made it the hardest to bottle. I capped everybody up and shook them to combine. That's when I realized most of my straining had been for naught.

Since I mostly use sliced ginger to make ginger tea or to make cough syrup it wasn't peeled. As soon as I shook it little crumbles of the peel flaked off and danced around like they were snow in a snow globe. Not much better with the strawberry. When I shook it, something in the strawberry juice separated into this fine silt that clouded the tea occasionally gumming up into these little masses that didn't look appealing to drink. Oh bother!

Aside from that, the tea certainly looked the part and I was pleased. The grape looked exactly like the stuff I bought in the store. So did the strawberry once the silt settled. I labeled everything and put it aside to ferment in the jar and get nice and fizzy for a few days.

After filling all 12 of my new jars I peeked into my crock to see where my tea level was at and it was still a little too high so I used one of my reclaimed pasta jars to bottle the rest. It filled up to the two pint level before the tea in crock was just above the spout level which I discovered earlier is 2 quarts and would leave me with about 25% starter for the next batch. So if I want to bottle all of it in my nifty new jars I am going to need 2 more per batch. That would be 14 pints of tea about every 10 days from my crock. Not a bad amount for one person who needs to drink enough to take pills 4 times a day plus whatever I might want to drink just for the pleasure of it, I think. When I get some time I am going to have to see what the cost break down is. It was certainly simple enough and after a learning curve could easily be done in just a few minutes every few days. I am extremely pleased with the crock and couldn't imagine trying to do all this using the jar method.

I then proceeded to refill my crock with new tea from my tea maker. I used four quarts of black tea and two quarts of white tea since I am out of green. (Ebony and Ivory tea?) I probably could have made it three of each but it wasn't worth it to me at the time. My small freezer decided to defrost or decided it didn't want to work today so when I went to get ice for my tea maker it was all melted. ( The freezer has since resumed its normal duties in case you were concerned.) So I poured the tea into a pitcher with markings on it and just added filtered water up to the 2 quart line since that's how much the tea maker makes when all the ice melts into the brewed tea. I may keep using that method as it makes it easier to stir that much dehydrated cane juice into the hot tea and since I don't have an automatic ice maker it means less work for me cracking ice cubes. I made sure everything was room temp and poured it into the crock. I decided to lift up my SCOBY and stir the tea and starter together and much to my surprise discovered that my original SCOBY had separated from the new one that covered the entire top of the crock (its about 1/4 inch thick now I think). So now I have two! For now, I left it in to help make tea but I have a recipe for it that I might try soon.

This morning I checked on my bottled teas and the caps were all swelled up and tight. A good sign! I gave the bottles a bit of a shake to try to stop SCOBYs from forming and checked the caps. After shaking them a couple of the bottles hissed at me for a second but the lids were still hard so I'm hoping that was "excess" fizziness escaping so the glass doesn't break. I was relieved the grape ones were fizzed as I was a little worried since I used store bought juice. Some of the preservatives used in the store juices can mess up your tea from what I am told since that is kind of their purpose- to prevent bacterial growth. Mine had potassium sorbate in it and some vit C but not anything else. I also kinda wondered about the ginger ones since ginger is antibacterial but they seem okay as well.

One thing is for sure, I'm going to need more bottles!

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Kombucha Experiment

Hello, my name is ________ and I am a soda addict.

How many of us can say those words? I can for sure! I know all the reasons I shouldn't drink it. But I do. Its easy- no glass, no ice, just pop open a can and drink. I like the mouth feel and the bubbles. In fact, I find I can't swallow pills without the bubbles. They feel stuck and choking for hours if I don't drink them with something carbonated. Its miserable and the last thing I need is more misery. So I give in and pop the top on another can.

Ive thought about ways to give it up. I tried drinking seltzer water. I paid a pretty penny in the store for bottles of the stuff and it would go flat and change tastes on me. When I could get it. Usually the bottles are covered in dust in the store and if you buy them all the stores don't restock them quickly. I guess they aren't a big seller. I thought about making my own with one of those ingenious Penguin things but they are really expensive for my budget and require you to constantly refill/replace cartridges. Pretty cool but I couldn't see myself keeping up with it. Maybe I will get one if I ever have the extra money and want to treat myself.

So how else could I give it up? I hit upon the answer one day while shopping in our local Earth Fare. I was looking in their refrigerated drink section for something to quench my thirst when I saw Synergy. I grabbed a cosmic grape and took it with me. One sip and I was in love. I was even more amazed to see that it was carbonated! I had to look it up online! When I did I found that I could make it myself for a lot cheaper than the $3-4 a bottle it was in the store. Perfect!

So I read, a lot. I wont bore you with all of it but if you want to learn about all the health benefits, terms, and details here are my favorite links:

Kombucha Exchange Worldwide- lots of worldwide books and people with starter SCOBYs. it is an amazing site with a free course and lots of information. His system is what I am trying out as it seems the simplest and best. I would have LOVED to have bought his continuous brewing system but its more expensive than my budget for this project, especially when I already have so much of it on hand. the usual method of creating Kombucha. Also this is the method I used to create my own SCOBY.

Of course I procrastinated about starting to make my own K-tea. I had other things to take up my time. It wasn't until I got a really bad stomach virus that put some of my friends in the hospital that I got a kick in the pants to start making my own. When I started feeling ill I started craving Kombucha. My darling Mr. Discontent drove my sick butt across town to Earth Fare and we stocked up. I drank nothing else for 4 days straight. It was all I could handle. I was sick but it wasn't the sickest I had ever been. By the fifth day I was OK. Some of my friends were still in the hospital. It took my friend with the mildest case of it two weeks to get better. I was sold!

I went to and bought a water crock to make my first batch in. I could have gone uber cheap and tried to make it in old pickle jars but I decided to splurge and set up a continuous system. (Did I mention its a splurge, look at the bad-ass Medicine Wheel design on it! Whoot!) I feel like I will do better with it. After all, I am disabled and it has to be something I can contend with on bad days. I was very satisfied with my purchase. I kind of hemmed and hawed about buying the stand with it instead of coming up with something homemade but I am glad I did. The stand took screws to set up, it wasn't just a fold away, and it has adjustable feet on it so that you can set it up so the crock doesn't wobble on the counter. I was also a bit alarmed. I didn't realize exactly how big it was. It was a sobering moment for me- I realized this was a bigger project than I had in my mind. Oh well.

I got a bottle of GT Kombucha and made it according to the directions at FoodRenegade. A couple of impatient weeks later. This is what I got.

See the white thing at the top? That is my SCOBY!

Isn't it cute?

So I took my little SCOBY and the K-tea it was in and put it in my big water crock along with 2 quarts of sweet green tea and covered it up and waited a week. I would have made a larger batch of tea (my crock holds 2 1/2 gallons I think) but I only had about 2 cups of starter with my little SCOBY. (If I had it to do over I would have used 2 bottles of tea in a larger container or two of the same sized ones and had more initial product. )

At the one week mark I peeked in my crock and you could still see the original thicker SCOBY but it had also grown a thinner SCOBY to cover the whole top of the tea. Whoohoo! It smelled vinegary and when I took a little nip off the spout it tasted that way too. I then brewed up 4 quarts of sweet black tea and 2 more quarts of sweet green tea, let them cool, and poured them in to my new starter tea. If my calculations are correct, it gives me about a 25% starter tea solution which is what a lot of sites I looked at called for in order to make the best tea.

Now I try to patiently wait while it brews. I also think I may buy some new mason jars to store it in for its second ferment. I have a bunch of saved pasta sauce jars but I think I would prefer to start with clean new ones with rubber gaskets.


  • My crock came with this plastic protector ring in case you put one of those water jugs on it. This thing has been perfect for holding a coffee filter and bit of cheesecloth over the top of my crock to keep out buggies. As you can see I have a rubber band backup just because I'm paranoid like that but I haven't seen any slips of anything.
  • Although everyone calls for plain white sugar and it WOULD be cheaper to use it, I still use dehydrated cane juice. Its what I have in my house and its easier for me to use than trying to find refined white sugar that is cane sugar and NOT made from GMO infected sugar beets! Say NO to GMO!!!
  • To make my tea I used my iced tea maker and set it to strong. I don't have a suitable pot to make tea in (all cast iron) and its easy to make consistent tea with it. I don't know how this will affect the quality of my tea and I may have to experiment with it a bit to get the right strength.
Now we wait till we can bottle!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Fibromyalgia Awareness Day

Fibromyalgia Affects Everyone

As someone who suffers from this horrible illness I am glad there is a day set aside to help educate other people. Far too many people still say, "but you don't look sick." Far too many incompetent or at least uneducated doctors say, "Its in your head, you just need happy pills." when they cant figure out how to help you instead of just saying that your illness is beyond their abilities. Or just as bad, they half way treat you but are too scared by the propaganda of Big Pharma to fully treat you so that you can feel better and have a longer life expectancy.

As part of the "education" day here are some of my favorite links where I go for advice and hope.
He is a brilliant doc and if I had the resources I would drive out to TX so that I could get treated by his clinic.
A gigantic database of related news from around the world.
Its got the spoon theory and lots of links and resources. Not to mention some funny merchandise!

My first self-irrigating planter (SIP)!

I used Josh Mandel's amazing instructions to create the boxes.

Instead of PVC or black plastic tubing I reused an old garden hose (drinking water safe) that the couplings had broken on. After the learning curve on the first one the other one was fast to build. I couldn't have done all the cutting without a jigsaw.

My first plantings in the new containers are some paste tomatoes in the one box and a yellow bell pepper and a red bell pepper in the second one. I am extremely pleased with the outcome. Now I just hope I will be pleased with the harvests! The boxes are a pretty good height that they should be easy to tend even with my disabilities due to the weed barrier and relaxed watering schedule. Now if I just had the resources to cover my yard in them!

I still have to figure out how I want to support my tomato plants. Usually I use one of those metal spiral things but I don't think they will fit in my new planters. I may however drive them into the ground on either side and put up some netting to tie my plants to.