Posts Tagged ‘ SCOBY ’
When I left home Sunday evening for our first ever Renaissance Women workshop, I thought bread making was a mystical art beyond my ability. My few attempts years ago resulted in brick-like loaves and carpal-tunnel-inflamed hands from kneading.
Four hours later I had a sourdough starter named Sabrina in a jar in my fridge: 100g of aromatic beige goop that smells a bit like kombucha (fermenting, oxygenated, yeasty). She smells like good bread. By the time I returned home and put her in the fridge, the glass jar was already steamy with her exhalations. Sabrina’s ancestry can be traced back through Tessa to a baker in France named Vincent, who 20 years prior had been given his starter by another baker. Sabrina is likely older than I am.
“It’s like Facebook.”
- Maeve, on how sourdough starter spreads around the world through sharing.
We learned the basics of three different breads at our February workshop, using a sourdough starter, a gluten-free recipe (the batter-like dough looked like mocha icing), and “poolish,” a yeast-flour-water mixture that ferments overnight.
Our workshop teachers included two Renaissance Women (Tessa and Tanya) and Jenn Dixon of The Bonny Baker. Both Tanya and Jenn have apprenticed with True Grain Bread in Cowichan Bay, our local miller and organic bakery, and the bakery had donated a 20kg bag of “sifted wheat” (aka flour with minimal processing) milled from hard red spring wheat grown by Tom Henry in Metchosin.
Fermented vs. Sanitized
Sourdough starter is a continuation of my new love affair with fermented foods. Just like Holly during my first sauerkraut workshop, Tessa shocked us all by saying that it’s okay to keep your starter in a less-than-clean container. In fact, fermented creatures (e.g. sourdough starters, kombucha SCOBYs) kinda like homes with bacteria in them. The worst thing you can do is expose your starter to residue from bleach or anti-bacterial soap, because it can die.
Our current society is based on pasteurization. We bleach our hospitals, irradiate our food and wash our hands with anti-bacterial soap. The unfortunate side effect of constant, heavy-duty sanitization is that our immune systems become wimpy: we’re not used to fighting off the germs in our world. And now, with superbugs evolving to resist our sanitization efforts, we’re even less able to fend off these monster germs when they attack us.
There is another way of dealing with germs: build up our immune systems. Eat carrots from the garden, even though there’s some soil on them. Use vinegar and baking soda to clean your house instead of bleach. Don’t buy anti-bacterial soap: use a milder soap instead. And to strengthen our internal biological environments, we can eat fermented foods like sauerkraut, kombucha and sourdough bread.
The whole workshop was a life-changing experience, since I can now MAKE BREAD. But the biggest revelation for me was learning how to knead properly. I’ve worked at a computer since 2004, with years of computer school work before that: my wrists often burn with the foreshadowing of carpal tunnel syndrome. As a result, the few times I’ve attempted to knead dough it’s been an agonizing experience.
Jenn and her co-instructors taught us to knead with the base of the palm, not our fingers or the top of the palm. For some reason I never learned this. Once I knew how to knead properly, I was able to work the dough for much longer than in earlier attempts, with no pain in my wrists.
That said, the first batch of dough I made after the workshop wasn’t kneaded enough (it rose horizontally instead of vertically), so I’ll work it for longer the next time. Apparently it’s not possible to over-knead dough: it will take everything you have to give.
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I have a SCOBY named Abigail floating in a gallon jar in my kitchen.
Abigail looks like a pancake.
In fact, she’s a “symbiotic collection of bacteria and yeast that feeds on sugar and tea to produce not only vitamins, amino acids, antibiotic substances and lactic acid, but also small amounts of glucuronic acid.” Well, that clarifies things.
What I think this means is that, like yeast in bread, Abigail is a living thing. I was told to put her into my gallon jar of kombucha (sweet tea concentrate + water). Her job is to convert the sugars into carbon dioxide and alcohol through fermentation. According to my instructor, this fermentation enhances the nutrients in the kombucha, and makes them more available.
While I’ve made other fermented foods this summer (e.g. sauerkraut, fermented vegetables with salt water), I’ve never actually been able to see, touch, and name the “culturing agent.” She’s really quite large: bigger than my hand. And she’s whitey-beige, and has spots that make me think of eyes, and feels smooth like baby skin. So: Abigail.
Over the next 7-10 days, Abigail will produce a “baby” SCOBY, which will float above her on the surface of my fermenting kombucha. On day 7 I’ll taste the kombucha, and if it taste right (not too sweet, not too vinegary) then I’ll decant the kombucha into glass jars for storing in the fridge and drinking. I’ll move Abigail into a glass jar with some of the kombucha, and keep her in the fridge as my “back-up” SCOBY for future kombucha batches.
Her baby (let’s call her Beatrice) will be placed into a fresh batch of kombucha, so that she can ferment it over the next 7-10 days, and produce her own baby (Cleo). Beatrice will then replace Abigail in the fridge as my back-up, while Cleo continues the next generation.
And Abigail? She’ll be given an honourable burial in my compost.
I suppose this isn’t a typical article on kombucha or fermented sodas. I should be telling you how to make them. Or listing the benefits of drinking fermented beverages. Or railing against mainstream sodas.
But this is the first time in my fermentation / food-preservation education that I’ve been truly aware that these foods LIVE. They are living creatures. It’s much easier to understand this when you’re dealing with something the size of a pancake, rather than a spoonful of yeast. And I just wanted to share that with you.
SCOBY definition and kombucha-making knowledge courtesy of Naturally Nourishing.Continue Reading »