Summertime, she rolled right in…

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…sweetly and gently, with a few days of high 70s and clear skies. The only thing to do, really, was to celebrate with our first fire pit meal of the season. While the kids ran around and C got the fire started, I whipped up an all-ages frothy cool beverage to enjoy, and it was too damn good not to share. Even if you’re not brewing your own kombucha at home, you should probably try this, anyway, with a store-bought ginger or plain kombucha.

Ingredients:

-1 quart kombucha (first ferment, or a gingered second ferment, or store-bought plain or ginger)
-2 cups frozen strawberries
-1/4 cup lemon juice
-1/2 cup maple syrup

A lot depends on the sweetness of your strawberries (and even your kombucha). You may want to adjust the lemon juice and maple syrup amounts. I’m only guessing, anyway, since I just glugged them both in.

So, whirr it all around in the high-powered blending instrument of your choice and enjoy the effervescent sweet-tartness! A sprig of chocolate mint makes just about everything better, in case you were wondering about the green stuff in my glass.

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We roasted whatever we could put on a stick, including dessert. For a while, I avoided s’mores entirely as I don’t know of any marshmallows available that are made without corn syrup, but since discovering the world of making my own maple marshmallows, I wouldn’t want to go back, anyway. They take only about 15 minutes to make, and as long as you have a candy thermometer, it’s easy-peasy.

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The first recipe I tried, a few years back, made for a mess when roasting, but I had my first go-round with this recipe from The Urban Poser, and not only is the ingredient ratio spot-on, but even without letting them sit to dry out, as suggested, my mallows were perfect roasters, even just hours after cooking up the goo, behaving almost exactly like the Kraft marshmallows I grew up with.

Only maple syrup, gelatin (we use the same grass-fed gelatin as suggested in the recipe), water, and vanilla. Simple and perfect.

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Until you add cinnamon to the marshmallow goo before it sets. Then, you go beyond perfection and achieve marshmallow Nirvana.

Some wildlife wanted to get in on the action, including fireflies galore, and a visiting snapping turtle. An evening bursting with growth and life and early summer magic. At least I was able to enjoy it before the most cruel and unusual head cold from Hell knocked me on my ass for 36 hours. I was the one pampered on Father’s Day. Oh, well. Regularly scheduled programming back tomorrow!

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SCOBY Snacks

We broke up with kombucha for a little while.

Brews would be forgotten for too long, flavors were added at the wrong time and sad-looking SCOBYs (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) and less-than-palatable beverages were the result.

Then, it was all water kefir all the time, but I have a hard time keeping that up during the winter. Tibicos are fantastic for what I like to call a fizzy lifting drink, quite refreshing on a hot summer day, but not something I crave when the chill is on. So we broke up with those, too.

It was somewhat liberating not to have any cultures to babysit (excepting the weekly batch of yogurt, which is very forgiving), but then some friends brought over a bottle of their homebrew cranberry kombucha and it was all over. We came crawling back, begged forgiveness and started over, with a bit more research and a lot more enthusiasm. The results have been super-tasty and we find ourselves with wonderfully healthy, rapidly growing mama mushies.

Inevitably, if you’ve got a happy culture going on, you’ll have some extra to give away, feed to your chickens, or…experiment with.

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Enter the SCOBY Snack. If you don’t like gummy bears, don’t make this. It’s basically the most delicious apple-cider flavored gummy chunk you’ll ever put in your mouth. Seriously, I will take SCOBY donations just to make gallons of this stuff.

All you need are your extra SCOBYs and a very simple sugar syrup.

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SCOBY Snacks***

Sugar syrup: heat a 50/50 solution of sugar and water until the sugar is dissolved.

Cut your SCOBY up into one-inch chunks. You want about a 1/2-inch-ish thickness for best results. If you have a really thick one, that has been hanging out for a long time trying to become the size of your jar, you’ll need to slice it into rounds and then cut it up.

Layer the chunks into a baking dish or bowl, sprinkling with a little raw sugar as you go.

Pour the sugar syrup over the chunks until they are mostly covered.

Marinate for about 24 hours.

If you have a dehydrator, spread the chunks out on a fruit leather sheet and set to a raw food temp (I used 115 degrees). Dehydrate until you’ve got gummy bear texture. So far, I’m storing my finished snacks in a glass jar at room temperature. I don’t they’ll last more than a day or two.

If you are using an oven, then spread the chunks on a parchment-lined baking sheet and dry at the lowest possible temperature, checking often.

***btw, this recipe may have kombucha “mushroom” as a base, but it’s definitely candy. It’s probably better for you than anything made with corn syrup and who-knows-what, but I don’t think you can get away with calling it a nutritional supplement. 😉

As for our beverage brews, we’ve come a long way since our earlier flavor experiments. Now we add our flavors during a second fermentation and our culture is much happier for it.

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The best results have been with fruit that we picked and froze for the winter…peach-ginger is such a welcome, happy taste of summer! For each half-gallon jar of poured-off kombucha, we add about 1 cup of fresh or frozen fruit and a tablespoon or so of minced candied ginger and let it ferment for another few days before straining again and bottling.

Yum.

Now We Are Six

When I was one I had just begun
When I was two I was nearly new

When I was three I was hardly me
When I was four I was not much more

When I was five I was just alive
But now I am six, I’m as clever as clever;

So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.

-A.A. Milne

———————————————————–

All the kids: Blow the candles out, O!

O: Let’s blow them out together!

That’s my boy.

And I love him to the moon and back.

I don’t mind that we are late to everything, always rushing, rushing because the early Spring light wakes him before me and he crawls into my bed for nuggles. Only too soon, morning cuddle sessions will be something I miss, something I ache for when he inevitably begins to see himself as a self apart from me. Until then, most everything takes a back seat to nuggling.

This is the morning through our bedroom window these days. It makes me feel Ready For Anything.

And this is what I do with my arms these days. I make piles of leaves. Many, many piles of leaves.

And this is our ferment-focus these days. Kombucha. There has been some serious flavor experimentation going on with fabulous results, for the most part. Most successful ideas thus far:

Mango-Apricot-Ginger (MAG): Apricot-Ginger black tea and dried mango (yum yum yum)

Ginger, Straight-up: Black tea and sliced fresh ginger (simple and perfect)

Cherry-Ginger: Black tea, dried cherries and fresh ginger slices (my favorite)

Citron: Citrus-lemongrass oolong tea (refreshing)

Chai: oddly enough! I was skeptical, but this was quite delicious. Black tea and chai spices with ginger slices.

The pretty-good-but-not-as-good-as-the-above:

Pomegranate White: Pomegranate-flavored white tea. Kinda tasted like fruity soap from one of those mall bath and body stores. But not in an awful way…does that make sense? It was more an aftertaste thing…The Boy says, “can I have some of the kombucha that tastes like soap?”

Mango Ginger: Really nice, but just not as awesome as the Mango Apricot Ginger. Btw, the tea we used for the latter is the organic Apricot Ginger Tea from Good Earth. We didn’t purchase it locally and now we can’t find it. Boo!

So, the way it works now is that we have one gallon going of a tried-and-true recipe and another going of something kinda weird. So, a little chai brewing now and…I’m not sure how I feel about this…one brewing with dong ding tea and candy cap mushrooms. Sounds disgusting to me, but C thinks the flavors are going to balance nicely. Hmmm…will report back from that one in two weeks or so. We brew for about ten days and then bottle condition for a few more.

Next round will be straight-up black tea just to give the kombucha mothers a break from all the heavy flavors.

What’s brewing in your world today?