This week, my Renaissance sisters and I learned how to make carbonated mushroom tea and rose-hip hibiscus soda. Is your mouth watering?
The informative and enthusiastic Holly Howe led our Fermented Beverages workshop. Holly is an expert on fermentation, and is a true renaissance woman: she isn’t formally trained as a nutritionist; she learned all about nutrition the old-fashioned way: by doing it.
Holly took us step-by-step through making Kombucha, the carbonated tea and sugar mixture that is so delicious once you come to terms with the stinky, bloated, skin-coloured, pancake-shaped mushroom (or as Patti said, “It looks like a fetus.”) that lives in it. It’s that mushroom, or SCOBY, that transforms regular tea and sugar into a drink that detoxifies your liver (i.e. great hangover cure).
Then Holly showed us how to make rose-hip hibiscus soda. We were all excited about this one because it is so gorgeous in its tall glass bottle. She gave us a sample of the carbonated cherry-red drink while she described each step of making it. So refreshing. Honey, rose-hip tea, hibiscus flower, lemon, water—and what gives it the bubbles—whey.
Holly makes whey by pouring a tub of high-fat plain yogurt into a cloth over a bowl to separate the curd from the whey (the liquid that sits on top of your yogurt before you stir it). Add the whey to tea, and in three days you’ve got a carbonated drink. Add some herbs to the curd, and you’ve got homemade cream cheese spread.
Holly explained how fermented foods are so good for our guts; that using cultures—like sourdough starters and whey—nourishes us with beneficial bacteria found in our own homes, and keeps away harmful bacteria. She quoted from the book Wild Fermentation, where the author, Sandor Katz, uses the French as an example of how culture begins with food. Wine, cheese, and bread—all fermented foods—are the essence of French life. He says, “Culture is not found in the opera house, but in the kitchen.”
With each new food skill we learn, what strikes me is how none of it is exact or sanitized. There is good bacteria around us; the trick is to not strangle it out of our food, but let it flourish so it eats up all the dodgy stuff.
So neighbours, I am one step closer to providing you with food and drink when The Big One hits. I can sew you a pocket to hold your sourdough bread lathered in herbed cream cheese that you can wash down with sweet refreshing soda.
Now if only I could wash my hands with some soap…