Kombucha Jello

August 13, 2010

Kombucha. You may or may not have heard of it. If you’re at all inclined toward the crunchy and health-nutty, you’ve probably seen it, or even made it yourself.

I knew nothing of it until 5 or so years ago when a boutique grocery opened in my neighborhood that carried the stuff. I’ve been hooked since. Kombucha is tea that has been fermented over the course of a week or two with what is called a “SCOBY” (which is much like a vinegar mother/mushroom).  Once fermented, the tea is tangy, naturally effervescent, and so refreshing during the heat of summer. It can also be blended with different fruit juices to produce various flavors. Like yogurt, it contains active, live bacteria which aid in digestion and boost your immune system.

I quickly learned it could easily be made at home, but I needed to get my hands on a SCOBY in order to get started, and had know idea where to find one. After a few months of searching, I gave up and let it go.

When I first began culinary school, I remember excitedly asking a cluster of students if they knew anything about it or how to “grow” it at home. I was just sure that someone in my class would have experience with Kombucha. However, the only response I got after explaining the beverage was the question of whether or not it was legal.

Sigh. Nope, none of my classmates were going to be able to help me out.

Then this past spring, I had the good fortune of stumbling across a small cafe that dealt only in organic, vegetarian fair, and in this small cafe, they sold kombucha SCOBYs!  I brought it home and immediately whipped up my first batch by making a gallon of tea with a cup of sugar, cooling it down and pouring it over the SCOBY. I covered it with a towel and waited. Two weeks later I bottled a very delicious batch of Kombucha and have continued doing so every two weeks up to the present.

Now all my life, summer time has been a time for jello (as has the fall, winter, and spring—but especially the summer). As I was bottling up this weeks kombucha, I began to wonder if the wonderfully refreshing drink would lend itself to the medium of jello. I asked Aaron his opinion.  “Yeah, sure,” he said. That was all the encouragement I needed.

I bloomed two packets of knox gelatin and dissolved it into 3 cups of kombucha, threw it in the fridge, and crossed my fingers.

And sure enough, 5 hours later, it turned out just fine, and tasted…well, like kombucha. I had hoped that, like champagne jello, the kombucha would retain its carbonation and appear “sparkling”, but it did not. I think a few more trial and error batches are in order to tweak flavor, and try to figure out how to keep the bubbles.

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