23 February 2011

Today's Stinky Jerk

Farting murder.

How to Make Kombucha

I have been making Kombucha for some time now, and people often ask me for a Kombucha culture that they can use to make their own.  They also ask me what the hell Kombucha is. I love to share these cultures (and my experiences with Kombucha), but I find that I am often at a loss to explain exactly how to make the beverage (when placed on the spot). So, this post is meant as a tutorial for anyone interested in making Kombucha. If anyone would like a Kombucha culture, feel free to contact me, and I'll be happy to give you one or mail you one (if you pay the shipping).

First, what is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented tea. It has a taste that is somewhat vinegary (more or less so depending on time of fermentation, which we will discuss later), fruity, and quite delicious. Oftentimes, straight Kombucha is mixed with juice, and the beverage takes on external flavors.  Kombucha's history is murky, though it has apparently been around for some time in Russia and China.  Today, it is drank by hippies, healthy types, and people in Asheville.

Why does one drink Kombucha?

The reasons vary. Many claim that Kombucha is an extremely healthy beverage, some say it can help prevent cancer and detoxify the liver and kidneys. The science, to be honest, is quite shaky and inconclusive. I drink Kombucha because it tastes good, it contains caffeine, and maybe (who knows?) it is really, really good for me. It just might be a miracle elixir.

How does one make Kombucha?

In a nutshell (extensive instructions to follow), one makes sweet tea (southerners should get this part), and introduces a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) to this tea. One then waits a time (a week, two, three, or more, depending on, as far as I can tell, the temperature of the place where it's growing). One can then drink the Kombucha at this point, or mix it with something containing sugar (juice, straight sugar, honey, etc) and bottle it, leaving it to ferment some more. In this way, carbonation is created.

Is Kombucha gross?

Some people think it is. My wife used to hate it, it made her gag, now she loves it. My friend and bandmate Xavi doesn't like it much, though he's working on it. Some people, myself included, love the stuff.

Is store-bought Kombucha different from homemade Kombucha?

It seems to taste quite different to me, though some local brands (like Buchi, here in Asheville) are really, really good, and really similar to homebrew.

Is Kombucha alive?

Yes, Kombucha tea is a live, fermented beverage. It is not pasteurized or irradiated or any such thing.

What does the SCOBY look like?

It looks like a thick, gross jellyfish. It has the texture of calamari.

How do you "harvest" SCOBYs?

Every time you make a batch of Kombucha tea, a new SCOBY is created. This is called the "daughter" -- The one there at the start of the batch is the "mother". At any point (usually at bottling time), you can merely peel off a layer of your SCOBY. Some people just let the SCOBY grow, though they can get enormous and take up a lot of room. I usually peel off a layer when a friend needs one. Otherwise, I "trim" it every couple of batches and compost it or start a new jar. When passing on a SCOBY, one should always include Kombucha tea in the container it travels in. Otherwise, it will die or grow moldy.

Now, on to how to make Kombucha.....

Things you will need:

-Sugar (white sugar usually, though I just today used some light brown sugar because I didn't have enough white sugar)

-Tea (black and green for me)

-A Kombucha culture (from me or a friend)

-A large vessel (I use vessels that I buy at a restaurant supply store. Mason jars work too, though I find that it's not worth it to me to make a small batch of the stuff, so I get the biggest jars I can find. See below for pictures of what I use)

-A kitchen towel and a rubber band or piece of string.

The ratios

3 quarts water
5-7 tea bags (mix of green and black, or just black, or just green)
1 cup of sugar


Now, I've generally read that one should always make a new batch of Kombucha using some already fermented Kombucha, approximately 1/8 - 1/4 of the total batch that you are making. This means that if someone gives you a Kombucha SCOBY contained within 1 quart of Kombucha tea, you can only make 4-8 quarts of Kombucha for your first batch. I made my first batch like this and immediately used it to make a second, much larger batch. Now I always have Kombucha. (Note: You can also buy some Kombucha to help get you started. No big deal, one last purchase of the store stuff before making your own won't kill you.)

Step 1: Buy purified water, or better yet, fill up your pot with water and leave it out overnight. All the chlorine will evaporate and you'll have un-chlorinated water. Chlorine is bad for the Kombucha, as it can inhibit growth of the SCOBY and the fermentation.

Step 2: Boil the water. In this example, I'll be using 12 quarts of water, since that's how much I generally make. Then turn the stove off.

Step 3: Add your sugar (in this example, 4 cups) and stir it in until totally dissolved. It happens quickly. Add your tea bags (14 or so black, 14 or so green), and let them steep for twenty minutes or a half hour. Take out the tea bags, cover the pot with a kitchen towel, and let the mixture cool. This is VERY important, as hot liquid will kill the SCOBY.

Step 4: When the tea has cooled to room temperature, pour it into the vessel you will be using. Using clean hands (or no hands at all), place or pour the SCOBY into the vessel. It might float or it might sink. It doesn't matter.

Step 5: Cover the vessel with the clean kitchen towel and secure it with a rubber band or a string. It should look like Yasser Arafat.

Step 6: Leave the vessel somewhere warmish for a while. Mine seems to take a while, especially in the winter, so I usually expect around three weeks, maybe more. This time also depends on how acidic and vinegary you like it to taste. I like it really strong. You will notice that your SCOBY will grow thicker and and will stretch to the size of the container your are using (unless it was already bigger than your container).  It's like a goldfish.

Step 7: Taste it occasionally to see how strong it is getting. Decide what your favorite point is -- this might take a few batches to figure out, and I say let it go until it's gone too far -- then you know your limit. The best way to taste it is to take a clean ladle and just lightly push down the SCOBY and scoop out some liquid. I drink it like this all the time. While you're there, wet the SCOBY down -- it will stay healthier like that. Dry SCOBYs are bad.

NOW, at this point, your Kombucha is done if you want it to be done. I drink Kombucha regularly from the top of my fridge, ladled out as I want it. Some people use vessels with a little spout (like a water cooler type spout) and drink it like that, topping off the liquid with fresh tea as the level drops. This is also the point, if you want to, at which you bottle the Kombucha.

Bottling the Kombucha does a few things. The first, which has been known for a while, is that it carbonates the liquid (though in the winter this can take forever, it seems). The Kombucha tea is bottled with 10% fruit juice (or some more sugar, honey, etc), closed up (I generally use Grosch-type bottles, though any bottle will do really), and left to sit another week or so. It should take on a new flavor and a nice, natural effervescence.   (Note: remember to leave some Kombucha behind for your next batch, and also, I suggest you get the tea for your next batch ready before bottling your present batch. This way you have no time in between the two batches)

There are, however, some other things that happen, and some warnings to heed:

1. Apparently, this secondary fermentation raises the alcohol level of the Kombucha (which before bottling is at like 0.5%) above 1%. Back in the summer, the FDA apparently figured this out and all of the Kombucha in the markets was suddenly gone, as everyone figured out how the hell to make Kombucha without it going above the alcohol level allowed in "non-alcoholic" beverages. I think that level is something like 0.7%. It seems that some companies (Buchi, for example), now use pumped CO2 to carbonate their Kombucha instead of putting it through a secondary fermentation. So, that's up to you on whether that matters to you or not.

2. The other thing that one should watch out for is exploding bottles. This is a danger with any carbonated beverage, and is NOT funny at all. Bottles under pressure and still fermenting can turn into grenade-like artillery and can seriously hurt people, and make a god-awful mess. Best idea, as far as I can tell, is to keep an eye on your bottles and err on the side of caution. Any sign of cap distension or that sort of thing should be considered dangerous. Also, as soon as you think you've achieved carbonation (after trying one, for instance), the rest should be refrigerated. This will slow down (nearly stop) fermentation and thus lessen the risk of explosion.  And honestly, I always close my eyes and open the first bottle of any batch away from me.  One time I nearly took off my brother's head with a Grolsch top.  It hit the ceiling, as did the liquid.  It was hilarious, but scary as hell.  That was in the summer, so things were moving quickly in the fermentation region.

One idea as well is to bottle in Mason Jars, though I'm not sure how airtight they can be made. With the Mason Jar lids, you can see the tops puffing out as the yeast creates the CO2 byproduct.

One very nice thing about bottling is the chance to explore different and creative flavors. I've made fresh strawberry Kombucha, ginger Kombucha, ginger-cayenne-habanero-apple Kombucha (an idea stolen from Buchi), cherry Kombucha, and all sorts of other flavors.

So, I reckon that's about it. Any questions, feel free to comment or contact me directly. Anyone interested in a Kombucha SCOBY can also just let me know, and I'll try to help.  Check out the Wikipedia page on Kombucha too, for more information.

Happy brewing!

22 February 2011


My friend over at The Thought Police Police turned me on to this. I haven't had a chance to ask him if he thinks its totally awesome or totally ridiculous. I'm assuming somewhere in the middle, though I can't be quite sure.



Col. Muammar el Qaddafi is an asshole.

20 February 2011

Bruegger's Bagels

There sure is nothing like "fresh poured orange juice."


Conversation at the Bond Residence:

Me: I'm obsessed with food shopping I think.

Beth: Yes, you are.

Me: And somehow we never seem to have any food.

Beth: That's because you put it all in buckets or stinky jars.

18 February 2011

Secret Societies

Did you know that nearly all motorcycle riders say hello to eachother when passing on the road?

I didn't know this until I got a motorcycle, but it's quite true, and nearly universal. Look for it when you are driving. People salute in different ways. Riders of Harleys and other larger bikes (tough guys) always seem to hold their hand down low, almost as if they were dragging their fingers in imaginary water while cruising in an imaginary boat. Some people wave higher. Some (like me), just lift their fingers off the handlebar and sort of give a mini-hello.

A friend of mine, after I told her that I'd been said hello to a number of times, was surprised that I did't know about it already. (She's a new rider too, though much more immersed and well-versed in the culture of motorcycles). She explained that this is really common, and also told me that mini-scooters were not part of the wave collective. I embarassingly told her that I had just that day waved at a mini-scooter rider. She told me it was okay, but that she hoped that now that I knew the rules, I would obey them. I must confess that I occasionally wave to a scooter, but only if they seem not to be a douchebag that appreciates the mosquito-like sound of their motor and flaunting traffic rules. Anyone with a helmet perched above their head is immediately disqualified from the consideration of rule-bending on my part.

Interestingly, this isn't my first secret society into which I've been inducted. I'm also (at times) a fully fledged member of the "Bald Guy Silent Nod Club," a little known group, yet one which is quite active. When I let my hair grow out, I am neither perceived as a member of the club, nor do I really feel myself to be a member. When I shave close, however, and fully reveal my shining pate, I'm again part of the group.

Basically, our activities are limited to silently nodding to eachother when passing in hallways, on the street, or really anywhere. The nod seems to say, "I too am bald. It's no big deal, I'm totally okay with it. Sometimes I even like it. Obviously it'd be pretty cool to have hair, but I'm over worrying about it and it hasn't really seemed to negatively affect my life, so whatever. Also, we understand eachother and recognize that starting to lose your hair at 20 can be a bit annoying, but we got over that shit." Those who are still reeling from the realization that a nice mohawk or a ponytail are dreams of the past are DEFINITELY NOT members of the club.

It's nice to be a member of these little groups, and it makes me wonder just how many secret societies like this there are out there. When I told my friend (the one mentioned above) about the baldie club, she laughed her ass off, and was totally surprised. I too was surprised about the motorcycle group. To me, this logically says that I'm not noticing all sorts of little groups that are out there. I like the idea of so much camraderie hiding in plain view. It makes the world a bit more mysterious, and just a bit more like a mystery.

17 February 2011


I have just moved my batch of banana wine and carrot wine to their next home--glass bottles with airlocks. They had been living for nearly two weeks in food grade plastic buckets covered with a kitchen towel.

I was stirring them nearly daily, and it has been incredible to watch them bubble and foam. Also quite interesting was noticing how different their odor has become.

I tasted them at this point, and what do you know? They taste sweet, alcoholic, and actually pretty good.

I now will leave them several months at this anaerobic stage -- the airlock lets carbon dioxide out, but no oxygen in -- until they have finished fermenting. At that point they will be ready for bottling.

(Note from 2/18: I just looked at the post, and noticed that the crappy picture I've put up makes it look like I can't spell "carrot". I just wanted to make it known that the word is spelled correctly, but the mediocre picture quality and the Chinese knock-off Sharpie have conspired to make it appear to say "carret" or "arret". It doesn't)

Private Parts

Have you ever wondered how they transport all of those animal willies and hoohas?

Wonder no more!

15 February 2011


This weekend we visited Atlanta, and got to go to the aquarium, which is the largest in the world.

I offer that as an answer to the question posed to me by many friends when I told them we were going to Atlanta. That question was: Why?

Also, to expand on the answer I now give, we also got to hang out late night at the High Museum, drinking wine and enjoying the work of Toulouse Lautrec and his contemporaries, and we got to eat really, really good Ethiopian food. Oh, and we visited an amazing farmer's market (Your Dekalb Farmer's Market) and Trader Joe's.

That's why, you bumpkins!

YouTube Video

14 February 2011

Asheville Pillow Fight

A pillow fight, to commemorate anti-valentine's day. I celebrate both Valentine's Day and its bitter enemies.

YouTube Video

12 February 2011


Good chocolate. Great packaging.

11 February 2011

Hot Dogs

A whole lot of hot dogs. From this sort of display comes great anxiety.


I am no longer the only person in the world to possess a tattoo of a Sextapus, a mythical six-legged sea creature that survives purely on a diet of mustaches. Check out my brother and the beginning stages of his newest tattoo:

The Beauty of Wine

The spinning, bubbling vortex that is my banana wine fermenting.

Also, the strange foamy, bubbly cauldron of carrot wine.

YouTube Video

10 February 2011

The Eagle Flies on Sunday

Sunday, February 27th @ The Grey Eagle.

Benefit for Loving Food Resources.

Angel Dust

A dusting of snow in Western North Carolina has resulted in massive school delays, and, in some cases, cancellations.

Lucky for me, the school at which I teach was indeed closed. Snow days just never get old.

08 February 2011

Beer and Peace

Just got back from meeting a friend at a bar in the area that I had never been to. Cool place called The Bywater, very homey, warm, and friendly.

I saw this in the bathroom:

And then I just got home, made some popcorn, and grabbed a beer that my friend left in our fridge after a party. The beer is amazing. This is it:



Fitzgerald fans might want to listen to this. I haven't finished it yet, but it is delightful. A look at Gatsby and friends on Studio 360 (an NPR program that I have just discovered, which sadly, we don't have in the mountains of Western North Carolina).

Studio 360: Gatsby

John and/or Emily?

Is that you commenting?

07 February 2011


Just in case it wasn't clear in the last post:

The term "silly-ass clowns" did not mean SILLY assclowns, but rather SILLYASS clowns. Or, said differently, I wasn't saying "ass clowns", but rather describing those clowns with the adverb "silly-ass".

Just so that I don't offend.

Super Bowl Disaster

I am not a big football fan, but I do like hot wings, funny commercials, beer, and friends, and so I sometimes watch the Super Bowl. Actually, to be quite honest, I sometimes sit in a room in which the Super Bowl is playing and eat wings, drink beer, and talk.

Last night was no different from the above descriptions, except that I also, along with friends and family, played with the four kittens that are living at my friend's house. Laser pointers, let me say, are amazing, and I am constantly amazed at how high little kittens can jump. Spectacular.

Last night, I did tear my eyes away from my plate and the kittens for long enough to watch the half-time show. My response, which is probably already written in many other fora and will be written many more times, is as follows:

What a load of noxious swill perpetrated by a group of silly-ass clowns. What a bunch of off-key, off-kilter, recycled, random blather and nonsense. What a totally lame version of a Guns-n-Roses classic. What a cheesy use of Slash and Usher. What a bunch of dumb songs. What terrible sound quality. What junk.

Also, from the few commercials I paid attention to, they rather sucked as well. Good thing the wings were good.

05 February 2011

Carrot Wine & Banana Wine

I just whipped up a couple batches o' wine, so I feel good about the weekend so far. Unfortunately, I won't be able to drink the wine for at least six months or so, and I should probably wait closer to a year for it to be truly right. But man, six months to a year from now is going to taste delicious.

Here are the recipes, and a few pictures of the process.

The recipes, by the way, are adapted from various recipes I found around the internet.

Banana Wine


4 lbs chopped bananas (chopped in the peel)
1/2 lb. chopped raisins
3 lbs white sugar
1 lemon (the juice of)
1 clementine (the juice of, which wasn't much)
1/2 cup of mango lemonade (because there wasn't much juice in the clementine)
1 gallon water
1 packet Lalvin D47 yeast
Yeast nutrient
1 gallon water

1. Boil bananas in a grain bag in the gallon of water. Once the water begins to boil, drop the temperature down and simmer it for a half hour.

2. Pour the "liquor" (that's what they call it, it seems) over the sugar and the juice in your primary fermenter (this can be a food grade bucket or something similar, nothing metal or non-food grade).

3. Squeeze the grain bag to get all the juices out of it.

4. When the liquid reaches 70 degrees (you can just wait until the next morning if you like), add the yeast and nutrient.

5. Leave fermenter covered for 7-10 days, stirring every day or so.

6. Transfer to another vessel, such as a glass apple juice jar. Put an airlock on it (you can find these at a brewing store, you'll need the cork that comes with it too) and leave it for a while, like four months or so.

7. Rack the wine (this means you siphon it into another container and leave behind sediment)

8. Allow to clear, another two months or so.

9. Bottle, let age until you can't stand it anymore.

Carrot Wine Recipe:

4 lbs. carrots, shredded and boiled with 1 gallon of water.

Boil, then simmer for 35 minutes.

Add to the primary fermenter, pouring over top of:

2.5 lbs. white sugar
1.5 lbs. light brown sugar

Stir, then add :

Handful of chopped raisins
1 lemon, peeled and chopped
3 clementines, peeled and chopped
Approx 1 to 1.5 pounds of barley
1 crushed campden tablet

Stir. Cover with a towel. When the liquid reaches 70 degrees (or the next morning), add Lalvin D47 yeast and yeast nutrient.

Cover with a towel and leave for 7-10 days, stirring every day, then strain and move to another container (like a glass apple juice container, for instance) with an airlock. Like above, leave for four months or so, then rack and leave a couple months to clear, then bottle and leave another six months or so.


04 February 2011

Wine, ETC

Regarding last post (email to Sandor Katz):

Thanks to all those that so far have provided me with some ideas about things that I can ferment (mostly via facebook). I'm psyched to maybe try out a wine with some greens, wild and otherwise. Keep the suggestions coming.


My email to Sandor Katz, author of "Wild Fermentation", the book I have been raving about non-stop on this blog:

Dear Sandor,

How are you? My name is Pancho, and I am writing with a few comments and questions.

First, let me say that I have enjoyed your books so very much. Wild Fermentation has been a great awakening for me. I am constantly thinking about fermention, talking about fermentation, planning fermented projects, or making something fermented. It's been great, and I recommend your book to all sorts of folks.

Before reading the book, I was already on the Kombucha train, and I had made a batch of kraut or two (overly salted though). Since reading your book, I've made great kraut, wonderful kimchi (even the woman at the local Korean food store liked it, much to her surprise -- you should have seen her face when I asked her to try it, she was very, very suspicious. After trying it though, she was amazed), some great cucumber kimchi (my favorite thing so far, like Lower East Side meets Koreatown), yogurt, onion wine, mead. It has been a wonderful adventure, and I thank you for facilitating it.

I am currently reading The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, and I am enjoying that tremendously as well.

I also have two questions for you:

1) Have you ever heard of anyone making wine with wild greens? A friend/neighbor/landlord/gardener suggested it when I was fishing around for ideas of odd things to turn into wine, and I was very intrigued. Ever heard of that, and if so, have you heard good things about such a notion?

2) If I were to just mix sugar and water and leave it out, would that make wine ,or is there some missing link if nothing else of substance and nutrition is added? And if so, what do you think you would call it? Water wine?

Finally, just wanted to turn you on to my band, while I'm writing. We are called Sirius.B, and you should check us out and stop by a show if you are ever here (Asheville) when we are playing. You can hear us at www.siriusbmusic.com -- Let me know if you like it, and I'll be happy to send along a free cd.

Thanks again for your time, your book, your advice, and your consideration.


Pancho Romero Bond
Buy Sirius.B's new album,

02 February 2011


Egypt erupts, violence and mayhem in the streets.

Sirius.B @ MoDaddy's

For those Asheville readers out there, Sirius.B will be performing this Saturday night at MoDaddy's. Bloodroot Orchaestaar will open.