Kombucha is a drink based on a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY), explains Shalom Simcha Albert, the R&D chef at Tel Aviv’s OCD Restaurant. At first glance it may seem daunting, but it contains bacteria and yeast that convert sugars into an acid rich in probiotic bacteria beneficial to the digestive system. In addition, in the absence of oxygen the SCOBY produces carbon, making the slightly sour drink fizzy. “The whole point of this fermented drink is to find the right balance between the sweet and sour flavors,” Shalom explains. This recipe calls for no less than 320 grams (11.3 ounces) of sugar, “I know it sounds like a lot of sugar but it will all be eaten by the culture within 5-7 days, turning the drink sour, and even more surprising, healthy.”
He adds that kombucha can be made with any flavor: from roses or fresh chamomile to jalapeno or Persian lemon. In the kitchen, kombucha can be enjoyed as a drink, used for pickling, or as flavor enhancer, adding a depth of flavors to any dish.
In order to make kombucha you will need a piece of SCOBY and the liquids in which it is grown. Like a sourdough starter, SCOBY should be grown and fed daily with water and sugar. To get hold of that special culture, check out fermentation Facebook groups. A large portion of their members grow SCOBY and will be happy to provide. If you cannot find any, feel free to contact Shalom Simcha.
A small piece of SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast)
1 cup / 250 ml preparedKombucha/ SCOBY liquids
1⅔ cup / 320 grams sugar
4½L / 1 gallon mason jar (with the lid), sterilized
Towel / cheesecloth and a rubber band
Preheat oven to 140°F / 60°C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and spread the tangerine peels in an even, well-spaced layer. Bake for 2 hours.
Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small pot over medium heat and cook until the sugar has dissolved. Cool for 1 hour.
Place the dried peels in the sterilized jar, pour the sugar syrup on top, add the SCOBY and kombucha and cover with a towel or a cheesecloth. Secure with a rubber band and let stand for 5 days in room temperature.
Check if the kombucha is sour and pleasant enough to drink. If not, leave the SCOBY for a little while longer, until it has reached a balanced flavor pleasant to your liking. For a carbonated kombucha: after 5 days strain the liquids and transfer to a resealable glass bottle. Let stand for 2-3 days in room temperature.