Fermented Release Party - the thank you speech

Well, there it was.  The little release party for a the little book that could.
If you will indulge me, I’d like to take a post here on the ole blog and give thanks to everyone who came out this evening.  SO MANY PEOPLE came to say hello, buy a book, have it signed.  And guess what – they weren’t all people I already knew!  I’m so surprised that actual people – people who are strangers to me! – came and bought the book and talked fermentation and real food!
So, in true Oscar/Emmy/Grammy style, I’m going to give my thank you speech.  And because I run this blog, there won’t be any music playing me off the stage.  Ha ha.
First and foremost, I have to thank Espresso a Mano.  Matt generously opened his beautiful business to me and let me have this party.  If you are a Pittsburgher, you MUST become a regular at Espresso a Mano.  If you’re from out of town, be sure to stop there for the best espresso in the area when you’re passing through.  I love Matt and his dedication to his craft is second to none.  Thanks, Matt!
Thank you to the fabulous LadyFingers Private Chef and Catering Service for the fantastic food!  Diane, Jim, and Coletta – the evening was made by your delicious food, attention to detail, and top-notch customer service.  I am so grateful to call you all friends!
My parents, Jack and Kathy bought everyone coffee to go with the evening.  I hope you all took advantage of that!  Thanks for all the support, Mom and Dad!
My Uncle Tom, Aunt Mary Rita, Uncle Bill, Aunt Rie, and cousin Rhonda – I am so grateful to all of you for traveling so far to come to this little gathering.  Virginia, Michigan, and Indiana were all represented!
My mother-in-law Shirley and my sister-in-law Sharon – What a grand surprise it was to see your faces!  Thank you for coming!
To my Industrial Athletics CrossFit Alloy family – I hope you know just how truly special you all are to me.  The fact that nearly the entire clientele of the box came and hung out and supported me is a wonderful testament to the fantastic community we’ve built in just a few months.  I love you all so dearly.  You mean more to me than you’ll ever know.
To friends old and new, thank you.  I’m not sure what else to say other than that.  Thank you.  It was so great to see you ALL this evening.
To my Dude! Thanks for carrying all those boxes of books.  I love you.
I’ll post some photos on Facebook and Instagram tomorrow.  For now, I’m going to rest my signing hand and get ready for the next event – Sunday!

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Giveaway! Three Signed Copies of Fermented!

**This giveaway has ended. Thanks to all who entered!**
Hi everyone! Today is THE DAY. All capital letters, natch!
Fermented is NOW available in bookstores everywhere!
I never thought I’d type those words.

Win a signed copy of Fermented(This was taken on the day that I received my first copies of Fermented. Can you tell how excited I am?! WOOOOO! If you win this giveaway, send me a photo of you with your copy of Fermented!)

Anyway, I want to celebrate this day by giving away THREE signed copies of Fermented to three lucky people!
This isn’t going to be complicated. Here is the usual rundown:
1. Leave me a comment and tell me what you plan to ferment first once you get your hands on the book.
2. Sign up for my newsletter for an additional entry. I swear there will be no spam or excessive letters from me clogging your inbox.
3. Come on over and join me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for even more entries.
4. Already connected with me in every way possible? Then recruit a friend to my fermentation army! I’ll give you an additional entry for every person you send to get connected with me using the above methods. Drop me an email and let me know who your friend is and that’s it!
Here is the fine print: I’ll accept entries until Saturday, August 10, 2013 at noon EDT. After that I’ll draw three names at random, email the winners, sign and send the books to them. Don’t delay, folks!
Good luck to all!

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Fermented available TOMORROW!

Fermented Events
Oh my dear readers, I don’t know if I can adequately explain to you what I’m feeling right now.  You see, in less than 24 hours I will be able to go to a bookstore and see the bound physical representation of a year’s hard work sitting on a shelf for sale to the public.  Add to this that my last name could afford me the distinct opportunity to be shelved near, or even immediately adjacent to, Julia Child and honestly it brings tears to my eyes.  I go from being bouncing-off-the-walls excited to quiet emotion and reflection over just how impactful this is for me.
I truly hope you’ll purchase a copy, read it, learn from it, enjoy it, and most of all start to ferment your own food.
I wanted to provide you with some information that may prove helpful in the upcoming days and weeks.
First of all, Fermented is available for purchase from a variety of sources.
1. Amazon.com
2. Barnes and Noble (Both from their website and in stores)
3. Goodreads
4. Whole Foods Market (Pittsburgh)
5. Whole Foods Market (Wexford, PA)
6. East End Food Co-op (Pittsburgh)7. Book Depository.com (free international shipping!)
Also try your local small book retailer!
When Fermented is released (tomorrow! Woot!) I would truly appreciate a review on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, and Goodreads.com.  Doing so will help others find Fermented and (hopefully!) become fermentation devotees too.
I also have some signings and more planned over the next couple of months.  This list will be growing!
1. August 16, 2013 – Fermented Release Party!  Stop by Espresso a Mano (3623 Butler Street, Pittsburgh, 15201) anytime from 6 pm to 9 pm and celebrate the release!  Fermented will be for sale and I’ll be there signing books.
2. August 18, 2013 – Join me at the I Made It! Market at Marty’s Market and Wigle Whiskey where I’ll be selling and signing copies of Fermented!  Check out all the other handmade goods while you’re there too. The fun starts at 11 am and goes until 3 pm.
3. September 4, 2013 – The I Made It! Market is hosting a fermentation basics class taught by lil’ ole me!  It will be at the Quiet Storm cafe in Garfield (Pittsburgh).  More details and registration info is right here.  It’s from 6 pm to 8 pm.
4. September 7, 2013The Penguin Bookshop in Sewickley, PA is having me over for a signing AND it coincides with Sewickley’s farmers’ market.  A perfect combo!  I’ll be there from 10 am to 1 pm.
5. September 14, 2013 – I’m going back to my hometown area (kind of) and will be at the Bridgewater Bookfest!  Stop by and say hello, and pick up a copy of Fermented!
That’s about all for now.  I am so excited, you guys!  And I am overwhelmed with gratitude to each of you who have already ordered Fermented, taken the time to drop me a line to tell me how excited you are to receive it, etc.  Your support means more to me than I’m able to express.
Keep up with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.  I look forward to connecting with you!

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Giveaway - Food in Jars

This giveaway is now closed.  Thank you to everyone who entered!
I don’t think it’s any secret that I’m totally INTO fermentation.  I mean, you can see that link over there on the right-hand side that proudly proclaims, “BUY MY BOOK!” can you not?  And, duh, it’s called Fermented so to say that I’ve devoted a portion of my life to wonderful fermentation is not a well-kept secret.
However, I didn’t first get in to fermentation because of all the wonderful things it does for the body, I got into it because I wanted a way to preserve food.  I have a food dehydrator (and I love it!) for making all kinds of dried fruits, jerky, preserving fresh herbs.  And then I got a SCOBY from my friend Liz so I could start making my own kombucha.  After that I kind of went down the fermentation rabbit hole and didn’t look back.  Sure, I still regularly dehydrate all kinds of goodies, but for me, fermentation is the stuff.
Here’s the thing – dehydration and fermentation aren’t the only ways to preserve food.  In fact, they’re probably among the least common ways to preserve food.  Dehydration usually means you need to get a dehydrator (although not always), and for a while now fermentation has been making people nervous with its proliferation of bacteria.  (We live in a world that hates and fears bacteria!)
Other ways to preserve food – pickling, freezing, salting, smoking, refrigeration, vacuum packing.  But perhaps the most well known way to preserve food is canning!
I have always had a fascination with canning and yet I have little to no experience with it.  My grandparents had a fruit cellar off of the main part of their basement where my grandma would keep all of her canned goods (Others call a little cool room like that a larder, but she called it the fruit cellar.)  And I’m not talking about cans she bought at the supermarket, I’m talking about the stuff she canned herself in her own kitchen.   I think this was a really common sight in an Italian-American home, right?  Shelves loaded down with jars and jars and jars and jars of canned tomatoes. I know canning isn’t an Italian thing, per se, but canning tomatoes seemed to be a ritual that is associated with my people.
Anyway, canning!  This year I am going to get into it!  My friend Jenna has been canning for a while now (and boasts that when her grandma passed away, she was lucky enough to inherit her jars!), and of course, my fermentation inspiration buddy Liz is interested too.  The three of us were going to start to can this summer.  We started planning and came up with our Grand Can Plan where we mapped out all that we needed to can, what we want to can, when it is in season, and when we will have our big canning sessions.
And then our plans were derailed a bit.  Jenna is moving away to Atlanta, GA!  I am so so sad to see her leave, although totally STOKED for my friend because she is moving there for her dream job.  So I’m selfishly sad, but overall I’m thrilled for her to get to go on to pursue her professional goals.
This put a big sadface on our Grand Can Plan to say the least.  Our canning guru is leaving, thus leaving Liz and me to our own devices.  I have almost zero experience canning, and Liz has some.
Now that there will be two noobs in the kitchen, but we are soldiering on!  We will not abandon the Grand Can Plan!  We have a list of things we want to can and we’re gathering some serious resources to help us along the way.
I put out a call on Facebook a few weeks ago to clue me in to some of your favorite canning resources – books, websites, recipes, advice.  I got some good responses and it lead me to rediscover a book I’ve had for a few months, Food in Jars by Marisa McClellan.  I positively LOVE this book!!!!!
Food in Jars cover
First of all, Marisa’s blog is gorgeous.  Have you been there yet?  Seriously, put it on your regular read list.  The photos are gorgeous, the information is top-notch, and she’s an urban canner!  I can so relate!  And if that weren’t enough, she’s a fellow Pennsylvanian.  Keystone State represent!
What attracted me to Marisa’s blog in the first place was the fact that she lives in a big city AND she preserves food.  This is totally my jam (pun intended).  Don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost respect and admiration for those of you who are country dwellers and have copious land and wilderness around.  You have beautiful gardens!  I envy your giant eat-in kitchens, basements, garages, and tons of storage space for things like big fermentation crocks and jars of preserved goodness.  For the longest time I didn’t think I could bother with fermentation or canning or any other kind of preservation because I didn’t think my wee urban kitchen had enough room for all the equipment and the storage.  Marisa has given me so much hope with Food in Jars!  The recipes are for small-ish batches of wonderful things that are perfect for a newbie canning enthusiast (like me and maybe you!), BUT they are so unique and inventive that those of you who have been canning for a while can find something really unusual and fabulous to add to your canning repertoire.

first thing to try(Look at this!  Cantaloupe jam?!  Brilliant.  It’s tops on the Grand Can Plan!  This is just one example of the really unique recipes in this book.)

I have a few dozen pages marked with tabs on the recipes I MUST make right away, and notes strewn all over my copy of this book.  It is going to be my canning guide and bible this year as I take my first forays into the canning world.  I have read and reread it and I love it.  And now I want to put one in your hands.

So many bookmarks(The Grand Can Plan is growing!  I hope Liz and I have enough time and jars to can everything we have on our master list!)

I’m giving away a copy of Food in Jars to one of you lucky readers!  Who is excited?!  (Meeeee!)
Here are the details:
1. Leave me a comment and tell me about your experience with food preservation  Do you can?  Ferment? Dehydrate? If you’re totally new to the game, let me know where you’d like to start. Share your story with me!
2. Sign up for my newsletter for an additional entry. I swear there will be no spam or excessive letters from me clogging your inbox.
3. Come on over and join me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for even more entries.  And don’t forget to give Marisa some love too and join her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
4. One bonus entry if you pre-order the book I did write, Fermented: A Four Season Approach to Paleo Probiotic Foods.  Just forward along your pre-order confirmation to me via email and you’ve just earned yet another shot at winning The 30 Day Guide.
Here is the fine print:  Because I think this book is so great, I’m going to leave this giveaway open for 5 days.  You have until Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at noon EDT to enter.  I’ll then pull one name at random from all the entries, and that person will be the winner.

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News About Fermented!

Hello, friends!
I am so so so so so so pleased (really!) to announce to you that on Friday, August 16, 2013 I am throwing a little fete for Fermented.  I want everyone to come out and celebrate!
celebrate fermented
Here’s what you need to know:
Where: It will be held at Espresso a Mano right here in Pittsburgh (That would be the Lawrenceville neighborhood for those of you are local or are well versed in Burgh ‘hoods.)  My friend, Matt, owns the joint and he is letting me use his beautiful coffee shop as the launching grounds for Fermented.  The address is 3623 Butler Street, Pittsburgh, 15201
When: Friday, August 16, 2013 from 6pm to 9pm.  A day of significance for a few reasons.  I’m so happy that it is working out that this celebration can be on this day.
Why: Why not?
Additional details: If you’ve already pre-ordered Fermented, you ought to have it in your hands by then.  Bring your copy along and I’ll be delighted to sign it.  If you’d rather wait, buy your copy there at the party and I’ll still sign it!
If you buy/bring a book to sign, you’ll get a free cup of coffee for your generosity.
There will be snacks, beverages, and maybe even a few party favors for the first several dozen of you who come on in.  The theme will be fermentation, of course, and (hopefully) you’ll be leaving the soiree with a very thorough how-to manual on the topic.
Please stop on by and say hello, check out the book, have a cup of coffee, some snacks, and toast the world of fermentation.

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Giveaway: The 30 Day Guide to Paleo Cooking

The giveaway is now closed.  Thanks to all who entered!
So, you guys know that I’m a health coach, right?  I help people who need to or want to lose weight, learn to eat more healthfully, and generally turn their lives around from not-so-healthy habits to ones that will hopefully aim them towards longevity, health, wellness, and happiness.  I do this by educating my clients about ancestral eating (Paleo, primal, Weston A. Price) and by teaching them how to cook, grocery shop, food quality, sleep, stress management, goal setting, etc.  This is my jam!
Well, last year Practical Paleo came out.  You know, the book by Diane Sanfilippo that pretty much put into book form my entire health coaching schtick.  I mean, it’s not like I had original ideas or had done cutting edge research on my own, but I assembled a TON of material in the form of handouts and links and emails and documents.  And then gosh darn that Diane! She went ahead and wrote a book that so perfectly and succinctly summed up nearly everything that I try to teach my clients over the course of their three months with me, AND she added a fab cookbook, AND it looks way better than my collection of handouts, AND it’s a New York Times bestseller.  I’m sarcastically shaking my fists!!!
I kid.  Kind of.  I mean, I love Diane.  She’s a friend and all, and I looooooove seeing my friends succeed and kick butt at life.  She’s definitely doing that.  But you know that feeling when you have a smashing good idea and then you find out that someone has beaten you to the punch and taken your good idea and turned it into an epic masterpiece a hundred times better than you ever could?  It’s a womp-womp of major proportions.
Well, tonight I’m having that big ole womp-womp feeling again.  You see, I have sitting next to me a copy of Hayley Mason and Bill Staley’s The 30 Day Guide to Paleo Cooking.  I’ve had it here on my desk for a few weeks now.  Being friends with The Food Lovers has its perks.  I got me an advanced signed copy, thankyouverymuch.  And then I opened it and took a look at the content and then MORE FIST SHAKING!!!

30 day guide to paleo cooking

THIS!!!!  This is the other book I wish I could have written for my clients.  This is the book that is for anyone and everyone who is just entering into the world of ancestral eating and needs a guide, a hand-holding guide that will take you through what it means to eat well, eat responsibly, and eat healthfully.  This isn’t some complicated science book that will confuse you with all kinds of biology lessons.  This isn’t some kind of anatomy book that will outline all the enzymes and hormones in your body.  This isn’t some kind of fancypants cookbook that is full of dishes that are just out of reach of the average home cook’s skill set.
My friends, this is a book for the masses.  This is for those of us who are regular work-a-day people who are trying to eat well, who are trying to learn more about the quality of our food, who are trying to put good, clean meals on the table for ourselves and our families.  And to boot they throw in some success stores for inspiration.
This is the everyman’s (or everywoman’s) guide to eating Paleo.
A month’s worth of meal plans and recipes.  Shopping lists, page after page of info on what’s in season, what flavors go together, what fats and oils are recommended, how to grow your own food, what to drink, how to answer Paleo FAQs, snacks, quick meal fixes, and of course the recipes all with gorgeous photos.
Why didn’t I write this book?!?!?!  I’m kicking myself!!!
But!! If I didn’t write it, I’m beyond thrilled that my friends did. And let’s be honest.  They have done a better job with it than I ever could.  AND! I now have a beautiful book to use with my clients.  Looks like we all win.
Speaking of winning, I just so happen to have a spare copy of The 30 Day Guide to Paleo Cooking.  Yes I do.  And I’m going to send it off to a lucky reader.
Here’s the scoop on how to score this hot little number for your very own. A random drawing is in the offing and here’s how you can enter:
1. Leave me a comment and tell me how you started down the ancestral eating path.  If you haven’t yet started eating Paleo, primal, or Weston A. Price, tell me what has attracted you to this way of eating.  Share your story with me!
2. Sign up for my newsletter for an additional entry. I swear there will be no spam or excessive letters from me clogging your inbox.
3. Come on over and join me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for even more entries.
4. One bonus entry if you pre-order the book I did write, Fermented: A Four Season Approach to Paleo Probiotic Foods.  Just forward along your pre-order confirmation to me via email and you’ve just earned yet another shot at winning The 30 Day Guide.
Here is the fine print:  Because I think this book is so great, I’m going to leave this giveaway open for 5 days.  You have until Tuesday, June 18, 2013 at noon EDT to enter.  I’ll then pull one name at random, and that person will be the winner.
Get on this one, folks!  You definitely want to win this!
And just as a disclaimer, I am friends with Hayley and Bill, but these opinions are my own and brutally honest.  I really do love this book this much, and I really do wish I had written it myself.  Whenever I write about a book or product on this site, know that the opinions expressed are always my own.  Here is a link with my own personal rules and promises about reviewing anything on FirstComesHealth.com.  Honesty will always come first whether it is flattering or not.

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Strikes and Gutters

The past week has been one of ups and downs.  Extreme highs and low low lows.
Last Thursday my mom and I went to San Francisco for my cousin Suzanne’s wedding.  If you’re following me on Instagram and Facebook you got a very small sampling of my trip including a shot of a really super tasty prosciutto cone I had courtesy of Boccalone.  I got to spend time in a city I’ve never visited before with some of my very favorite people in the whole world.  Plus, my beautiful cousin married a truly wonderful man, Austin (of the 2013 Goals Project fame!), and we are honored to officially count him as a member of our family.
When I got home very early on Monday morning, I got word that my grandma was not doing well and was probably in her final days.  At 97, she got pneumonia and was not strong enough to fight it off.  She died Monday night.
When you are almost 40 years old and your grandmother is 97 (just a few months shy of 98!), her death isn’t that much of a shock.  I assumed (hopefully wished?) that she would make it to 100, but once I knew that she had pneumonia I was realistic about how this would weaken her.  Getting the phone call from my mom on Monday night didn’t completely surprise me.  I was planning to go say my final goodbyes to her on Tuesday and she just didn’t make it.
My grandma, Concetta Latagliata Ciciarelli, had a huge impact on my life.  She was the embodiment of what I hope to be – strong and soft, pragmatic, adventurous in the kitchen, traditional, witty, fun-loving, a great wife, accomplished knitter, savvy investor, and someone who just loved her family.  I think the biggest loss in her passing is that there will be no more lessons from her.  She taught me so much and now I won’t have another opportunity to learn anything more.
So, if I’m not around the blog or social media for the next few days, and if you’re missing the 2013 Goals Project post it’s because I’m saying my final goodbyes to my dear sweet grandmother.  I’ll be back over the weekend and next week.

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Kombucha Series Part 6 - Troubleshooting (Plus a GIVEAWAY!)

This giveaway is closed.  Thanks for the entries!
Well, we have reached the end of the weekly kombucha series and I hope you all have enjoyed it. Kombucha is my favorite thing to ferment so I’ve loved writing this up for you.  Plus, I am SO EXCITED about the giveaway!  Details are at the end of this post.  You do NOT want to miss this one!
If you’re just joining me for the first time, here is what you missed:
1. Make your own SCOBY
2. Choosing the right tea
3. Choosing the right type of sugar
4. Equipment
5. Make kombucha – woo woo!
Throughout the last six weeks I have gotten a few questions about what is normal SCOBY behavior, what the tea should look like or smell like, etc.  Here are a few answers to some FAQs about your ‘buch.
1. Cloudy tea and/or brown bits in kombucha – This is good!  When you initially combine your sweetened room-temperature tea, the SCOBY, and starter tea, it is all mostly clear.  Sure, it’s retained the color of the tea that you brewed, but it isn’t cloudy.  As the SCOBY gets to work and the bacteria and yeasts do their job the tea will turn cloudy.  You may also start to see brown stringy bits floating off of your SCOBY and in your tea.  This is just yeast growth and you want it in there.  Fear not!

Kombucha Closeup

(Look at the stringy bits hanging off of this SCOBY.  It’s growing yeast!  WOO!)

2. SCOBY storage – The most important thing to know about properly storing your SCOBY is that is must be kept in liquid at all times.  If it won’t be hard at work fermenting any tea for a month or two, a SCOBY needs to be stored in tea and kept wet especially if they are going to be used again in the future.  If you are taking a fermentation break or find yourself with extra SCOBYs simply keep them in a small jar covered in sweetened room temperature tea.  Cover loosely with a light cloth or handkerchief secured with a rubber band.  Store at room temperature.
SCOBYs can be refrigerated or dehydrated for longer term storage, but there is not guarantee that they’ll come back to life when you’re ready to use them again.  This is why I don’t wholly recommend refrigeration or dehydration.  It isn’t a terrible idea, but nothing is guaranteed.  To dehydrate, simply put the SCOBY on a Pyrex plate or on a piece of all-natural parchment paper and allow it to dry at 90 to 100 degrees in the oven for several hours, or until it has the same texture as gummy candy or beef jerky.  For instructions on rehydrating your SCOBY, check out this video from Cultures for Health.
3. SCOBY looks and feel – A healthy SCOBY will be whitish/ivory colored.  Sometimes it will have brownish tea-colored stains on it (especially if you use black tea to ferment your kombucha), but it will never ever be black, red, green, or blue.  If you see any colors beyond white/ivory/beige and brown, this is most likely a sign of mold growth and the whole batch (SCOBY included) must be discarded.  Do not take chances, and please use your best judgement.  If you are in doubt at all over your SCOBY’s health, toss it and start over.
A healthy SCOBY should also feel like a handful of dense gelatin.  It’s wiggly and jiggly and feel kind of squishy in your hand.  It shouldn’t be dry at all.
4. SCOBY size – They say size doesn’t matter, and with SCOBYs at least, that’s true.  My very first SCOBY given to me by my buddy Liz was about three or four inches across and a quarter inch thick.  She gave it to me in a little jar with a cup of starter tea.  From that wee SCOBY I brewed a gallon of kombucha and have been making batch after batch ever since.  Plus, that original mother has given birth to dozens of new SCOBYs that I’ve gifted all over the place.
5. SCOBY placement – When I started my first batch of kombucha, I dumped my SCOBY and starter tea into my gallon of sweetened room temperature tea and it promptly sunk to the bottom. I (stupidly) stuck my hand in the jar and tried to get it to float on the surface.  It didn’t work.  I had a minor freakout.  It turns out, it doesn’t matter one whit where the SCOBY is in the jar.  It will still do its job nicely.  A new SCOBY will grow on the surface of your tea (you might notice it starting to grow when you see a cloudy film start to appear.) no matter where your original mother decides to settle.
6. Metal – Kombucha, SCOBYs, and metal do not mix.  As previously mentioned in the equipment installment of this series, you should not ever ferment tea in a metal container.  Period.  Some kombucha makers say that a SCOBY should not ever ever ever come in contact with anything metal.  While I agree, I don’t happen to think that very brief encounters with metal will not hurt your brew or your SCOBY.  I brew my gallon of tea in a metal pot and I have cut sections off of SCOBYs with metal knives or kitchen shears with no ill affects yet.  Technically speaking, molecules of metal are left behind when you do these things and over time can affect fermentation.  My rule is this: Never ever ferment tea in a metal container.  Avoid using metal tools when you can. Anything that will come in prolonged contact with your SCOBY or kombucha should NOT be made of metal.  Otherwise, if you want to use a knife or kitchen scissors to snip off a bit of a SCOBY to give to a friend, just do it quickly.
7. Kombucha storage – After I flavor and bottle my ‘buch, it doesn’t tend to last very long in my house.  Honestly I haven’t ever had a bottle sitting in my refrigerator for longer than a couple of weeks.  However, as long as it is kept cold, bottled kombucha will last for a very long time.  Note, however that fermentation does not stop just because it’s in the refrigerator.  It is slowed down to an almost near halt, but not quite turned off.  Over time your kombucha will continue to ferment very slowly.  Consider this an aging process much similar to what wine goes through.  The taste of a bottle that is two weeks old will be slightly different than one that is 6 months old.  It’s up to you to decide whether or not that’s a good thing or a bad thing.  It’s a matter of taste.
Also note that a little wee miniature SCOBY may start to grow on the surface of you bottled ‘buch.  That’s just further proof that the little bacteria and yeast friends in the bottle are still fermenting away.  This mini SCOBY can be strained out and discarded or even consumed if you want.  It definitely won’t hurt you.
8. How much to drink – Like any fermented product, kombucha is alive and can do a lot of wonderful things for our bodies.  However, if a little is good, that doesn’t necessarily mean that a lot is better.  When I first started making kombucha I was guzzling several bottles of it a day.  It tastes wonderful, plus it’s fizzy. I haven’t had a pop in YEARS so it was nice to drink something cold and fizzy!  While this might have tasted good at the time, it started to negatively affect my body.  Fermented foods are meant to be enjoyed regularly, but in small quantity.  Eight ounces of kombucha a day is plenty to keep your gut populated with beneficial bacteria.  It may be difficult to resist those wonderful little bottles of ‘buch in your fridge, but overdoing it with kombucha or any fermented food will take its toll.
Kombucha Mixed Berry
So, there you have it!  I know that there may be many more questions and concerns about your ‘buch that will crop up as you go through the process.  Please let me know!  I am always more than happy to help you troubleshoot and answer questions.  As always, leave me a comment, send me an email, drop me a line on Facebook, Tweet me, or even give me a little shout out on Instagram.  I’m never far from my technology!
NOW!! On to the giveaway!!!
Although in the last six installments of this series I have given you all the info you need to make your own kombucha, I thought I’d make it super simple and easy for one of you to get started.  My friends at Kombucha Brooklyn are going to send one lucky winner a half-gallon kombucha starter kit!
Can I just tell you how awesome this kit is?!?!?!  It comes with a glass jar, a large tea bag (enough for one batch), enough organic cane sugar to get you started AND your very own SCOBY!!!  They even throw in a thermometer and a light cloth to cover the jar with.  You guys, this is EVERYTHING you need to get started brewing your own kombucha all in one cute box!  When I got mine in the mail, I nearly fainted from excitement.  This kit is SNAZZY!
whats in the kit
So, here is how this is going to work.  As usual, you’ll have several chances to win.
1. Leave me a comment telling me what your favorite kombucha flavor is.
2. Facebook – 1 entry each for liking First Comes Health and Kombucha Brooklyn on Facebook. (Already like us? Tell me that in your comment below!)
3. Twitter – 1 entry each for following First Comes Health and Kombucha Brooklyn on Twitter. (Already follow us?  Tell me that in your comment below!)
4. Instagram – 1 entry for following First Comes Health on Instagram. (Already follow me? Tell me that in your comment below!)
5. Newsletter – 1 entry for subscribing to the First Comes Health newsletter. (Already subscribed?  Tell me that in your comment below!)
Bonus entry: Did you pre-order my book Fermented yet?  If so, forward me the order confirmation and you’ll earn another chance to win.

kokmbucha lives(It says this right on the kit’s box! I love it so much.)

I wish every single one of you could win this one because this kit is simply fantastic.  You can earn up to eight chances to win this one!!  And because the giveaway is so awesome, I’m going to give you until noon EDT on Wednesday, May 29, 2013 to enter.
Good luck to all!  One of you lucky folks is going to be super excited when this baby arrives at your house!

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Kombucha Series Part 5 - Let's Make Kombucha!

This is the post you’ve been waiting for!  It’s time to take what we learned in the previous installments in this series and put it to good use!
If you need to catch up to speed here is where you can find the first four posts:
1. Make your own SCOBY
2. Choosing the right tea
3. Choosing the right type of sugar
4. Equipment
Hopefully by this point you have assembled all the stuff you’ll need to get your first batch of kombucha going strong – SCOBY, tea, sugar, and a jar at the very least.  Once you have all you need, the procedure is actually quite simple.  The hardest part is the wait!  Kombucha making – fermentation in general! – requires patience.  If you’re anything like me, you’d prefer to have your ‘buch sooner rather than later, but trust me.  This is worth the wait.
Kombucha Jars Collection2
Part 1

  • Water – Fill a large pot with enough filtered water to fill your fermentation jar almost to the top.  Leave about two or three inches of headspace (that is, empty space at the top between the tea and the very top of the jar.).  If you have a gallon jar, you’ll want a gallon of water MINUS a cup or so.  Eyeball this.  It’s not that scientific.
    By the way, I suggest filtered water because regular old tap water can contain flouride, chlorine, or other chemicals, additives, or particulates that can interfere with SCOBY growth and fermentation.  I use a water filter pitcher for my drinking water and I’m thinking of getting a really nice household sized one in the near future.  I don’t want anything in my water to negatively affect my ferments!
  • Tea –  If you are using teabags, use 6 or 8 of them.  If you are using loose tea, you’ll need about 1/3 cup of the tea leaves.  Also with loose tea you have two choices: The first is to just brew the tea by tossing the loose leaves directly into the water.  You’ll have to strain them out later before you add your SCOBY.  The second is to put the 1/3 cup of tea into a tea ball, infuser, or make a giant sachet with a coffee filter and butcher’s twine.  The choice is yours and the quality of your kombucha will not be affected by whichever path you take.  Personally, because I have many coffee filters on hand, I opt for the sachet method.
  • Sugar – You’ll need a scant cup (just a bit under a cup) of sugar for every gallon of kombucha you’re making.
  • Procedure
    1. Heat the filtered water to just shy of boiling (approximately 200 degrees).  (It’s not a big deal if it boils, but tea isn’t meant to brew in water that is at a rolling boil.)
    2. Add the tea and allow to brew for at least 5 minutes.
    3. Remove tea infuser or sachet (if using) and remove the pot from the heat.
    4. Add the scant cup of sugar and stir with a wooden spoon until completely dissolved.
    5. Leave the pot of tea on the countertop to come to room temperature. (If you used loose tea without an infuser, strain the loose leaves out of your sweetened tea after it has come to room temperature to avoid scalding yourself!)
    6. After your sweetened tea has come to room temperature (that is a VERY IMPORTANT STEP!) carefully pour it into your fermentation vessel.  Use a funnel if you are accident and spill-prone like I am.
    7. Add your SCOBY and the starter tea it is sitting in to the sweetened room temperature tea.
    8. Cover with a coffee filter or light cloth secured with a rubber band and allow to ferment at room temperature.
    9. Check on your brewing kombucha every day or so.  You should start to see a new SCOBY form on the surface of your tea.
    10. After a week or 10 days, taste test an ounce or so of your brew.  It should start to have that characteristic “fermented” tang to it.  Depending on how you prefer your kombucha to taste, it may or may not be finished at this point.  It is up to your taste buds to decide.  If you prefer a sweeter kombucha, it will require a shorter fermentation time.  If you prefer a more tart or dry kombucha, you’ll want to let it ferment a little longer.  This is up to you!  Taste test it each day or so until it suits your palate.  To give you a bit of context, in my (rather warm) home it can take 10 days to 2 weeks for my kombucha to taste the way I like it.

When your kombucha tastes right to you, you’re finished.  Congratulations! You’ve made kombucha!  Drink up!
But please don’t stop there.  You’d be missing out on a really terrific opportunity to explore your ‘buch-making artistry if you didn’t bottle it and ferment it a second time.  Read on…
Part 2
There is really no requirement that says you MUST bottle and flavor your kombucha, but to me, this is the best part of making it.  I love it plain, but I love it even more when it’s been flavored and is fizzy.  Here’s the simple lowdown on how to turn your jar of kombucha into bottles of fizzy fruity goodness.

  • Fruit, juice, and herbs – Gather up the stuff you want to use to flavor your kombucha.  The possibilities are nearly endless here and now that we are in the midst of springtime here in the Northern Hemisphere, you have more and more fresh options available to you at farmers’ markets and your local grocery.  Take advantage!
    If you don’t have access to fresh fruit, use frozen.  If you want to try using pre-packaged juices, go for it.
    Here are some of my favorite (and easy!) suggestions:

    • Freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice
    • Freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
    • Fresh or candied ginger
    • Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries
    • Kiwi
    • Bottled mango or pear juice.
  • Procedure
    1. Get your flip-top bottles ready and fill each one with fruit, juice, herbs, or any flavor combination you’ve decided to try.  Try whole pieces of fruit, fruit purees, combinations of juice and fruit, herbs, etc. Use an ounce or two of flavoring agent for every 16 ounce bottle.  This does not call for super-precise measuring, but make sure you do not overload your bottles with fruit or juice.  A little will go a long way.
    2. Fill the bottles with your finished kombucha.  This is where a racking cane and/or funnel really comes in handy!
    3. Seal up the bottles and allow them to sit at room temperature for 3 to 5 more days.
    4. Refrigerate your bottles and enjoy your kombucha cold.  Be extremely cautious when opening a bottle of kombucha!  Contents are under pressure and it is not unheard of for a bottle to erupt like a volcano! Cover the bottle with a dishtowel before opening to keep from being sprayed with an entire bottle of kombucha.  Trust me on this one.

Important Notes

  • It’s helpful to understand a bit of elementary fermentation chemistry in order to properly manage your kombucha: The bacteria and yeasts that are in your SCOBY will eat the sugar you sweetened your tea with.  One of the byproducts of this is carbon dioxide.
    While your kombucha is fermenting in the jar that’s covered with a coffee filter or light cloth, the carbon dioxide just escapes into the atmosphere.  You might see a wayward bubble here and there in your jar, but it won’t be fizzy or effervescent.
    When you bottle your kombucha with more sugar (in the form of fruit or juice), and seal the tops to the bottles, the carbon dioxide can’t escape.  It stays in the bottle which is what makes bottled kombucha fizzy.  You’ve trapped the carbon dioxide inside and when you open it, it all rushes out.  Fizz!
  • Another byproduct of kombucha fermentation is alcohol.  If you’re a regular kombucha drinker you may have noticed that you might get a wee bit of a buzz after downing an entire bottle.  (I can’t be the only one).  There is a very small amount of alcohol in kombucha.  Here are some numbers for you:
    An average batch of kombucha will contain .5 % to 1.5 % ABV (alcohol by volume) as opposed to beer or wine which can range from 2% to 19% ABV depending on the label.  You can see that it is a very tiny amount compared to actual alcoholic beverages, but it’s in there.  If you avoid alcohol for any reason it might be wise to stay away from kombucha too.  Use your best judgement!
  • Fermentation times will vary.  Because bacteria and yeast thrive in warm temperatures, they will work faster when the weather is warmer or the temperature in your kitchen is warm.  During the winter months or when our homes are cooled by air conditioning, fermentation times can be a bit longer.  This is why you taste test to determine when your kombucha is finished fermenting to your liking.

There you have it!  The very basics of kombucha making!  I am sooooo excited for you guys to start brewing your own.  Please please please keep me updated with your progress and do not hesitate to contact me with questions.  I’m always available by leaving a comment, email, dropping me a note on Facebook, tweeting me on Twitter, or even cruising on over to Instagram.
And don’t forget to pre-order your copy of Fermented, A Four Season Approach to Paleo Probiotic Foods.  There are several very unique kombucha flavorings included in the recipe sections.  Go beyond fruit and juice and incorporate vegetables, herbs, and more into your ‘buch flavorings!
Next week is the final installment!  I’ll be covering troubleshooting and FAQ, so get your questions, comments, and problems to me ASAP!  And you do not want to miss the kombucha-related giveaway I have planned.  One of you is going to win a pretty sweet gift.  Stay tuned!

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Kombucha Series Part 4 - Equipment

If you missed the first three parts, check them out here:
1. Make your own SCOBY
2. Choosing the right tea
3. Choosing the right type of sugar
I hope you’ve taken the time to read the first three installments in this kombucha series.  The previous posts will guide you through the preliminary steps necessary for top-quality ‘buch making.  This week’s post is focused on the necessary equipment needed to make kombucha.
To be completely honest, this post could be just a few sentences long.  Allow me to give you a list of all the necessary kombucha-making hardware:
1. A clean glass jar.
That’s all.  This is the beauty of fermentation – because it is such an old craft there isn’t a need for fancypants equipment and gadgetry.  If your great great great grandparents were making kombucha, chances are they didn’t have pH strips, racking canes, continuous brewing rigs, flip-top bottles, etc.  They just used what they had.
But, we live in 2013 and just because we don’t NEED all kinds of equipment for fermentation in general and kombucha making in specific, doesn’t mean that we can’t use some modern-day equipment to make our lives easier.  I mean, my forebearers didn’t have cars, but I’m using one today, right?  Conestoga wagons aren’t my style.
So, below you will find a list of suggested equipment for kombucha making.  I’ll let you know which things I believe to be more useful than others (my opinions), and you can start assembling your ‘buch-making arsenal.
1. A clean glass jar – As noted above, this is probably the only piece of hardware anyone needs for kombucha making.  The size of the jar depends on how much kombucha you want to make.  For me and my household of two adults and no kids, a half gallon jar is enough for an 8-pack of flavored kombucha.  You may find that you want more or less, so adjust the size accordingly.  Just make sure the jar is food-grade glass.  Ceramic is a possibility if you know the glaze on it is food-safe (some are lead based), and metal and plastic are no-nos.  Just stick with a big glass jar and you’ll be fine.
2. Jar covering – Many jars come with lids, but don’t use them for kombucha making.  You want air to be able to get in and out of your kombucha as it ferments and closing it off with a lid just won’t do.  Instead, use a piece of cloth (clean handkerchief) or a coffee filter secured with a rubber band or string.  I do not recommend cheesecloth for this job as the holes in cheesecloth can be large enough for bugs to get in and out of your kombucha jar.  If this happens you are immediately in a throw-it-all-out-and-start-all-over-from-the-beginning scenario.  A piece of light cloth or a coffee filter are light enough to allow air to escape, but have a tight enough weave to keep any intruders at bay.
3. Funnels – I find funnels to be one of the most useful kitchen tools whether or not I’m using them for fermentation.  I’m clumsy and sloppy so any gadget that keeps me from spilling and making a mess is alright in my book.  As far as kombucha making goes, you may find yourself pouring liquids from one vessel to another and funnels of various sizes come in handy.  I have two that are rather small that I bought in a kitchen supply store and one other that I use for large jobs that I picked up in an auto parts store because it is made for helping with an oil change.
4. Racking cane – When I first starting making kombucha I had never even heard of such a device.  Then I met Naomi of Red Star Kombucha and she told me about it.  She regularly makes enough kombucha to fill kegs, so her glass containers are 10 gallons or more.  That’s a lot of kombucha and a lot of HEAVY jars. It is dangerous to pick up a 10 gallon glass container and pour ‘buch out of it!  Instead she uses a racking cane.
A racking cane is a siphon of sorts that is also its own little pump. Simply put one end in the large kombucha filled container and the other in the empty vessel.  Pump the pump a few times to get the liquid flowing and voila!  You have kombucha flowing from your large jar into smaller containers in no time.
Racking canes are available at brewers’ supply stores and come in various sizes.  Many of them also come with a choke device to fit on the tube to stop the flow of liquid when necessary.
Honestly, when I’m bottling kombucha for a second ferment, I use my racking cane AND a funnel, (Like I said, I’m messy.) but the racking cane was a life saver for me.  I love mine and wouldn’t want to bottle an 8-pack without it.
racking cane
5. Flip-top bottles – In the next installment in this kombucha series I am going to cover putting it all together and actually making kombucha.  When you read that, you will see that kombucha is finished and potable before it is bottled.  Therefore, flip-top bottles are not at all essential equipment. However, I would be willing to bet that most kombucha you have ever had in your life has come in a bottle and it’s fizzy.  Flip-top bottles (or even jars with tight-fitting lids) are what help make it fizzy.  Straight out of your fermentation vessel, kombucha is not that fizzy.  Remember, you’ve covered it with something that allows air to escape so any effervescence that could have built up has now escaped.
For the time being, do not get mired down in the procedure of kombucha making.  That is for next week’s post.  But if you are interested in fizzy kombucha, flip-top bottles are what you want to have on hand.
6. Mortar and pestle, food processor, blender, or mini-chopper – When it comes time to spread your creative wings and fly into the world of flavoring your kombucha, having some piece of equipment that will pulverize fruit and herbs will come in handy.  If your knife skills are up to the task, then by all means, skip these things.  I prefer my ‘buch flavored with juices and finely blended fruits.  This isn’t something I can do by hand so I let the machines do all the work for me.
7. A fine sieve – If you are anything like me, and chunky kombucha isn’t your thing, then blending fruits for ‘buch flavoring in a blender or food processor is step one in the prep, and step two is running the fruit pulp through a fine sieve.  You kombucha will be free of miniature seeds, fibers, leaves, and pulp!
8. A continuous brewing vessel – This is not at all necessary equipment for kombucha making, but it definitely falls under the category of convenience devices.  When I make kombucha, I use a half-gallon glass jar, bottle it using a racking cane and funnel, refill it with tea after that, and I’m done.  This system works for me, but the only downside is that once I bottle a batch and start another, I have to wait a few weeks before my next batch is finished.  There is some down time between when Dude and I have finished the 8 bottles and when the next batch is ready.  Like I said, this works in our household, but if you absolutely cannot live without your ‘buch from day-to-day, perhaps a continuous brewing system is what you need.
A suitable vessel for a continuous brew system is similar to what you would need in any kombucha making vessel – glass or ceramic food-grade jar.  Continuous brew vessels are typically larger (a gallon or more) and also feature a spigot near the bottom of the container.  This allows you to remove kombucha from the container without disturbing the SCOBY (which is usually found on top of the liquid).  You will regularly remove kombucha through the spigot and bottle it (or just drink it straight from the tap!), and then replace what you have removed with sweetened tea.  No need for racking canes, funnels, or waiting for the next batch to brew.
9. Various other gadgets – When you get in to bottling and flavoring kombucha, a collection of other gadgets may come in handy.  Citrus reamers, cherry pitters, strawberry hullers, ginger graters, etc.  Use these at your own discretion.  They are far from necessary!  I live in a small condo with a modest kitchen so I don’t have room for all kinds of extra stuff (or as Alton Brown would call them, unitaskers!). But I know that kitchen gadgets are popular and some of you may have these tools already in your arsenal or you just like collecting fun kitchen tools.  Power on.
A note about materials:  As mentioned in the SCOBY post, because it is a live delicate collection of beings, it is also fragile.  Harsh chemicals, cleaning agents, and certain materials are bad for kombucha making and SCOBY health.  Be sure that your vessels are all food grade glass or ceramic.  Metal and plastic have no place in kombucha making.  That is to say, anything that will come in prolonged contact with your ‘buch should not be made of metal or plastic.  Siphoning your kombucha from a jar to a bottle through a racking cane with plastic tubing or straining fruit juices through a metal sieve is perfectly fine.  But brewing a batch in a metal container or plastic jug is not.  If you are considering a kombucha continuous brew system, be sure that all of the components are food-safe and made of the proper materials – especially the spigot!
As with any hobby, kombucha making (or any kind of fermentation) can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be.  Have a jar?  You have enough to get started.  All other equipment is optional, but as I mentioned above, there isn’t a thing wrong with injecting a little convenience into your life.  If you are just starting out, do not buy a kitchen full of equipment!  Get the basics and grow your kombucha making operation from there.
Feel free to check out my Amazon store for a listing of equipment that I use to brew kombucha and other stuff that I find indispensable in my kitchen including all the stuff I list in this post.  (Note, that this link leads to my Amazon.com affiliate store where I will earn a small percentage of moolah for each purchase you make from it.  Just FYI.)
Stay tuned for next week’s post when we put it all together!  SCOBY + tea + sugar + equipment = KOMBUCHA!  At last!
And as usual, if you have any questions, comments, or issues you’d like me to cover in upcoming installments, leave me a comment, catch me on Facebook, send me an email, or tweet me a Tweet.

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