Making Kombucha and Jun

Kombucha is a probiotic drink with many health benefits. It is made by fermenting tea and sugar with a kombucha culture, known as a SCOBY (Symbiotic Community Of Bacteria and Yeasts). Sometimes this gets called a mushroom, although it is not actually a mushroom.

Jun is similar to kombucha but is made using a different SCOBY and uses honey instead of sugar. I started out making kombucha until I discovered jun. I prefer to use local honey rather than sugar, and I prefer the flavour so I stick to making jun now.

Health Benefits

There is a lot written about kombucha, but not much about jun. It is assumed that the health benefits are similar, some say jun is even better.

Kombucha is known to help with detoxification. In fact it is recommended that people new to kombucha start with only a small amount the first few days so that the detoxification is not too strong.

Like other fermented foods, jun and kombucha are full of probiotic lactobacillu bacteria which help with digestion and also the immune system.

Kombucha is also good for energy levels as it is high in B vitamins.

Recipe

This the recipe I use for jun. Kombucha is usually made with black tea rather than green tea, and sugar rather than honey, but the basic idea is the same.

I generally use a mix of green tea and rooibos tea (sometimes called red tea), and then with each batch I add various additional herbs, recently I’ve been using lemon verbena as I particularly like the resulting drink.

Different types of honey affect the flavour of the resulting jun, but the specific flavour of the honey is usually lost. Eg if you use lemon honey, the jun will not taste of lemon, although it will have a lighter flavour compared to if you used a stronger honey such as heather or chestnut which give a deeper flavour to the jun.

I use a 4 litre jar, although I don’t fill it to the top so make slightly less than 4 litres, here’s my recipe:

2 tablespoons green tea
2 tablespoons rooibos tea
2 tablespoons of another herb to give flavour or medicinal benefits – lemon verbena, chaga, chanca piedra, lemongrass, etc
375g honey

Make the tea. I generally make the tea in the evening and leave it to brew overnight and then I continue the next morning.

Mix the honey into the tea, until it is fully dissolved. Top up with more water but don’t overfill the jar.

A couple of weeks ago I put more honey in by accident, I used around 485g and it made very good jun, with a stronger flavour. Experiment and find the amounts you are happy with.

Add some jun from the last batch (if this is your first time, you should get some with the SCOBY) and put the SCOBY on top. (Where to get a SCOBY? If you have a friend making jun, ask them. The SOCBY will keep growing so you can share pieces of it with friends. If not you can try asking on this Facebook group.)

Cover with a light cloth, so it is open to air but dust and flies can’t get in.

Fermentation time is dependant on room temperature. I go from 8 days in winter to 7 days as it is getting warmer, to 6 days in summer. I live in Portugal and have no heating so room temperature varies quite a bit through the year. If you have heating you might find your room temperature stays more constant and you don’t need to vary the fermentation time. I usually taste it when I think it should be ready – with experience you will be able to tell whether it is ready or needs another day.

Use only glass or ceramic containers to ferment in – the acids in the jun or kombucha will eat into plastic and contaminate your drink and metal can kill the cultures.

Bottling

When the jun is ready, take the SCOBY from the top and reserve for your next batch. Strain the jun and put in bottles. The flavour improves and the jun will become fizzy from being in a bottle for a few days – I find a week is a very good time. You have to be careful at this point, bottles can explode if the pressure builds up too much. And be careful opening the bottle, it can spray out if there is too much pressure!

Now it is time to experiment! Recently I used lemongrass for the first time, the resulting jun had an amazing flavour like a bitter beer. Let me know your favourite herbs to use in the comments below.

Five Tips for Transitioning to a Raw Food Diet

Here are what I think are some of the more important points to think about for those new to raw food, from my 15 years of experience experimenting with various raw diets. If you think I have missed anything, please let me know in the comments.

1. Don’t think too much in terms of giving up foods

Instead, think about adding new foods to your diet. Fresh juicy fruit. Tasty salad with avocado and olives. Switch in raw replacements for your favourite foods. If you like cake, learn how to make delicious raw cake. If you like chocolate, there is plenty of raw chocolate available or you can make your own. Try our monthly raw snack box for regular inspiration.

And don’t worry about being perfect or “100% raw”, etc. There are no rules. Eat in the way which works for you.

2. But try to avoid these foods

Having said that, there are a few foods that giving up would really help you on your journey: wheat/gluten and pasteurised dairy. If you still want to eat dairy, raw dairy is much healthier for you, although should best to limit.

3. Include fermented foods

These will help your digestive system and help you to get the most nutrients from your food. You can very easily make your own fermented foods, or you can buy them, but if you buy make sure they are raw/unpasteurised – pasteurised fermented foods are quite pointless as all the beneficial bacteria are killed!

I love to make sauerkraut (fermented cabbage and other vegetables), or you can buy ready made sauerkraut in various flavours. Jun is another favourite of mine, it’s like kombucha but made with honey instead of sugar. I also make a range of fermented drinks depending what fruits are in season, you can try all kinds of fruit, but here are my recipes for fermented tangerine or orange drink and fermented grape drink.

4. Make sure you eat enough fat and denser foods

Yes, I know this is probably the opposite to the advice many raw fooders will give, but in my experience it is important to eat enough fat otherwise you will either be hungry all the time, or eating all the time.

Personally I like avocados, usually one per day, plus hemp seeds (in my breakfast). Other nuts and seeds including sesame seedschia seedspumpkin seeds and almonds all play a role, generally always soaked, or ready prepared by soaking and then dehydrating such as this range from Raw Ecstasy.

I also eat three raw eggs per day (local, free range, from a friend who looks after the chickens and ducks well) and a small amount of meat or fish a couple of times a week, of course you need to find which foods work for you.

5. Keep being inspired

Get yourself some raw recipe books and keep making new foods. Or search for new recipes online, there are lots, including here on my blog. Go to potlucks and meet other people interested in healthy diets. Go to festivals, workshops and retreats and you will keep learning.

Let me know your best tip for transitioning to raw food in the comments.

How to make Fermented Tangerine Drink & Natural Lemonade

I love this recipe, it’s so simple but makes a really delicious and refreshing drink, naturally carbonated. Plus it contains natural beneficial probiotic bacteria from the fermentation.

Tangerine Drink

Ingredients to make 1 litre – just multiply up to make larger quantities (I usually make 4 litres)

I usually make this with honey, but I experimented with dried figs as an alternative. I’m sure you could experiment with other sweeteners, although honey and figs both have natural yeasts which probably help with the fermentation.

Method

Squeeze the tangerines. I like to add the pulp too. Stir in the other ingredients; if using honey stir until it is completely dissolved. Top up with water, but don’t fill right to the top.

I like to use a kilner jar (as pictured), this has a rubber seal which allows gasses to escape during fermentation, but doesn’t allow oxygen back in. If you use a jar with a tight seal, you will need to open it every day or so, otherwise it could explode…

Leave to ferment. I turn the jar upside down once a day to mix the contents up a bit, I think this makes it ferment a little quicker. The time depends on temperature, I find usually it is ready in 5 to 7 days. You can tell when it is getting ready as you will see small bubbles, and some of the pulp tends to float to the top as you can see in this photo.

Start tasting it every day, it will constantly change. Once it is to your liking, you can put it in bottles and put in the fridge, this will slow the fermentation down so that it will change less.

Orangeade

Follow exactly the same recipe as above, just substitute freshly squeezed orange juice. Just be careful not to squeeze the orange too hard at the end or you will get some of the bitter oils from the skin in the juice which negatively affects the flavour.

LemonaidLemonade – makes 1 litre

I had to adjust the recipe slightly for lemons:

  • 200ml freshly squeezed lemon juice (or maybe less, see below)
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey
  • pinch of salt
  • water (approx 800ml)

Note slightly less lemon juice, and 3 times as much honey (1 tablespoon rather than 1 teaspoon). I’ve not tried this with dried figs, but if you want to try I would  try 6.

And the other major difference is fermentation time, it takes much longer. I’d actually given up on this recipe, but tried it again today and found that it is finally ready, almost exactly one month since I made it. (Maybe it has been ready for a while, I’ve probably not tasted it for 2 weeks.)

Actually, I’m drinking this as I write, and maybe 200ml is still too much lemon juice, it is quite acidic in the back of my throat. If I was making this again I might try only 150ml. If yours turns out too strong, just dilute with water when you want to drink it.

Tips and Ticks

Once I tried adding orange zest to the ferment – it didn’t work, it really slowed down the fermentation process and didn’t particularly make much difference to the flavour.

Approximate amount of juice, of course this will vary with fruit size:

250ml tangerine juice = approx 6 tangerines

200ml lemon juice = approx 4 lemons

Oranges are much more variable in size so harder to say, but 250ml is probably somewhere between 2 to 4 oranges.

Let me know what you think if you try this. Any improvements?

Mulberry Chocolate Recipe

Mulberries in bowlWhen I was younger, all I knew about mulberries was the nursery rhyme “Here we go round the mulberry bush”, and even that was wrong, mulberries grow on trees! It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I tasted my first mulberry, when I was in Sicily. It was a fresh white one, and I love it. I then tried black ones and loved those too.

I’ve since found that you can grow mulberries in the UK, at least in the south, although they are a lot more common in the Mediterranean.

Mulberries are great nutritionally, they are high in vitamin C, magnesium, iron and some B vitamins, plus they contain the antioxidant resveratrol which may have health benefits, lots of studies are been done on it.

While fresh mulberries are amazing and are one of my favourite fruits, they are only available for a couple of months in the summer, but dried mulberries are available all the time and amazing for making all sorts of sweet recipes. I particularly like to use them to make raw cake bases along with walnuts or other nuts.

Ground mulberriesMulberries go really well with chocolate, here’s my recipe:

40g cacao paste
25g cacao butter
15g coconut butter
45g dried mulberries, ground
35g lucuma powder
20g carob powder
½ teaspoon raw honey (optional)
1 tsp vanilla powder (optional, but really improves the flavour)

(Note, if you prefer to use cacao powder rather than paste, you can use approx 20g cacao powder and change to 45g cacao butter.)

The first step is to grind the mulberries. I did this in my Vitamix, although a coffee grinder might also work. I did it in small batches as they get sticky and clump together – don’t grind for too long as this makes them stick back together. I then put them through a sieve to remove the larger chunks.

Melt the cacao butter, cacao paste and coconut butter gently (I use a bowl in a pan of warm water). Once it is all liquid, slowly stir in the rest of the ingredients. You want the consistency to be fairly stiff, if it seems too liquid, add a little more lucuma, carob or mulberries.

Pour into moulds and put in the fridge to set. The chocolate is slightly chewy, not smooth, hope you like it.

Finished chocolates

Designing bags, dresses, cushions and more

Recently I’ve been redesigning Jolita’s art website Red Ant Art, and designing new products from birthday cards to clothes based on her artwork. I originally designed the website over 5 years ago so it was ready for a redesign and update! I kept the site on WordPress and switched to Ascend theme.

Red Ant Art screenshot

The fun part is using sites like Redbubble and Society6 which are print on demand sites for physical products. They print artwork and photography on a large range of products, from the more common items like t-shirts, bags, notebooks, skirts and dresses, plus canvas prints all the way to shower curtains, window curtains, towels, bath mats and more! Here are a selection of my favourite products:

You can see the whole range of products at Redbubble and Society6.

Raw Food in České Budějovice (Czech Republic)

I’m staying with a friend Martina in a little village in the Czech Republic, today she was busy so I spent the day by myself exploring the nearby city of České Budějovice.

Shelf of raw food products in Czech organic shopMartina told me about some organic shops and a vegan restaurant for me to check out – but I was surprised to find lots of raw food in one of the organic shops and a full raw food menu in the vegan restaurant!

In the first organic shop I went in, Slunecnice (which means Sunflower) on street Chelcičkého number 78/21 there were three shelves like the one to the right full of raw food products: crackers, nut butters, snack bars, raw chocolate bars, etc. Two of the shelves were dedicated to LifeFood products, which is a Czech raw food company I know about from my last visit the Czech Republic many years ago.

I bought myself a couple of Czech made raw snack bars and an Italian raw chocolate bar, here are my thoughts:

 

Italian raw chocolate barCacao Crudo by Loverdiana – Organic Raspberry flavour Raw Chocolate bar made in Italy

I was particularly attracted by the packaging for this bar! It was raspberry flavour which was really good and strong, slightly tart as expected which complements the chocolate well.

It was a large 50g bar and relatively  expensive so I expected something really special – it was very good and the chocolate was comparable to most raw chocolate bars, but not extra special like I was expecting (the packaging also made me expect something extra special!)

Other flavours were available, you can find out more on their website cacaocrudo.it

Open raspberry raw chocolate bar

Tyčinka Kakaová – Organic Raw Chocolate Snack Bar

Tyčinka kakaová - raw snack bar

A very simple snack bar containing only dates, sunflower seeds, almonds and raw cacao. It had a good fruity flavour with a light chocolate touch, and I could taste the sunflower seeds. Great texture, overall really good.

Made by Markol Food, but information only in Czech so probably not available elsewhere.

Chitta Raw Slim Relax raw snack bars

Chitta Raw Snack Bar - Jujube flavourAnother raw snack bar, this one with more depth of flavour, with a few more ingredients. There were three types available in the shop, “Energy”, “Sport Activity” and the one I got “Slim Relax”. I didn’t get it because I need to slim (I definitely don’t!) or was in the mood for relaxing, “energy” might have been more useful for my city tour, but it sounded like the best flavour with jujube, quite a rare fruit also known as Chinese date apple, something we grew back when I used to live at Ecoforest.

The ingredients were dates, hazelnuts, jujube, raisins, chia seeds, cocoa beans and carob and it was delicious. Great flavour and texture, quite sweet but not too sweet. Only thing is that it wasn’t organic unlike most of these kind of raw snacks.

Slunce – Vegan Restaurant with Raw Menu

Fridge of raw cakesThe surprise of the day was Slunce (meaning Sun), the vegan restaurant. I wasn’t particularly interested in going, but I happened to walk past it and notice the mention of raw food so I had a closer look. Once I saw the fridge full of cake and confirmed that they were all raw, there was no turning back! It was very hard to choose which one to try, but in the end I went for the blueberry “cheesecake” (raw vegan). And yes, it was delicious!

Raw Vegan Blueberry Cheesecake

I didn’t eat anything else but there was a full raw menu, only in Czech but it included nori wraps and lots of salads (the lady who was there spoke some English). They also sold a selection of organic dried nuts and seeds, plus delicious fresh dates. Maybe I will get to go with Martina who can translate the Czech for me!

Slunce is located at Krajinská 238/23 and they have a website here: restaurantslunce.cz

If you have any Czech raw food tips, feel free to comment below.

Product Review: Roh Kostlich spicy raw snack bar

Raw Snack Bar with Goji berries, Chia sees and Chia flavourRaw snack bar I also found this raw snack bar in a Berlin organic shop: Goji Chia Chai and it was delicious. Sweet and tangy and fairly spicy. It has a really good combination of spices (cinnamon, cardamom, all spice, cloves and cayenne pepper). The cayenne does dominate the flavour slightly so only for you if you like it hot!

Not sure if it is available outside of Germany, but look out for it if you come to Germany. I’m fairly sure there were also other flavours available.

Product Review: Govinda Erdzipan (Raw Tigernut Marzipan)

I’ve seen Govinda branded raw products in the shops for years but never tried them before, possibly because they always seem quite expensive compared to comparable products, although the pack size is quite large. But anyway, in one of the many organic shops in Berlin I spotted Erdzipan balls (I’m not sure exactly what this product is called in English, but it is raw tiger nut marzipan, tiger nuts are also known as chufa), along with a selection of other raw foods including Om Bar raw chocolate bars. I love marzipan so I decided to give it a try.

Tiger nuts can supposedly help prevent heart disease and thrombosis, activate blood circulation and reduce the risk of colon cancer. They are rich in energy and protein, minerals and vitamins E and C. So quite a superfood.

Unfortunately I wasn’t completely impressed. The texture is amazing, but they are far too sweet for me and the bitter almond flavour (the classic marzipan flavour) is almost none existent. I should have checked the ingredients list slightly better before purchasing: only 20% tiger nuts, so almost 80% dates. Of course I’m sure many people will like these, just not me!

Berlin – Photos of The Wall

I’m in Berlin for a little while, yesterday I went to explore the city and see what is left of the wall, a section about 1.6km long which is now covered with artwork, some of which is really beautiful with inspiring messages.

There are organic (“Bio”) shops everywhere in Berlin, often with local organic produce, and of course raw chocolate bars and superfoods, I’ve seen the LoveChock raw chocolate brand everywhere.

Berlin is a very green city, parks everywhere, even a small forest (Plänterwald) along the Spree river.

Berlin wall - Peace for all that lives on this earth

The text translates as “Peace for all that lives on this earth! Care for what’s living!”

Berlinwall Berlin wall Berlin wall Berlin wall Berlin wall Dancing to Freedom - Berlin wall