Kombucha part 2

Kombucha Revisited

Kombucha is the perfect answer to our craving for fizzy non alcoholic beverages. It is wonderfully flavored, gently effervescent, only slightly sweet, nicely complex, and overall delicious. Although made with black tea and sugar, the bacteria have feasted on these very ingredients, changing them in their wonderful alchemy into more bacteria, yeast, carbon dioxide and a slight bit of alcohol.

How I came to Kombucha

My journey with fermented foods is now well into its fifth year. Such a lot has happened, and what our household consumes has remarkably changed in these years. Health has also subtly but perceptibly changed too. I now can’t remember when anyone was down and out with a cold or flu, yet we’ve been in contact with many who have. No one has reported urinary infections, yeast problems, or anything like.

My initiation to kombucha had nothing to do with this though. I was aware of kombucha, but had never tried it. One day shopping, I bought a bottle and it was decent if unremarkable. There was a small slimy thing in it I now recognize as a tiny scoby. I set aside a 1 cup jar with the scoby and some mango-orange juice to see what would happen. Indeed in about a week, it consumed all that juicy sugar and now had grown. “Well”, said I, “this is most interesting. Lets see where we can take this.” Long story short, I began investigating, joined the Kombucha Nation FB group, started a spreadsheet to chart my initial attempts, purchased a 3 gallon stone crock. By far the most succinct and useful article on it is a Wiley Library online article. I strongly advise readers to click the link for their (albeit nerdy and highly scientific) overview.

Initially my family members were pretty skeptical, and in my initial attempts, understandably so. They still kept going for the spritzer, worried that my bottles might explode in their faces or that somehow they might be poisoned, or that it would be simply awful. None of that happened, and now our homemade kombucha is the go-to drink. In fact I’m in deep trouble if there is not a couple of bottles of cherry kombucha waiting in the fridge.

About this blog

This blog is the online accompaniment to my first kombucha workshop at Karma Coop in Toronto. I’ve delayed doing such a workshop because of the complexity of the drink. It requires a lot more commitment, space, and timing than sourdough bread – so far my other workshop. Similar to sourdough, one is doing some serious microbial husbandry. Under the wrong conditions, the bacteria can die, while under the right conditions, they can produce magic.

As workshop participants you likely came because you are already familiar with commercial kombucha, and would like to be able to do it a lot more cheaply, and be in control of the flavors you want. However, there are a few things you need to invest in and be prepared to brew in a narrow range of days. So lets start there:

Equipment needed:

  • 3 gallon crock will make 6 litres of kombucha at a time.
  • 2 L (or so) pot (for the sugar syrup)
  • 4-5L pot (for the tea)
  • Wooden spoon
  • Large bowl
  • Large strainer
  • Prep bottles: I prefer the 1L glass juice bottles. Mason jars could work except that what is called 1 liter is anywhere between 900ml and 1L.

The six 1L bottles I use to prepare the brew.

  • Storage Bottles: You need about 2 times the bottle volume than the kombucha you are planning on making. Your bottles must have a narrow neck, like a beer or wine bottle. Unless you use a narrow necked bottle of some kind, it won’t carbonate as well. The shape of the narrow necked beer bottle encourages natural carbonation. This is because the fermenting yeasts do not require oxygen, whereas the bacteria involved do. The narrow neck in a sealed bottle reduces the oxygen available, encouraging the yeast to continue fermenting, converting the sugars into carbon dioxide.Finally, consider where you will keep it in the fridge. They should be stored upright so your bottles need the headroom.

Here are some bottle options:

You could purchase 500ml-750ml-1000L flip top bottles at hardware or kitchen stores

Wash out and save wine bottles

Have a Corona party where you provide the beer. (non screw off top bottles are better as they seal a bottle cap better.) If you go this route, you also need to buy a bottle capper and bottle caps. In Toronto these can be purchased from a number of local wine making or brewer’s stores. (two are noted here but there are others) [photo of bottle capper and caps]

Any other bottle as long as it has a very narrow neck.

  • Measuring cups
  • A funnel that fits in a beer bottle
  • A fine strainer that can nest in the funnel

The funnel and strainer in the beer bottle

  • Weigh scale – use an electronic scale as you will be weighing and taring bottles.
  • Labels – its a good idea to know what’s in the bottle and when it was bottled.

That’s the physical equipment. Beyond that you need the following ingredients: These quantities will produce a 6 L brew.

  • A SCOBY ( a Symbiotic Community of Bacteria and Yeast) For your first brew you need it gifted to you. For subsequent brews, reuse your scoby.
  • Kombucha starter: 1 litre or so of your previous batch. For your first brew, you can get by with commercial kombucha, but its best if it can be gifted to you
  • Tea: you can use a variety of tea (20g)
  • Sugar – any will do (600g)
  • Water – distilled, reverse osmosis, filtered, UV treated: you want to avoid water with treatment chemicals or other bacteria that could interact with your ferment and produce off tastes (4-5L)
  • Juice: NOT fruit drink! Real juice! (2L)

It’s important to recognize that there are many ways to make kombucha. Google it or read through the Kombucha Nation FB page for other techniques and ideas. I’m presenting this method as a fail safe way to at least get started before you try your own variations.

Time commitment

Your kombucha brews in its first fermentation (F1) phase for about 10 days. This could be as little as 8 and as long as 14 days, at about 19C. If it is warmer, the fermentation must be shorter, if cooler, it can be longer. What you want to avoid is it getting over fermented and turning to vinegar. If its brewed too quickly, the bacteria won’t have fully fermented.

On brew day, it will take about 2 hours of your time. This can be split up over 2 days.


You need to have the following space available

  • A kitchen counter
  • A hopefully cool dark place to store your first ferment (called 1F from now on)
  • A cool dark place to store your bottles with the second ferment in it (called 2F from now on)
  • Fridge space to store 4-6 bottles at a time.

The existential kombucha questions

  • Do I want to invest in equipment needed?
  • Do I have the space?
  • Do I want to be locked into making booch every week and a half?

If your answer to all these questions is a hearty and enthusiastic YES! Then lets get going – Those in my workshop can Email me and I will get you set up with a scoby and starter.


Mise en scene: pots, tea, sugar, jars, weigh scale, funnel, 1F brew, bottles

Every 10 days or so I do a Kombucha brew day. I start a new batch and bottle the old. I process about 6 litres at a time and the method I have worked out gives me reliable, delicious kombucha every time. Here’s how:

  1. Make the tea: Heat 2L water, 20g tea and 200g sugar until boiling. Put a lid on it and turn to low. After 5 minutes turn off and leave for about 20 minutes or until the tea is strong. Changing the quantities will change the amount of kombucha you make.

The tea: 200g sugar, 20g tea, 2L water, with another 2 L to be added.

  1. Make sugar syrup: Sugar syrup is a 1:1 sugar:water mix. It needs to be fully dissolved. Weigh 350ml sugar and 350g water in the smaller pot. Heat until the sug

    About to remove the scoby, and pour the 1F into jars.

    ar is fully dissolved, but don’t boil as the evaporation will change the ratio of sugar to water. Pour into a jar that you can easily pour from.

  2. Take your crock and remove the scoby to the large bowl. Cover it with fresh water.

The scoby waiting in a bowl to be added to the next brew.

  1. Place your weigh scale beside your crock and have liter bottles ready. Pour 650g of 1F kombucha in each bottle. Leave approximately 1L of 1F kombucha in the crock. Its important to weigh the kombucha as 650g of kombucha will not quite be the same as 650ml

    The 1F brew added to the jar. A couple of grams off is OK.

  2. Add 100g of sugar syrup to each bottle (1.e. 50g sugar). Make sure your syrup is not hotter than lukewarm.
  3. There will be approximately 250ml of space left in each bottle. Fill each up with juice of your choice.

Prepare your bottles according to the quantities before you. 1 L will nicely fill 3 x 330ml beer bottles, or 2 500ml fliptops – its all easy math.

  1. Nest the strainer in your filter and fill each bottle until it goes into the neck of the bottle, and cap it.
  2. Label it – flavor and date – and store
  3. Add 2 litres of cold water to your tea. If it is quite hot, weigh out 2kilos of ice cubes and add that, or a mix of weighed ice cubes and cold water. The temperature cannot be higher than lukewarm.
  4. Strain the tea (should be about 4 L) into the crock with the starter kombucha.
  5. Add the scoby and the water it was in.
  1. Cover tightly and store in a cool dark place for 10 or so days.
  2. Leave some of the bottled (2F) kombucha at room temperature for about 4 days. It will begin to develop natural CO2. If you give the bottle a gentle shake you will see if it is fermented or not by the bubbles that appear. DO NOT shake vigorously! Store the rest of it in a cool place. If all of it remains above 21C it will need to be refrigerated after 4 days otherwise it will quickly over ferment and you will get very messy explosions.

Done! 19 333 ml bottles, 3 different flavors.

A few other notes….


You need to find a scoby – most people get one from a friend, or someone you know. Anyone who makes kombucha can peel off some of their scoby and give it away. If you are truly in need, take one of the tiny scobys from a commercial Kombucha and put it in a 1 cup jar with a little juice. Leave it out, covered, on the counter. It should grow. As it gets bigger, feed it more juice, and work up towards the container you will be fermenting your kombucha in. You also need to get a litre of kombucha as a starter. This can be from said friend, or can be bought commercially.

Fruit flies

Fruit flies love kombucha too. They can’t keep away – they’ll even dive bomb anything that does not have a lid. If you have these critters buzzing around you will need to cover the kombucha, keep lids on your jars and bottles and and tie several layers of a thick tea towel on top of your crock tightly with a string or elastic. If you do get an infestation on your scoby, toss that top layer off as its going to be hiding eggs, and be scrupulously careful about ensuring nothing can get in.

How long can you keep it?

Kombucha is pretty happy in a cool environment for a couple of weeks, but after that it really should be refrigerated, otherwise it will be over carbonated and fizz up or even explode. If it is kept longer than a month, it will ultimately change to vinegar.

What else can you do with kombucha?

  • Marinate meat: because it is acidic it has a similar effect on meat as does wine or beer. Before adding the kombucha, rub 1.5% of the weight of the meat in salt, and add pepper and garlic. Leave for about an hour, then add kombucha until the meat is marinated and flavored. Its best to leave it for several hours. Before cooking the meat you can reduce the marinade, add flavorings and cornstarch to make a rich gravy.
  • As a mixed drink: with vodka, gin, rum… try out different possibilities. Likewise it can be a mojito base
  • If it turns to vinegar, use as the acid in a salad dressing. By weight: 3 parts oil, 1 part kombucha.
  • Anything you do with juice, you can do with kombucha

Health concerns

Kombucha contains active lactic acid bacteria. This is the same stuff as the gut bacteria in your body that keeps you healthy. We depend on kombucha to keep us healthy around here. However, more is not always better. Kombucha can be wonderfully preventative, but also if you drink too much you could get sick too. Everyone is different, and it really is unpredictable. My suggestion would be to try a single bottle in a day and see how your system reacts to it, and go by what feels right for you.


The main cleanup issues concern your bottles once you have poured a brew. They really must be thoroughly rinsed right after pouring. If you have a dishwasher, definitely put them in there. However, don’t count on your dishwasher to actually get a lot of water up that narrow neck and clean things as you would expect. In fact if you put your dishes in without rinsing them there’s a good chance some of those food particles will get baked on the inside of your bottle. The main purpose of the dishwasher is to sanitize the bottles by virtue of the heat. You want your bottles as clean as you can get them, otherwise unwanted bacteria and yeast will find your kombucha a pleasing environment to grow in too.

Cleaning your crock between brews is, as far as I am concerned, optional: its kept free from anything except the scoby and kombucha you put into it, so unless you are getting an off brew, I would keep your starter booch in the crock, add the tea and the scoby and wrap it up again.

Sooooo………….A quick brewday recap:

First ferment (1F)

  • 2L water
  • 20g tea
  • 200g sugar
  • 2L more water once tea has brewed and cooled down (tea must be at room temperature before the scoby and starter are added.)
  • Into your crock, pour the tea (strained), your scoby from the prior batch, and 1 litre of kombucha from your prior batch. Cover and ferment at room temperature for about 10 days.

2nd ferment (2F)

Per litre of finished kombucha, combine

  • 650 g 1F kombucha (from your crock)
  • 100g of 1:1 syrup:water
  • 250g juice

Bottle in narrow necked bottles, leave at room temperature for 4-5 days.


Kombucha Nation FB group https://www.facebook.com/groups/KombuchaNation.CulturesHealthHealing/

is a great resource to see how others do Kombucha. There is a thorough files section to more carefully examine different aspects of Kombucha.


Homage to Mollie Katzen

Homage to Mollie Katzen

I’m fine doing a recipe, even creating and adjusting one. Where I fall down is that initial spark of creativity to figure out what to do in the first place. Unlike what seems to be the norm these days, I don’t head over to Pinterest and dial up some assortment of interesting recipes to browse through. Boringly I start by looking in the fridge seeing what is there, and figuring out something that can be made reasonably quickly.

My wife has other ideas. Not exactly heading to Pinterest – but pulling 30 year old fav cookbooks off the shelf she hasn’t looked at for a long time. It was essentially a message to me: “I’m getting a little tired with the same same. You need to broaden things a bit.” My reaction was “Sure, tell me what you would like.”

Three of the books were by Mollie Katzen: The Moosewood Cookbook, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest and Still life with Menu.

Mollie Katzen first came to prominence in the 1970’s with the famous Moosewood Cookbook – one of the best selling cookbooks of all time. It’s a vegetarian classic with pretty much any go to vegetarian dish that is out there. My humus and babaganouj recipes are right out of it. Back in my vegetarian days, her books were a constant go to reference.

Its interesting looking at the recipes now – 30-40 years later. So much has changed: all recipes show volumes – no weights. There’s a lot of cheese happening, and there is no mention at all of fermentation. These books were developed before the internet too. Moosewood is hand written and hand drawn. Over the years, our well used copies are getting very dog eared, with notes and stickies everywhere.

If you do not already have these two books, I would strongly recommend buying them. They are still unique, and still relevant in these faster moving times.

My idea here is to do something of an homage to Mollie and her superb work from a generation ago. Still life with Menu has an interesting concept: instead of a series of recipes categorized by type, a set of menus are presented. Also, she presents options for preparing parts of each meal several days ahead of time – the idea being that you are not scurrying about on the day the meal is served. Finally, each menu is accompanied by a watercolour showing some or all of the menu as a classic still life painting. So my project here will be to try out a number of these menus, and recording my thoughts in this blog.

Light tomato soup, Jewelled Rice Salad, and Yogurt scones

I didn’t have to prepare this one several days apart. It was pretty easy to pull together and I did take some short cuts. I’ll present the original recipe on one side and my variation and notes on the other: Generally I am cutting the recipe in half as there are but three of us eating.

Original ingredients: Light tomato soup My variation
3 lbs ripe tomatoes in chunks 750 ml of my home made tomato sauce
4 cloves garlic, chopped 2 heaping tablespoons of homemade pesto
6-8 fresh basil leaves
2 tbs brown sugar 1 tbs brown sugar
1 tsp salt ½ tsp salt
Pepper to taste Pepper to taste
Parsely and/or dill as garnish. Parsely and/or dill as garnish.

Next up: Yogurt scones

These are, as promised, very light and airy scones. They are more like baked pancakes than anything else. This makes them quite tempting – they were definitely all consumed. As with other recipes I made a half batch, and converted volumes to weights. The instructions are as expected: mix wet, mix dry, & combine stirring as little as possible, bake – 400 12-15 minutes.

I made one addition to it: I added some sourdough starter, and left it all on the counter for about an hour.

Original Yogurt scones My version (approximately half the recipe)
1.5c white flour 110g all purpose flour
1.5c whole wheat flour 70g whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder 1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda 1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt 3.6g sal. This is 2% of the flour weight and a much higher % than in the original.
6 tbs cold butter (unsalted) – interesting – back in the day salted/unsalted was not distinguished 45g unsalted butter
2 tbs packed brown sugar 13g brown sugar (when you weigh it, you do not have to be concerned with it being packed or not)
½ c packed raisins 35g currants
1 ¼ c yogurt .75c yogurt
2 eggs (1 egg in mix, 1 beaten and brushed on top) 1 egg + egg white to brush on top
I also added 2 tbs of sourdough starter

After an hour on the counter the sourdough was beginning to work its magic.

I think you will be able to read the original instructions in the photo below.

This recipe worked out quite well, and really was exceptionally easy. As usual I could not help weighing things. The scones turned out a little like pancakes as well – hardly a surprise as they are a batter dropped onto a cookie tray. One change I would recommend is to use parchment paper. This will guarantee nothing sticks. Was parchment paper a thing 30 years ago? Perhaps not.

Finally, a jewelled rice salad.

This was one recipe I did make some significant changes to. I’ve been making grain salads for years now – they offer almost endless variety with the array of grains to choose from and all of the wonderful stuff you can put into them. But in the ‘80’s they were a new idea, and in my opinion we owe a debt of thanks to MK and her collaborators for bring them to our tables.

That said, we have definitely pushed the envelope by 2018 s you will see when the original and my recipe are compared. We want a bigger bolder taste, and this was achieved with a ponegranate half. As in other recipes I cut the original in half.

Jeweled rice salad (original) My version (half the quantity)

I did not weigh these ingredients.

Rice: 2c rice, 3 c water I had brown rice already cooked, so I used 2 cups of that
⅓ c olive oil ⅓ c olive oil ( felt it needed more oil)
6-8 tbs lemon juice 3-4 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp salt 1/2 tsp salt
1 large clove garlic 1 clove garlic
1 tbs honey 1/2 tbs honey
4-6 scallions cut fine 2 scallions cut fine
½ c finely minced parsley ½ c finely minced parsley. I thought it deserved more parsley
1 c toasted pecans 1 c toasted pecans. Likewise. I did not halve these
Fresh ground pepper to taste Fresh ground pepper to taste
2 c red or green seedless grapes I did not have these. Too bad. I substituted soaked raisins.
1 cup chickpeas ½ cup chickpeas
Toasted pecan halves. Toasted pecan halves.
I thought the whole dish at the end needed some additional strong flavors. I added in addition
⅓ cup chopped granny smith apple
2 tbs pomegranate seeds.


  1. Cook the rice. MK has some very specific directions for the rice (which I did not follow as I already had some available):
    1. Bring to a boil
    2. Lower heat to lowest simmer for 35 minutes
    3. Transfer to a shallow platter and spread to let steam escape. This prevents it overcooking in its own heat
  2. Combine olive oil, lemon juice, salt, garlic and honey
  3. Add parsley, pecans and pepper.
  4. Mix well in its serving bowl, add garnishes – pecans, scallions, parsley

And there is my first revisit of Still Life with Menu. Both it and Moosewood are still readily available, and I would strongly recommend getting them. They may easily become your go to sources for all that is vegetarian.

I hope you give these recipes a try – and as you can see, they are quite amenable to variation.

Xbeeriment with sourdough yeast

Xbeeriment with sourdough yeast

I love to experiment with food as is clear from my other blogs. A couple of weeks ago this turned to beer. Here’s how it unfolded. I’ll also apologize in advance here. Brewers are going to know what I am on about here. The rest of the world not so much.

A month previously I was making a stout, and it stalled out at 1.024. If you’re a brewer you know that this is not good news. Your yeast stopped doing its thing, well before all the sugars were fermented. Once that happens there is not a lot you can do about it. But I did. I pitched some sourdough starter in it thinking ‘what have I got to lose?’ It turns out plenty. The sourdough did a great job of fermenting the brew right down to 1.003 which means a that just about all of that sugar got fermented. However on the way, it also changed it to vinegar. Perhaps someone could be generous and say that I now have a sour stout. But really. Don’t think so. As beer vinegar its good – all 6L of it.

But I wanted to explore further what the effect of sourdough would be on fermentation if I used it uniquely. I had no idea what it will turn out like once its been in the bottle for 6 weeks.

I decided I would make a brew and split it in half to pitch the yeast. One would get SD and the other would get sourdough. As for the grains, truth be told I was at the end of my supply and needed to use stuff up. That is why the quantities are a little strange

Here is the recipe that came about:

This is for a 6 litre batch

11 litres of water

Grain bill

.95kg Pilsner

.81kg Maris otter

.2 kg White wheat

50g Caramel 20

50g Carapils


14g Tettnang (17.9 IBU)


  • ½ the batch received sourdough: 200g very active SD yeast was pitched in 400g 1.035 wort about 10 hours before pitching
  • ½ the batch received 2.4 g of Lallemand Belle Saison, hydrated for about 30 minutes in RO water.


My process was pretty simple BIAB:

  • 11 Litres of water in a 20L tun
  • BIAB full body for the mash. Strike temp: 74.4C; Mash 68.9C 1 hour; mash out 15 minutes to 75.6C
  • Add Tettnang at the start of the hour boil
  • I should note too that I’ve come to like using a fairly heavy boil which yields a crazy high OG, and then I use ice cubes to bring it down to the desired 1.060 OG


Saison is on the left, Sourdough is on the right

Usually I use the same 11 L container I measure and pour the initial water from as my fermentation vessel. This time, I used 2 gallon cider jugs. The SD refresh was pitched in one and the Belle Saison in the other.


Here are my observations at bottling:

Belle Saison Sourdough
OG 1.060 1.060
FG 1.010 (ABV 6.6) 1.011 (ABV 6.5)
APPEARANCE Darker, clearer, a lot more trub, bits of flocculant on the top Lighter, cloudy, more settled, a lot less trub
TASTE A good slightly hoppy ale – slight floral and spice notes A more neutral ale but there is a hint of sourness (which makes sense – SD has lots of lactic acid bacteria)
Total volume at bottling 5.75 L 6.25L (there was that much difference in the trub.

Apologies for the blurry pic but you can see they both dried out nicely.

As you can see there’s a lot more trub in the Saison brew.

Some interim conclusions and next steps

  • I’m really delighted both brews worked themselves down to 1.010. I must be doing something right.
  • If my beer yeast were to get destroyed, I’d still be brewing
  • I’d like to see the effect of changing my hops – what would a low IBU and a high IBU similar experiment yield? I have heard that hops tend to destroy the LABs so perhaps really low IBU may result in a sour beer

I will finish this blog in 6 weeks when I taste the final product!



Its Puffball season, don’t you know!

That one time in a year where giant puffballs appear in the forest and on market vendor’s tables. This year for the first time, I found my own stash – on the Bruce Trail near Owen Sound. I took part of one and decided to come to terms with this gentle fungal giant.

Here’s a photo of a similar one – beside our black lab, Beja for comparison.

I broke off half of its neighbour and took it home – all 32 x 20 *15 cm of it.

Puffball sources

Puffballs – Calvatia gigantea – are common in all temperate areas in the world and considered highly edible. They should be eaten when they are immature and the flesh is still white. Check out its Wiki page here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calvatia_gigantea

A number of other bloggers have also had a go at this: http://foragerchef.com/puffball-mushrooms/ addresses the issue of storage and spoiling quite thoroughly, suggesting dehydaration as one option.

https://www.mushroomexpert.com/puffballs.html is a great page if you want to dive into more scientific detail about the mushroom.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2YxzEV-Z6I provides a detailed process and recipe for preparing and BBQing puffball steaks

Of course I had to figure out what to do with it. I settled on a couple of immediate treatments: soup and saute. A few days later my son had some friends up and I put up a challenge: prepare the remainder of the puffball.

Like tofu, puffballs absorb the flavors around them. At the same time they have their own unique flavor and texture that is both gently earthy and creamy. Thus, a long slow cook, and/or a marinade according to the flavor palette of the rest of your meal is strongly advised.

Cream of Puffball Soup

My first thought was a soup. For this I used

  • 550g of the puffball (made a small dent in it!)
  • A medium onion
  • Several tbs unsalted butter – about 70g
  • 30g – about 1-2 cloves – garlic
  • A bunch of fresh parsley oregano and thyme. DO NOT cut this up. Better yet, put it in a muslin bag for easy removal prior to pureeing
  • 400 ml – about 2 cups – whole milk
  • Salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste in that order


  1. Gently saute onions and garlic until translucent covered on a low heat
  2. Add fresh herbs uncut, preferably in a muslin bag
  3. Cut puffball into large pieces and add to the saute. Cover until everything is gently but thoroughly cooked
  4. Remove the herbs and add milk. Heat gently and puree using an immersion blender.
  5. Add salt then pepper then nutmeg, tasting after each. You may also want to add a little white wine.

I found this both an intense, but also a gentle soup. One bowl satisfied the palette. I found the whole milk a better option than any addition of cream, as the puffball already supplies a lot of the creamy texture. I also felt it was best served fresh, either cold, warm or hot.

Basic Mushroom Sautee

This version followed a very basic mushroom sautee.

  • About 450g (1lb) of puffball
  • A medium onion
  • Several tbs unsalted butter – about 70g
  • 30g – about 1-2 cloves – garlic
  • Salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste in that order
  • Optional – white or red wine

Method: as one usually would – sautee onions and garlic. Add salt and pepper (and any other herbs and spices). How you cut the mushroom will mark the dish. It could be as steaks which will yield a quite spectacular presentation, or in cubes to resemble what sauteed mushrooms would normally look like. What is key is a long and slow covered cook.

The Challenge

Four days after the puffball was picked, it began to turn yellow. On day 3, it was white, and overnight it had changed. Time to finish it off. As it happened my son had friends up, and we were all going to do a part of dinner. I presented a challenge to one of them to develop a recipe for the remaining puffball. A. took it up, did some research and really scored. She exploited the mushroom’s capacity to absorb flavors. Here is what came out of it.


  • 450g (1lb) puffball cut in steak like slices
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 5-6 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • About 6g salt (about ¼ tsp) (and to taste)
  • 2g pepper (a pinch) (and to taste)
  • 1 tbs oregano or 2 tbs fresh oregano
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ¼ cup fresh basil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, pressed
  • ½ tsp steak spice (if you do not have this, try a pinch more of paprika, cayenne, garlic powder)


  1. Mix all ingredients except the mushroom
  2. Marinate mushroom slices in the mix for about an hour
  3. Fry or bbq the mushrooms.

This recipe really nailed it. As with the soup and saute, the delicate yet intense fungal flavor of the mushroom provided the base, and the marinade provided a colorful and highly complimentary depth that was just perfect for our late summer meal.

Parting thoughts

This one puffball satisfied my puffball cravings for the year. As I’ve noted, the flavour was both subtle gentle and intense. A little goes a long way. I look forward to seeing if the remaining puffballs in the forest have turned black, and to stomp them, hopefully to see even more next year. I’ve also thrown a few scraps into the woods by our house. Next year, in addition to trying the fresh recipes, I will likely dehydrate some of it, give some away, and I think also do a brief ferment. I’ve heard it turns out a little like blue cheese. We will see.

This puffball is on its way to turning. Once it turns black, you can hold a stomping ceremony to release its spores far and wide.

5 ways with duck

This blog started with the Sweetwater Restaurant at Cobble Beach near Owen Sound. As one of the appetizers they had duck breast on the menu. It was truly amazing. A delicate texture that melts in the mouth, succulently herbed, yet the quintessential taste of duck shines through. I was determined to copy it. Inquiring, I was told it had been slow cooked for 18 hours. That intel was a start…..

My first efforts were disastrous. Either the meat disintegrated to a liver like texture or was tough as nails. Not even close on the flavour.

We returned a couple of months later, and I inquired further. It was a confit. It was cured overnight and then cooked in it’s own fat. The curing was more important than the cooking. With that information I was on my way.

Enter the Owen Sound Market farmers – Doug Lemon and his friendly competitor Anita deJong. They both sell duck, and always with the sweetmeats – usually liver and heart. Enter also my wife who generally does not like duck except for one time when she had Peking Duck years ago. And there’s also the dog, Beja, who patiently lies at my feet anytime meat is being prepared.

The desire to maximize all parts of the bird while indulging my experimentation along with my various family factors has led to this: Five ways with a duck: from whole bird to 5 wonderful products.

Its all a matter of process, as with anything. So I will start at the beginning and work through everything with you.

To also note: this is not a one day affair. This process took place over 10 days, with the occasional 20-30 minutes of hands on work.

Cutting up – or quartering – the bird

Unlike chicken where you can buy either parts or whole, duck is inevitably sold whole. Its not as common and its more expensive.

At 8lbs/3.6kilos, this is a big duck!

Before beginning make sure your knife is wonderfully sharp.

There are a few YouTube videos that show best how to do this. I prefer the Good Housekeeping one though the Le Gourmet video is excellent too, though it leaves you with the bones on the breast, which I don’t want in my case. Its worthwhile checking out Gordon Ramsay’s How to Part a Chicken video as he provides great detailed tips about working around bones and generally being efficient about it all. In my duck process, I’m not too concerned about how the legs and wings are trimmed, though its important the skin remains on the breast.

Begin with the legs, pulling them out and popping the joint, then cut into the joint to separate it. Review the videos. They will explain a lot better than my text.

Once cut, you should now have the following pieces:

  • 2 breasts with skin on
  • 2 legs/thighs
  • 2 wings
  • Sweetmeats
  • The rest of the carcass

For now, put the carcass in the fridge – making the soup comes after the confit. Unless you are going to be serving the breast within the next couple of days, freeze it as well. We are initially going to be paying attention to the confit and pate options.

The confit:

Confit is a culinary practice in which the meat is slowly cooked in its it’s own fat. To prepare it, one must first prepare a cure consisting of salt, sugar and spices.

In these duck experiments, I have been most concerned to get the confit right. The most challenging part of this is the cure – a rub that is primarily salt based, but also with herbs, spices and sugar in it.

A note about salt and meat

But first – a word on salt. In my initial attempts at this, I did not weigh out the salt, and my initial attempts at confit were definitely bordering on too much salt. Making confit reliably requires getting the salt amount predictable and correct. Not only does one want the confit to taste great, you also don’t want the fat you use to become forever salty.

Salt does a couple of incredibly important things to meat. The water from the inside of the meat is pulled to the surface, where it reacts with the salt.The salt works its way into the meat cells, and softening them, and making it possible for the meat to reabsorb its liquid. More importantly it loosens up the protein amino acids. These are typically like tight balls, and the reaction with the salt causes them to open up. In this way, salt tenderizes meat and allows it to reabsorb the liquid.

But – How much salt? As you are likely aware, salt has something of a goldilocks point: there is that ‘just right’ amount where it enhances flavour but does not overbear itself. What is that ‘just right’ point? Michael Ruhlman, in Ratio (an amazing book everyone should have) suggests 1:60 ratio (divide meat weight by 60). This yields a 1.66%. Stefan’s Gourmet Blog suggests 1.5% -2% salt per weight for a brine – either dry or wet – and this makes a lot of sense. 1.5%-2% is similar to the salt used for doing dry rub fermented vegetables, leaving them slightly salty, but not too much so. Its also the same salt range for dry fermentation such as sauerkraut. Finally, 2% is the baker’s percentage for salt in bread. (Stefan also did a duck leg confit blog a number of years ago before he sorted out the salt issue)

My subsequent discussion with the sous chef at the restaurant indicated that the cure was really the key, and that they had added sugar to the rub, more or less equal parts sugar and salt. So – that is one piece of the puzzle.

Finally, what else is in the cure? For this I turned to Cooking with the Wolfman where he proposes a poultry spice mix in which salt plays a significant role. It however does not include sugar. But you do not have to do such an extensive cure. At a minimum, you can get away with 2% salt, 2% sugar and less than a fifth of that in pepper. What else goes in the cure is up to you. Pepper and dried garlic immediately come to mind. Rosemary, sage, and thyme likewise would compliment a duck well. I appreciate also that people will prefer using teaspoons. If so, 1 g is about ¼ tsp, 3-4g is 1 tsp.

So what came about in the end?

What I did was to make a little scalable google sheet program for a cure based in part on the Wolfman cure and in part what I had been told. Here is the final recipe.


  • Duck parts: wings, thighs, legs. (1070g)
  • Lots of fat. If you already have some from bacon drippings or making soup, great. If you have not yet built up a store of fat, ask your butcher. While rendered fat is easier to work with, you can also use unrendered fat. It will render in the cooking process. You will need at least a litre depending on how much duck you have.

Cure Ingredients

The following cure based on David Wolfman’s poultry rub is for 1.07 kilos of duck parts.

21g Salt

21g Sugar

3g Pepper (1 tsp)

(Past this point everything else is optional. You can create your own masterpiece rub.)

3g dry rosemary (1 tsp)

4g paprika (1 tsp)

1g chili flakes (1/4 tsp)

3g dehydrated onion (1 tsp)

4g dry garlic (1 tsp)

1g thyme (1/4tsp)

1g cayenne (1/4tsp)

1g cinnamon (1/4tsp)

1g ginger 1 tsp (1/4tsp)

1g celery seed (1/4tsp)

1g nutmeg (1/4tsp)


Thoroughly rub the cure into all parts of the meat and leave in the fridge overnight or for up to a couple of days.

Wings, legs and thighs with the cure on

Prepare a large pot, ideally 12-15L mostly full of water, and heat up.

Pack the joints into wide mouthed 1litre or 500ml mason jars along with the fat. The jars must be big enough to take a limb. It should be filled to the top.

Almost there. Wide mouth jars are critical for this.

Put a lid on each making sure there are no leaks.

Initially the fat won’t penetrate everywhere. Check the jars after a couple of hours  – you may need to top up with fat or stock.


Sous vide at 180F/82C for 10 hours or so. If you do not have a sous vide machine, heat the water with the jars in it until nearly boiling, insert a meat thermometer in the water and adjust your burner until it holds at approximately 180F/82C. Although sous vide is typically done with zip lock freezer bags, I prefer mason jars for this as the temperature is relatively hot, and for a long time.

After 10-12 hours, remove the jars and let cool until you can comfortably work with the jars and meat, but not so cool that the fat begins to harden.

The meat will gradually get up to the water temperature, but usually never quite. Its one reason to have them cook overnight.

Gently remove the meat from the jar and slide it off the bone. Serve or store refrigerated until needed.


The final result. I’m still looking for a better way to serve it.

Pour the fat into a jar and freeze, or refrigerate if you will be using it again. Put the bones with the carcass, ready for soup.


I’m wondering if its necessary that all the liquid surrounding the meat be fat. Could, for example, 50% be stock? It will still cook, the taste of the stock will infuse the meat. This could be a good solution if one does not have quite enough fat.

The Pate

This is not fois grasse – but it’s all yours, and it will be delicious.

For quite a while I’ve tried to do something with the sweetmeats that come with birds. Only recently have I been successful. The key to success was taking an idea from my Haggis experiments: make the ratio of sweetmeats to flesh 1:1. This cuts some of the dryness and texture of the liver. With birds this works really well as it amounts to cutting out the meat around the spine and using that.

Here’s the recipe:


Note: Weigh the meat, onions, garlic and butter. This will enable the correct amount of salt.

  • Sweetmeats that come with your bird – usually liver, heart,
  • A more or less equal amount of flesh scraped from the carcass
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • Salt – 1.5% the weight of all ingredients – in this case 800g
  • 1 tbs sage*
  • 2 tsp thyme*
  • 1 tsp mustard*

* these can be varied/substituted as you wish

Your mise en scene – more or less


  1. Sautee onions and garlic in butter
  2. After onions have softened, add salt, pepper and herbs.
  3. Cook covered over a low heat for about 30 minutes, letting the onions caramelize a bit
  4. Add the meat and continue simmering, covered, on a low heat for about an hour.

    Cooking covered over a low heat for a long time is good.

  5. Remove from heat, cool a bit, and puree.
  6. Once pureed, adjust for taste. It will be a little runny, but will firm up once chilled. Other than making your salt 1.5% of the weight, other quantities are left to your best culinary judgement.

At the point of serving, interesting variations can be tried in addition to the basic pate: adding bbq sauce, ketchup, or even mayo will give you a wonderful one-off dip.

So, from a big duck, 500ml of pate.

The Breast

Sous vide duck breast is a tried and true technique – see Chef John’s All Recipes YouTube for an excellent instructional video. This was done before sous vide machines became a common tool. Pull out your finest pinot and enjoy!

Duck Soup

Duck makes great soup because it has so much fat. I suggest doing the soup once the confit has been done. Use everything leftover, add onion and carrot, any other vegetables too, and some salt and pepper. Fill with water until bones and vegetables are covered.

In retrospect, the temperature should have been higher. The meat did not fall off the bone the way I would have liked.

Bring to a point just below a simmer, about 180-200F, cooking for 6-8 hours. The “just below a simmer” is important. If it were to boil the fat would become emulsified.

Taste and adjust. Once cooled a bit, strain the stock, pour into litre jars all the way to the top, cover and refrigerate.

From our big duck, we get 4.5L of excellent duck soup! You can already see the fat separating to the top.

Once it has thoroughly chilled the fat will rise to the top and solidify. Skim this off the top, put into a jar and refrigerate or freeze until needed (for the next confit?). Whatever you use it for you will have delicious and amazing duck fat. The stock will be fine for a couple of weeks, but if kept longer should be waterbathed in a pressure cooker for 20 minutes. Beware of freezing. If you use glass there is a chance of the jar breaking even if there’s some expansion space.

Dog food

Dog food is a by product of the soup. The strained out meat and vegetables from the soup are separated: the meat will fall away from the bones. Discard the bones.The remaining meat and duck infused vegetables will assure your position as the boss-god with Fido. Beware though, it won’t have the same nutritional value as raw meat.


Sorting out the soup: (L to R) bones, soup, veggies, meat, cooking pot with some onions. Apparently dogs should not have onions.


To see how this all ties in, see my blog on from scratch dog food.

Patience is finally rewarded.

Well, that’s it!. One duck, 5 delicious products from it. A little goes a very long way!

Bon appetit.

Beer trub bread

Beer trub bread

Brewers out there – this blog is for you!

I know that your friends and family are ooing and aaaawwwing at your brewhouse accomplishments. This blog will show you how to get them ooing and aaaawwwing over a great loaf of bread from your beer trub.

For readers who are not beer makers, trub is the ‘gunk’ that forms at the bottom of a beer fermentation vessel. Once the yeast has been active, and has fermented the beer, it drops out and falls to the bottom. The trub is highly bitter as it also picks up the taste of the hops and other bittering agents. But perhaps you are a bread baker who knows a beer brewer. Get some of that trub – its a unique baking experience.

Perhaps the most important aspect to master is the bitterness of the trub. A little is nice – but too much can kill it.

There are also many recipes out there for a beer bread in which beer is substituted in whole or in part for the water. This is also not like that. In this, the beer trub provides both the rise and the flavour.

So lets get started. The whole process takes between 6 and 24 hours, depending on the temperatures you ferment at. Its a great project to do on brew day when you have to wait around and monitor things. This recipe will make one 950g loaf.


  • Beer trub – about 100g. The fresher the better. Use what you have from your last batch that has been refrigerated.
  • Flour: about 700g total. Flour also imparts flavour. For this beer I would go with whole grain high protein flours – whole wheat, red fife, rye, spelt, kamut. Some all purpose white flour can be used, but that is not what beer bread is all about.
  • Water – less than a litre. It must not have chemicals in it.
  • Salt – 12g
  • Various seeds and toppings of your choice.


  1. Get the starter happening

In a 500ml or 1l mason jar combine 100g trub, 60g flour and 100ml of water (no chemicals in it though, they will kill the yeasts). Mix thoroughly and leave for a few hours. If your trub is fresh (less than a month old and has been refrigerated) place the mason jar in a bowl as it may very well overflow. (Check the ceiling photo. This one blew its top!) Leave the starter until it gets really active. This should take approximately 4 hours at room temperature.

Beer trub, flour and water= your starter

Beer trub has some really active yeast!

It twisted the top off … and BOOM!

2. The Bulk Rise

Now is the time to mix in the rest of the ingredients and let that trub yeast get refreshed and go to work! Combine the following dry ingredients:

  • 545g of flour. This can be your choice. Just as in beer making the grains you use determines the flavour, so it is true in bread making. Since trub has those hoppy beery qualities in abundance, my suggestion would be to try heavier whole grain flours: whole wheat, rye, red fife. Some white all purpose flour is fine too. (note the similarities to your grain bills?)

    Dry ingredients for the bulk rise

  • 12g salt
  • 25g DME (for you non brewers this is dry malt extract) or another sugar.

Now mix in the wet ingredients:

  • 285g of water. This could be other liquids, though I would not suggest beer, as there is plenty if beeriness in the trub.
  • 109g of starter: the trub/flour/water you just refreshed
  • Plus water and starter

Mix it all thoroughly together, turn it out on a counter and knead (wet your hands with water, don’t add more flour) until everything is nicely combined. If it gets a little sticky, wet your hands

at the start of the bulk rise

End of the bulk rise

some more.

Place your bulk rise in a bowl and cover with a very damp towel. This can be left at room temperature for about 4 hours or until it is doubled in size. You can also stick it in the fridge overnight.

3. Proofing

For this super simple first go at it, I’m advising you use a typical loaf pan.

Stretch and fold (S&F)

Stretch and fold: take a corner of your dough, pull it out and fold it over the rest of the dough. Repeat a few times until the dough gets stiff.

S&F: stretch and fold over

The taste test

At this point I would taste it to see where it is at for bitterness. I don’t usually do this for bread, but with the hoppiness in the trub, you might want to. Heat up a frying pan (cast iron is best), flatten out a small piece of dough you have pinched off, and put it dry into your pan at a medium heat. It will rise and get brown. Turn it a couple of times. After a couple of minutes it will be ready. Taste it. If you like what you have then go for it. If you feel it is too bitter, add some sweetener – honey, maple syrup, DME. Repeat the process (if you like).

Shaping and proofing

Now that the basic taste of the bread is where you want it, shape it more or less into a shape that will nicely fit in your pan. You can add other things: cereals, seeds, cornmeal – whatever your brewer’s heart desires. Sprinkle your additives on or roll the dough in them.

To place the bread in its pan, tear off enough parchment paper to hold the loaf. I advise parchment paper as it makes the loaf super easy to extract.

If you are baking it right away, leave it for about an hour at room temperature. If you want to wait overnight or a similar longish period, put it in the fridge for 8-24 hours at this point. Just make sure it is covered with a damp cloth.

Shaped into a loaf, you can add seeds etc. on the crust if you like.

4. Baking

Turn your oven to 450F. When it reaches cooking temperature, score the loaf: using a sharp knife cut a slash from one end to the other. The blade should be at an angle and not go in more than a few cm/1/4”.

Just before it goes in, slash from one end to the other.

At this point you can also brush on a variety of crust caremelizing liquids – either water, oil or egg white.

Bake as follows: You will be using 3 different temperatures.

You proofed it at room temperature You proofed it in the fridge
12 minutes at 450F/230C 16 minutes at 450F/230C
12 minutes at 425F/218C 16 minutes at 425F/218C
12 minutes at 400F/205C 16 minutes at 400F/205C

If you are unsure if it is ready, test it with an instant read thermometer (you are a brewer, you will have one of these!). It should be at an internal temperature of between 190F (88C) – 205F(95C).

Once out of the oven let it cool off for about 15 minutes – then dig in. You will find it pairs so excellently with the beer you brew!

Further discussion….

Adjusting the recipe

What is presented here is a precise recipe yielding a 950 or so gram loaf. You can easily adjust it using my handy bread calculator spreadsheet.

The highlighted cells can be changed by the user, however the other cells are all formulas and the cells are protected. The two key cells are B6 and B8.

In B6 you control the ratio of flour to starter. Making regular sourdough, I typically have this set for a 3:1 recipe. For trub starters, I suggest it be set to 5 or 6 – a higher 5:1 ratio.

B8 is the amount of trub starter to use. Remember that the trub starter is what resulted from initially combining trub with water and flour. In this recipe, you will have trub starter left over. Put it in the fridge and you can use it a day or two later. You can also refresh it with the following ratios of flour and water: 1 part trub starter, 1 part water, 60% of the starter weight in flour. If you wanted to be adventurous you could even use it to get your next brew going! What you are doing is using flour instead of wort to refresh and strengthen the yeast.

B7 is the hydration – what is presented is a fairly dry 60% hydration loaf. You could nudge this up, but if you are trying it for the first time, just leave it as it is.

Where next?

If you loved doing this you will want to do it some more. You can! You can keep refreshing your starter using equal amounts of the old starter and fresh water, with 60% of the starter weight in flour. The hoppiness will dissipate the more flour refreshing you do until you will eventually have your own strain of sourdough starter.

If you want to explore even further, check out my blog on sourdough here:

More sourdough related posts

Making sourdough easy and ‘just in time’

More fun with Sourdough: Party Bites

Fun stuff to do with sourdough

Backwoods Sourdough

As well as the following bread resources here:

Facebook groups



Plus some other cool sites








Pork Tenderloin

Last weekend we had the pleasure of our son’s company for a couple of days. Its always a pleasure to see him – he brings such an air of freshness, optimism and vitality that helps us to refresh ourselves.

I was thinking of what to do for dinner, and I had kind of thought along the lines of a raclette, but there were other options as well. I suggested these, thinking of what I had brought back from the market.

I had to go a little late to the market – and sometimes one risks the vendors running out of food. Sure enough when I got there, the meat counter was devoid of all roasts steaks and chops. There was however a single pork tenderloin – quite small – under 400g but enough.

That was what he wanted – and said ‘leave it to me/we’ll do it together’.

Very well then. I took the precaution of salting it as dinner was clearly headed in this direction.

Here is the story of how it transpired. The lesson in it is how a good cook can get the general idea of the dish, and make it something new yet their own. In this case simplicity prevailed; the desire to bring out the best in the meat with the least amount of work.

He started off his search with Gordon Ramsay – a fav go to of his ever since I showed him the Hash Brown video. So he searched out his Pork tenderloin video. Its quite delightful watching Ramsay cook – such high energy, but also he is so exact about what you do when.

It was clear to us that our sad little 400g piece was nothing like the succulant 1 kilo fat enshrouded piece Ramsay was working with. To begin with, our piece was completely lean. It was, however all in one piece, and thick enough that it could be cut open.

The big idea about this recipe, so it seemed, was to prepare a stuffed tenderloin, but it didn’t have to be all that was in Ramsay’s recipe.

So he started cutting open the meat, and layering in his filling: apple, garlic, pepper. This was followed up with preparing a glaze, a technique picked up from making Christmas turkey. I just happened to have some pork stock on hand, to which was added some maple syrup and apple juice. 

Next was what I felt was a genius move: wrap the whole thing in bacon. That would serve to nicely intensify the taste. Finally, as the Ramsay video shows, tie it up with butcher string.


Since our piece of meat was lacking a few things, we wanted to keep it moist. So instead of putting it directly in the oven, we decided to bake it in a dutch oven on a trivet (made of mason jar lids) with the glaze providing the moistening.

With an accompaniment of green salad with viniagrette, braised turnip and parsnip, a warmed grain salad, sauteed mushrooms, broccoli, beer bread as a side and rhubarb apple pie with homemade vanilla ice cream, it was a delicious weekend dinner at the cottage. Were we to do it again, we would have added a good hit of rosemary, but as it was, the apple and garlic truly served to bring out the taste of the cut. Simple, and delicious.

Here is the tenderloin recipe:


450g pork tenderloin

half a granny smith (or other tart apple) apple sliced thin
1 large clove garlic sliced thin
5 rashers of bacon


3 tbs broth
about 6tbs apple juice
2 tbs maple syrup


  1. Salt the tenderloin for several hours – but at least 60 minutes.
  2. Oven to 400F/205C
  3. Slice open the tenderloin.
  4. Thinly cut apple & garlic and insert into the cut tenderloin.
  5. For the glaze heat the broth, apple juice, and maple syrup.
  6. Tightly roll up the tenderloin then wrap bacon around the meat. Tie off the roll with string – one string on each bacon rasher.
  7. Put the wrapped tenderloin on a trivett in a Dutch oven.
  8. Pour the glaze over the tenderloin, cover, and bake for 45 minutes – more if your tenderloin is bigger.