If you'd like a delicious superfood alternative to soda, consider trying kombucha. Besides being delightful on its own, kombucha is a naturally carbonated beverage loaded with probiotics, B vitamins and enzymes. It's a winning substitute for soft drinks loaded with excess sugar and/or artificial sweeteners.
So what is it and where do you get it? Kombucha is simply black tea that has been fermented using a SCOBY, which is an acronym for "symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast." It's also sometimes called a "mushroom," (for its appearance, not any biological resemblance) or more commonly, "the mother." Like all fermented foods, such as kefir, sauerkraut and an endless variety of other cultured foods, kombucha is terrific way to detoxify your liver, enhance your energy and boost your immune system by restoring the beneficial bacteria in your gut. You can find it at most health food stores these days, or you can make it quite easily and inexpensively at home.
Here's how you do it;
1) Get a SCOBY--There are many online sources, and if you know anyone who makes kombucha, they will likely have extra. It grows every time you make a batch!
2) Bring 3-4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot.
3) Add 1 cup of sugar, continue boiling until it dissolves completely (about 3-5 minutes). Don't worry about all the sugar--the yeast eats it up during the fermentation process.
4) Take the water off the heat, add 6-8 black tea bags (herbal teas don't work) and let it steep for at least 20 minutes, or until cool.
5) When the mixture is completely cooled to room temperature, pour into a large glass container that's been thoroughly washed and rinsed. (I use a gallon drink dispenser from Amazon.)
6) With clean hands, add the SCOBY plus a cup of starter kombucha. (Your SCOBY should have come in at least a cup of liquid. If you want to make sure you have enough, pick up a bottle of kombucha at the health food store and use a cup from that for your first batch. From here on out you'll reserve a cup from each batch for the next.) Cover with a lid and let it sit out of direct sunlight for at least 7 days.
7) Taste it! If it's still sweet, that means that the yeast hasn't consumed all the sugar yet and it needs to sit a few more days. If it's tart, tangy and fizzy, then it's ready. If it's too sour and is beginning to taste like vinegar, it's gone too long.
When you decide it's ready, remove the SCOBY and store it in a covered bowl or glass container with at least 1 cup of the liquid. This keeps it fed and again, is used as a starter for your next batch. Pour what's remaining through a plastic strainer to remove any residue and there you have it--your very own homemade kombucha!
NOTE--Your SCOBY can last a long time, but you'll want to keep an eye on it. Should it develop dark spots that look like mold, you should toss it and start again. The brown, stringy stuff that swirls around the jar and that sometimes settles on it is normal and okay. Keep the SCOBY in plenty of reserve kombucha when you store it between batches. You'll learn what a healthy SCOBY should look like.
If you want to add flavors and make it more fizzy, you can second- ferment in reusable screw top glass bottles or flip-tops (also available on Amazon). Place about a quarter cup of juice, slices of ginger, citrus peel, pureed fruit, etc. (many options here!) in the bottom of the bottle then fill it up with the kombucha, leaving a good inch or two at the top to make room for the carbonation. Leave it for a few days to a week.
CAUTION! You will want to monitor your second fermentations to prevent bottle explosions. I "burp" my bottles every day or two to make sure it's not building up too much. If it's been several days--I open it up outside.
So instead of getting all the calories, sugar and chemicals from most commercial sodas, why not try this delightful, healthful beverage. Drink it plain, on ice--or use it in a wine cooler. Delicious!