We make kombucha tea in gallon barrel jars, with a batch being “harvested” every Sunday. Once bottled, the ‘booch sits in airtight bottles for a few days for a second ferment. It’s during this second ferment that additional flavorings may be added. The two week initial fermentation period is what seems to work best to achieve the flavor profile we like: slightly tart, but not vinegary. Some people let it go longer, but it can get pucker-you-up tart with time. Once it becomes too sour, there’s no going back.
Well – horror of horrors! – we realized yesterday that the Sunday harvest had somehow been skipped. This has never happened before. In reconstructing the events of that day, it seems most likely that harvesting kombucha vinegar (aged for a month+) on Sunday had caused the confusion – the mental reminder failed to go off because harvesting (albeit the wrong kind) had occurred. Of course, another possibility is a plain and simple brain fart.
The only thing left to do was to taste the ‘booch to see if it was still palatable or only suited to become vinegar. With some trepidation, we poured out a small amount to sample. Surprisingly, it had actually not soured much over the additional couple of days it fermented – whew! In fact, it tasted really good, so three bottles are now doing their second ferment on a kitchen shelf and will go into the fridge at the end of the week.
So what about kombucha tea vinegar – what’s it good for? Since it’s raw, it’s full of probiotics so we put a splash in the chickens’ and ducks’ water. The chicks we hatched earlier are all still thriving, and all had ‘booch vinegar in their water right from the start. You can also use it in kombucha-based cocktails. As it ages, the flavor grows deeper and more complex; some of the tastiest was over a year old. Sediment will collect at the bottom of a bottle of aging vinegar, similar to wine. And growth of “mothers” (as weird as they may look) in the bottles is a good sign – the cultures are still active in there.
Vinegar can obviously also be used for environmentally-friendly cleaning, but we prefer to keep the good stuff like ‘booch vinegar for consumption and use distilled white vinegar for cleaning, instead!