Monthly Archives: October 2017

Composting 101 – What I Learned

Did you know…

  • Food waste contributes to 8% global emissions (methane).
  • In urban areas, such as Chicago, approximately 30% (sometimes higher) of total waste sent to landfills consists of organic matter that is compostable!

I don’t know about you, but I find this sort of data less than acceptable.  Composting is an organic like process that represents cyclical dynamics by natural design.  Different than recycling that requires man-power input, the process relies on basic principles of organic chemistry.  However, we have culturally escaped so far away from the notion that we need to attend or teach “how to” classes on the subject.

So what the heck can you do about it?

  1. Find your local players.  In my area, we have some fantastic organizations, such as Zero Waste Chicago, working hard to educate, advocate, and implement solutions within systems, such as restaurant waste or municipal waste services.  Some compost services will be commercial focused only while others will also work with residential.  Some of these will be integrated within your municipality.  In some cases, even animal protein, bones, and/or cooking oils will be accepted, but not all are set up to intake these substrates.  Even better, some of them operate by bicycle further reducing eco-footprint.
  2. Learn the different ways to compost.  Worm composting, for example, presents a nice solution for certain urban dwellers that don’t have yards.  Other options for urban settings are pick-up and drop-off services that provide a tightly sealed bucket that is rotated out for an empty bucket either on a schedule or as requested.  These can be nice for anyone because there is less planning on the balance between brown matter (think paper bags, sticks/twigs, leaves, stems, etc) and other food scraps.  Those with a yard can also take a go at creating their own compost through a variety of outdoor designs.  Finished compost is great for gardens, but can also be spread like a mulch.
  3. Start doing it!  Figure out what works best for you, come up with a plan, and implement.  Even if a portion of your food waste goes to compost, you are making a difference.  Also, pay attention to whom you shop from or purchase prepared food.  Restaurants that are doing their part are often decreasing their adverse impacts in other ways as well.

In addition, commercial services often provide data that illustrate impact and allows for monitoring individual contribution (or foot print).

Some municipalities offer incentives, so be sure to check into this.  Also, farmer’s markets may be drop off sites (which could be cheaper and easier for your life planning).

Finally, please don’t forget about “precycle“…  fewer waste purchased = less to be attended to by you, municipal systems, OR natural environments.  In terms of food waste, the application would be only purchasing what you will actually use.  Additionally, some food scraps can be saved to make broth before they are composted extending their life and purpose even further.

Admittedly, I had started composting via a small bucket and had surrendered after my outdoor plant season ended.  However, now, thanks to a presentation from Zero Waste Chicago, I have additional resources to implement a new and better fit game plan.  Be sure to check out their site for additional resources AND, best of all, meet ups around eco-conscious living.  #ConscientiousHealthfulLiving

Thank you to Freehand Chicago for hosting this relevant community education.

Additional resources mentioned;

In need of a little humor, insert “food waste” into a Google Images search and find the many 50’s(ish) pictorials attempting to persuade avoiding it.  One of them is included below;

FightFoodWaste1

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

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Kombucha 101 – What I Learned

Last month I attended a presentation at one of Chicago’s newest hot spots; The Kombucha Room.  Nestled in the Logan Square neighborhood, the venue strives to support regional brewers and community wellness education.

For those absolutely new to the term, we are talking about fermented tea infused with flavors and, as the presenter (Kombuchade) advised, “good for the performance athlete and your grandmother”.  The making of which is as much art as it is science, but definitely realistic to do at home.  (Although supporting your local, organic focused businesses is definitely a great way to “‘buch on” as well).

The first priority is to start with a good scoby (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast).  Like any good culture, this should come from reputable sources and those that are able to provide you data on the strains.  There is actually a Kombucha Brewers International association which can help for resources and/or direction.  Best yet, scoby can eventually be shared with other fellow ‘buch makers.

*I have seen other recipe bloggers, such as The Kitchn, demonstrate how to make your own with a pre-purchased kombucha as part of the recipe.  However, this was not discussed in the presentation I attended.  Again, it’s best to know your sources and go with the good stuff.

Next, is to think about and determine flavor profiles.  This step has a part A & B.

  • A) Determine your base tea leaves.  These are needed for scoby growth.
  • B) Additives, such as spices, should align with your health and wellness priorities.
    • A “2nd level” fermentation, could have whole substrates like fruit or shaved ginger root.  (Whole substrates will increase “fizz” effect, experimentation with them will likely have best outcomes after you have become a more savvy brew master playing with your base teas and other, more simple flavor additives).

Experimentation with infusions are seemingly endless, but you will always want to keep a “base” scoby (ie not infused with any additives).  15-20% saved should be sufficient, but up to 50% set aside for future batches could generate “aged textures”.

After determining what flavor combinations you want to tackle, stock up on appropriate supplies and derive a strategic game plan for the brewing process.  Although some rules apply, this can be customized and fit to your lifestyle.  Figure out personal logistics.  Once a system is set up, input time could be, for example, an hour or two per week (keeping in mind, time put in will give back to you in more ways that one).

Pay attention to temperature in which you are storing your batch.  Some brew masters like to place them in proximity to a heated cooking source or on top of a refrigerator.  Colder temperatures will slow the ferment.  This is where trial and error + personal circumstances will come into play.  However, over time, you will get the hang of it and can tailor the plan accordingly.  Think of this as nurturing.

Once the kombucha has cultivated to your desired taste and consistency, it an be poured directly from the container it was fermented in to enjoy OR into smaller, individual containers to be refrigerated.

Additional resource material is below;

Supply Suggestions

  • Sterilized jar (glass preferred).  Can wipe with white vinegar wipe before use.
    • Growlers, mason jars, etc.
  • Large tea ball (metal strainer).
  • Filtered water, such as reverse osmosis.
  • Flip tops for jars (for example from Mason Jars Company).

Points for Processing

  • Don’t burn your culture, ie overheat.  Watch for little bubbles at bottom of the liquid (typically 150°).
  • Keep liquid moving in pot.
  • After pour onto scoby, stir up (can be with hand).
  • Don’t move jar around too much.
  • Don’t over seal the bottle or it could explode.  (Also, don’t use cheap wine corker, etc.  Be sure to buy something rated for kombucha pressurizing).
  • To limit the primary fermentation, refrigerate.  Otherwise, it will continue to culture/age.

Other Tips/Tricks of the Trade

  • Keep tea portion to at least 50% and consider avoiding anti-bacterial varieties or additives, such as an earl gray tea or certain essential oils.  (These might work for small batch, but it will definitely be trial and error).
  • Don’t attempt to reduce sugar.  The ‘buch needs this for energy.
  • Scoby can be stored in a mason jar.  Vinegar will preserve it (only warning is if there is a big black or green fuzz ball).
  • Infuse flavors when kombucha is warm (vs after refrigeration).
  • Your first batch may be a little thin.  Taste the scoby as you go along through the batching (play with it).
  • Individual bottles can be used to create more fizz.
    • Note:  different herbs have different fizz results.
  • The bottles can be “burbed”.
  • Although more advanced in technique, nitrogen can force carbonate.
  • Secondary infusions, such as whole fruit, may be best when wrapped with cheese cloth (think of this as similar to a tea bag).

If excess scoby (as it will continue to grow);

  • Recipes to convert into food
  • Can feed to animals
  • You can eat it directly
  • Compost it

Other Lessons/Words of Wisdom

  • Organic process ties into the energy/natural processes, ie ingredients don’t have to be organic, but quality of ingredients = quality of kombucha.
  • Buying commercial brands will vary with regards to the level of kombucha.  Translation; read labels.
  • If asked about alcohol content, it is hard to measure b/c alcoholic measures pick up on organic acids in the profile and includes those.  The short answer, is this shouldn’t be of too much concern and is likely gossiped about due to hype vs actuality.

In closing…  enjoy the opportunity to learn a new skill, practice mindfulness while doing, and reap the rewards of your custom creations!

If in Chicago, be sure to check out The Kombucha Room.  Social media shot outs are below:

@thekombucharoomchi

@TheKombuchaRoom

 

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

Disclosure – Links to Mason Jars Company may generate very small amounts of monetary income.