I am allergic to goals and averse to resolutions. I love to dream, but I prefer my dreams in rosy shades of vague. Details and action plans make me tired.
Oh, January. Oh, month of optimism and ambition. I love you.
But I do not trust you.
Or, perhaps, I do not trust myself.
For though I am no setter of goals, I, too, long to turn over that proverbial new leaf. I, too, desire healthier, cleaner, and more organized. Like you, perhaps, I want more here and less over there in 2017.
But I am prone to winter lethargy despite the new energy of a new year.
Quite likely, I will purchase the supplies but never complete the project.
Bad habits may be hard to break, but good habits are so very hard to form.
To succeed in gathering up a few new things for this new year, I must sneak each goal past my usual defenses. I must begin new habits without admitting the attempt.
For instance, I want to host more people in my home, but I struggle to pass the gauntlet of my calendar.
This day? Or this?
I struggle to summon the mental energy to plan and prepare.
What will I cook? When will I make that extra trip to the grocery store? Is half an hour enough time to clean the guest room?
What I need is a habit of hospitality.
What I need is for hospitality to flow, to simply happen without much planning and without a great deal of thought.
Hospitality like a glass of water first thing in the morning.
Hospitality like a daily walk.
Hospitality like a blessing prayer before each meal.
The good news is that good habits breed good habits.
The easy rituals and routines that sustain my family can also sustain my guests.
With regular days for cleaning and for laundry, with regular nights for making pizzas or simmering soup, we can welcome guests with little extra trouble or extra thought.
Though extra chairs and soup bowls are good to have on hand.
You may or may not share my goal to grow in hospitality this year, but I imagine most of us desire a healthier new year. I pick up and drop other kitchen habits, like bread baking or yogurt making, with regularity, but homemade kombucha is the one habit that has stuck for years. The probiotics are good for the body, the bubbly, tart, apple-cider taste is good for the taste buds, and home-brewing is good for the grocery budget. Did I mention it’s easy? I’m sure that’s the primary reason this healthy kitchen habit has stuck. It is also true that kombucha itself is hospitable. I have lost count of the extra “SCOBYs” I have passed on to departing guests.
- 12 cups non-chlorinated water
- 4 bags organic black tea
- 1 cup organic cane sugar
- 1 SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast: available for sale online)
- 1 cup kombucha (store-bought or saved from a previous batch)
- Bring four cups water to a boil. My well water has no chlorine, but you can use a filter or leave the water sitting out until the chlorine has evaporated.
- Clean a glass, gallon-sized, wide-mouthed jar with soap and hot water. Make sure the glass does not cool off too much.
- Once your water boils, let cool for one minute (to avoid breaking glass!), before pouring over tea bags in the jar. Steep for 5-10 minutes.
- Remove tea bags. Stir in one cup sugar.
- Add eight cups cool or cold water.
- As long as your tea mixture is not too hot, add starter kombucha and SCOBY. Cover with breathable paper or cloth (cheesecloth, coffee filter, etc.) and secure well with a rubber band.
- Place in a warm spot to ferment for 7 to 30 days. The higher the air temperature, the quicker the fermentation. (In winter, I keep my kombucha jars warm on an electric seed-starting mat.)
- After 7 days, begin tasting for desired flavor. I find this easy to do with a straw.
- When the kombucha is tart but not too tart, reserve one cup for the next batch. Give the newly-formed SCOBY to a friend or toss. Store kombucha in the refrigerator in plastic-lidded glass bottles.
- You can find many variations on this basic method, along with more detailed advice and instructions (including kombucha safety and how to flavor your brew), in books like Real Food Fermentation by Alex Lewin and on websites like kombuchakamp.com.