Prickly Pear Kombucha!

Prickly Pear: A wide spread fruit bearing Cactus located in the Southwestern United States among many environments world wide.  

Kombucha: A fermented black tea drink with origins in China.

Over the last couple of years our family has been blessed with having a Mother other than myself to nourish our beings.  Most times there is more than just one other mother.  She’s a little different than most mother’s you meet, she’s kind of odd to look at,  she put me off a bit when we first met.  We keep her tucked in a closet or inside a cupboard.  I do have to say she makes the most terrific drinks.  Our Mother is a kombucha scoby, a “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”.  
Most folks here in the states know to eat yogurt for acidophillus when they take antibiotics.  Some know there are other options, mostly in a pill form. These pills contain a mixture of probiotics, acidophillus being one strain of probiotic. 
Probiotics are a necessary part of our diets.  Whether you are raw vegan, macrobiotic, or  a straight carnivore, our bodies need the probiotics to stay healthy.  
Pro - to support 
Biotic - Life
Probiotics live in our intestines and fight off the bad bacteria and germs.  They keep our bacteria levels at a healthy balance.  They fight to keep us healthy.
Probiotics thrive and grow in fermentations, but are killed in pasteurization.
Most cultures in the world, culture their food (yes, pun intended!) 
Kimchi, sauerkraut, beer, wine, kombucha, mead, miso, pickles, aged cheese, and the list goes on.  Making these products yourselves is the best and cheapest way to consume them.  When purchasing for the health benefits intended, you need to keep your eyes peeled for the “un-pasteurized” seal of approval.  

One of the most simple and inexpensive forms of fermentation that I have found is our beloved kombucha.  Kombucha requires but three ingredients, tea, sugar and the mother or scoby.  Simply brew 3 quarts black tea, dissolve in 1 cup sugar, allow to cool to room temperature, add 2 cups kombucha from previous batch and top with your scoby.  We cover our one gallon glass jar with cheesecloth to avoid flies, and let it brew for 1-2 weeks.  Strain and repeat.  Super simple.  Of course there are always little tricks that you find out along the way, one for example being that you should never let your mother touch metal.  I strain mine with cheese cloth or a nutmilk bag.  I highly recommend finding yourself a good mother!
After many, MANY gallons brewed of kombucha, we moved to the desert and the prickly pears ripened!  I hopped right in, grabbed myself three big, beautiful fruit and went home with a skip in my step.

I poured off one gallon of my already brewed kombucha and started peeling those tricky pricklys.  It was quite obvious it was my first summer in the desert.  This New England girl found out exactly why they are called prickly pear, and spent the next few days pulling prickly hairs out of my finger tips!  After chopping the beautifully pealed fruit, I added it to a gallon glass jar and sealed it off with the lid for a two week anaerobic fermentation.  

Doing the original brew open to the air, we are allowing the ferment to collect all of the yeast and good bacteria from the air.  This is called aerobic fermentation.  We need this good bacteria and when you are brewing correctly, it only collects the bacteria that we want in our bodies, which is why it causes the mother to grow without growing mold.  When we follow the aerobic ferment with a tightly closed lid, it anaerobically ferments.  This is when all of those living organisms are reproducing, breaking down the sugars even more, and creating a bi-product of carbon dioxide, and leaving our brew all bubbly and extra yummy!  When we do the second ferement we need to add a bit more sugar, which can come in the form of fruit, in this case prickly pear.

Two weeks later, after a bit of yard work in the hot Arizona sun, I was delighted to share this magnificently colored, fabulous tasting brew with a great friend and a lovely conversation.