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From Wild Booch back to Wild Shrooms

My new baby – ‘Wild Booch’  -  Kombucha Sauvage

 

My sexy labels are thanks to Yves (Menu&Cie)

More than a year into this adventure now!

A curiosity turned hobby turned little side business..

It all started with ‘the sodas’ (Soda Sauvage) which I had been working on bringing to market for a couple of years since we began carbonating our maple sap in spring 2016 for fun. François liked it plain, but I wanted flavour!  I got to playing around and finally called on Ryk, a soda enthusiast, who coached and lent me equipment for my first bottling. With some further research, trials and a few explosions later, I invested in the basics and got it down. Once my sumac maple sparkling water was set and adopted, it spawned a line of ‘sodas’ featuring clean and subtle flavours from the forest.

Then I caught the fermentation bug after taking a class for professionals with Sebastien Bureau (Mannanova), and began fermenting everything in sight.  Scary looking (and smelling?!) experiments were bubbling all over the place between the restaurant and our house kitchen counter and cupboards, François found it frightful - until he was sold. Kombucha became a daily libation for both of us, as well as an amusing project for me – an open template for exploration..  As I have been cooking with all these local wild plants and mushrooms for so many years, it was only natural that François’ foraged treasures would end up in our glass as well! The Kombucha came to overshadow the sodas only because it happened to be trendy and more punchy, more market friendly in the moment.

(In case you’re not familiar with Kombucha, it is a naturally sparkling beverage made from fermented sweet tea that is refreshingly sour, and supposedly super good for you and your gut.) Look it up!

I just think it’s delicious, when well made..  Besides the composition of your mother (SCOBY), and kind of tea, ingredients, herbs and spices you use that go into it, not to mention the brewing temperature and method, there are many different styles. At Montreal’s Boochfest  recently at Jarry Park, I tasted everything from sweet, commercial, ultra filtered carbonated ‘phony’ Kombucha to super pure, bland tonic, as well as super dry, overly aromatic concoctions and everything in between.  Every aroma under the sun and a wide range of effervescence, on offer from big international companies to hyper-local artisans, all with a unique booch.  And from observing customers, it became obvious that everyone seems to appreciate something different too.  

Personally I favour a fermented product (so acidic) with minimum but some residual sugar to balance, with a real tasting flavour that is not overpowering.  I find that almost every beverage on the market tastes artificial even if they claim to use ‘natural’ flavour; my pet peeve! Although there might be slightly more authenticity in the Kombucha world than with soft drinks or ‘waters’, marketing remains omnipresent and just as misleading as it goes mainstream, the bigger brands already in supermarkets..

I love my bubbles, but I stop them short a bit to have stability in the fridge since I don’t extreme filter out all the good stuff. At home, I often allow for a longer 2nd fermentation and even leave the fruit/herbs in, but not a good idea for business.

My four flavours offer up each a different personality: The Chaga-Maple is Soft and Easy, intriguing for the medicinal mushroom factor;  Labrador Tea-Sumac is sharp, astringent and refreshing, my favourite but apparently the least so with customers beyond Booch old timers.

 

The crowd favourite seemed to alternate by the week at the market, but now has settled on the Balsam Fir, Wild Mint and Mountain Ash. It is the most complex, like a walk through the forest. ‘The chicks’ seem to like the Elderberry-Sweet Clover Flower with its pretty colour and wild vanilla-like grassy notes. We also have many seasonal flavours that we serve by the glass (Kombucha du Jour) at the market like Strawberry-Sweetgrass, Black Raspberry-Anise, Wild Mint-Wild Blueberry, Cloudberry-Apple-Ginger, etc..  http://jardinssauvages.com/index2.php?nom=Kombucha_Soda

Good stuff.

It is not hard to make at home for your personal consumption, if you’ve got some SCOBY *(Mother) and are on top of it. (*A symbiosis of good bacteria and yeasts that turn the sugar /alcohol into acetic acid, among other organic acids)

Of course, as I soon discovered, brewing booch at home is one thing, doing it on a larger scale and commercially is whole different game. Achieving a regular, consistent and stable product while remaining artisanal, favouring a top-quality and healthy alive product is a challenge. I learnt a lot in the past year growing slowly, organically, tinkering with all the parameters, doing everything on my own from the recipes to the heavy lifting, methodology, logistical troubleshooting, adjusting variables, tweaking... Alongside my reliable refractometer, I have two Ph-o-meters, but my tongue is the best.  All to say, I’m humbly quite pleased with my progress and my line.

As I’m rolling in hundreds of liters and not thousands or hundreds of thousands, my operation is still way small relative to the commercial booch, and we are not distributed - only sold at our store (Jean Talon Market, Mtl), our country table in St-Roch de l’Achigan and on order, for a select few restaurants with a local menu/beverage program, like the Monkland Tavern in NDG ..

At a crossroads, I’m unsure what the next step should be, as I’m maxed out with my current set-up. I could take on a couple of clients, that's it. My plan. We’ll see what the future holds for my Kombucha Sauvage.. I am taking a commercial class on big-scale brewing to enlighten me before further investment.

Who’s kidding who, I am a chef first and quite like it that way. I kind of want to keep up this beat, with my brewing as a sideline, but I can’t help but be excited about the possibilities. But it’s not like I can go BIG anyhow;  it must remain artisanal as it is made with REAL, WILD, SUSTAINABLY hand harvested plants and berries, ie. Can not be mass produced. Which is what makes it so special – delicious and therapeutic!  Not to mention expensive.. That's why I think it's meant to be just for this scale and a handful of clients with the right clientele - who are ready to pay for something special, like a glass of wine.. A suivre!

One thing for sure, for now, I need to focus on the wild mushrooms and the rest of our business as it is fall, our busiest season. Already!

It’s been a beautiful, yet very dry summer, and so a slow start to the mushroom season; we’re like a month behind, yikes!

Normally by now, I’m several hundreds of pounds into my putting up, not twenty (out of an average of 2 tons/year on average!). Besides some chanterelles and Lobster, a smattering of this and that: a few boletes and milkcaps, not much going on. No puffballs, porcini or hen of the woods to speak of, the stars of late summer/fall.

However, with the recent rainfall, nice days and cool nights, it just might explode. Fingers crossed!  A few inspiring photos from last year on our facebook page and this year's menu

https://www.facebook.com/JardinsSauvages17/  

The reservations are coming in for our annual mushroom fest, so it will be a mad dash as usual, weehoo..  http://soupnancy.squarespace.com/wild-mushroom-event-october/

Always a tad stressful, yes, but I do love this dance with nature. And everything about the seasons.. How delicious is life now? Not just talking wild things here - the peaches, the corn etc!  Yum.  It's hard to not want to celebrate these gorgeous days, the glorious harvest season, and all that we are so lucky to have..

Foremost, here’s to Mother Nature, our dance partner throughout the seasons, and the marvelous bounty she offers up for our food and drink, not to mention in sights and sounds; the moon, the cricket/birdsong and the whole shebang.

Cheers!

Happy Mushroom season to us! Let the season of the dirty fingernails begin..

 

Posted on Tuesday, September 3, 2019 at 12:46AM by Registered CommenterNancy Hinton in , , , , , , , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment

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