Scan the shelves of any bookstore, and you’ll find books and cookbooks alike touting the health benefits of fermented foods and drinks. Debuting her first cookbook this month, Delicious Probiotic Drinks: 75 Recipes for Kombucha, Kefir, Ginger Beer, and Other Naturally Fermented Drinks, Julia Mueller debunks home brewing and fermentation myths. With a passion for nutrition and photography, she lets her creative side run free with tantalizing recipes and gorgeous photos on her blog, The Roasted Root.
If you have a healthy addiction to the effervescent fermented tea that has been flying off shelves in recent years, also known as kombucha, you’ll know that it can put a large dent in your wallet. But now you can put your DIY hat on and make it at home. In her cookbook, Julia opens our eyes to a new world of probiotic drinks including: kombucha, kefir, ginger beer, cultured vegetable juices, jun, lacto-fermented lemonade, and more. She makes sure to cover handy measurement conversion charts, a list of all the equipment needed in her recipes, and troubleshooting fermenting at home — all of which help set you up for successful home brewing.
Racking up major points in the health department, probiotic drinks help balance the digestive system, and are excellent for the metabolism and the immune system. They’ve been used in both Eastern and Western medicine to help treat IBS, Crohn’s Disease, and more. Not only are these probiotic beverages tasty, but they also contain high levels of B vitamins and amino acids.
We had a chance to chat with Julia and find out all about her new cookbook. The food blogger, photographer, and newly minted cookbook author lives in California, the unofficial health food capital of the U.S.. Read on to find out why we love it, and why we think you will too! Want to grab a copy Julia’s cookbook? You can find it here on Amazon.
Feeling lucky today? Thanks to Julia, we’re giving away not one, not two, but THREE of her cookbooks. Enter for your chance to win one of them down below. Mega probiotics require mega giveaways, right?
Also, Julia’s giving you a taste of what you can find in her book by sharing her recipe for zippy Strawberry Kefir with us down at the bottom of the page.
Now, onto the questions!
How would you describe your cooking philosophy? How has living in California influenced it?
Keep food simple, real, and whole would be my cooking philosophy in a nutshell. Most of the food I make is vegetable and meat-centric, with whole grains (excluding wheat) thrown in from time to time. I love eating a whole food diet because it keeps my energy level high and makes me feel good. Like most people, I operate under time constraints, so keeping my recipes straight-forward, quick, and approachable is a priority of mine.
Living in California has played a major role in the way I cook due to the accessibility of high quality whole foods as well as the region-wide trend of keeping food fresh, fun, and innovative. I enjoy learning and drawing inspiration from people who create nutritious, tasty, and well-balanced meals using nothing but un-processed ingredients. I’m also a huge fan of incorporating new-to-me foods into my own cooking.
What sparked your interest in fermentation and when did you first start making your own probiotic drinks?
I’ve been interested in fermentation ever since my Chemistry class in high school. Obsessed with the idea of microscopic organisms eating sugar and converting it into alcohol, I tried making beer in high school using molasses and yeast (to no avail…obviously). Back then, I thought I would brew alcohol as an adult. Because of the intricacy, investment, and time required in home-brewing, fermentation was never more than a fleeting thought. When I was first introduced to kombucha in 2011 and began drinking it every day, I figured it would behoove my pocketbook to find an alternative to buying it at the store. After a little research, it became apparent that brewing kombucha is easy and cost effective. With a few small purchases, I set out to brew, and from there, I began learning how to brew other probiotic drinks.
You’re having two cookbooks published this year, Delicious Probiotic Drinks and Let Them Eat Kale! What has been the most exciting thing along the journey since starting your blog, The Roasted Root?
Having Delicious Probiotic Drinks released was amazing! Forming a relationship with a publisher was a very exciting and unexpected occurrence, and I never thought it would happen from starting a blog. Going through the motions of writing, editing, and publishing a book is amazing, challenging, and completely surreal! I can’t wait until book #2 comes out, and am looking forward to seeing what the future holds.
What are some of the benefits of consuming probiotic drinks and brewing them at home?
Gut health is number one. Probiotics help maintain microflora in your digestive system that not only fight off bad bacteria, but strengthen your immune system, help you digest food, and absorb nutrients. Aside from being probiotic-rich, these drinks are also filled with Vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, making them very healthful and rejuvenating.
Why do you think probiotic drinks have grown in popularity so rapidly in the past few years?
I think the popularity of probiotic drinks is commensurate with the whole food movement and the abundance of studies that have come out regarding gut health and allergies (specifically gluten intolerance). All these things go hand-in-hand. Our nation is becoming more aware of the importance of nutrition, and as people are adding more nutritious foods into their diet, they are beginning to realize which foods make them feel good and which don’t. With that comes a higher awareness of food intolerances or allergies.
If there’s one thing you could tell someone hesitant about making their own probiotic drinks at home, what would it be?
It’s easy and safe! Many people think probiotic drinks are time-intensive and difficult to brew, but they’re just the opposite! Can probiotic drinks be harmful when they aren’t brewed correctly and become contaminated with bad bacteria? Yes. But as long as you pay attention to your culture, keep a sanitary brewing environment, and trust your instincts, home brewing is very safe!
What is your favorite recipe in Delicious Probiotic Drinks and why?
Generally, kombucha and ginger beer are my favorite probiotic drinks (although I also LOVE making homemade yogurt). Blackberry Sage Kombucha, Lemon Ginger Kombucha, and original ginger beer are my favorite go-to recipes from the book.
Where can readers find your book?
Thirsty yet? Requiring around twenty-four hours to make, milk kefir may be one of the fastest recipes out of Julia’s cookbook. She’s shared a recipe with us for Strawberry Kefir that perks up the flavor of plain milk kefir. With the addition of fresh strawberries, it will make you think summer is just around the corner.
Want to try your hand at making probiotic drinks at home? We’re giving THREE lucky readers/fermentation enthusiasts a copy of Delicious Probiotic Drinks: 75 Recipes for Kombucha, Kefir, Ginger Beer, and Other Naturally Fermented Drinks! The giveaway goes until Friday, March 7, so take a chance on fermentation and enter to win Julia’s cookbook! We’ll notify the winner via email when the contest is over.