Mothers For Mothers: Candied Kombucha SCOBY or Nata

What You'll Need

  • clean cutting surface and sharp knife
  • non-reactive pot
  • measuring spoons
  • parchment paper
  • baking sheet
  • oven
  • 1 mature Mother/SCOBY, at least 1/2” thick
  • sugar, approximately the same volume as your SCOBY (don’t overthink this)
  • 1/2 cup kombucha or cherry juice

In the spirit of those homemade cards we made for Mom, covered in illegible handwriting, shedding glitter and cotton balls, covered in fingerprints and smeared with mysterious substances, whose intent was clear but whose execution left room for improvement, we present to you this exploration, this celebration, of the Mother. No, we do not mean the deep, beautiful, complicated, and sometimes fraught relationships we may have with the women who raised us. We’re talking about probiotic Mothers!

Mothers, for those who don’t know, are what make kombucha. Dads make it, too, of course…let me explain. A “mother”, also known by the acronym SCOBY, is a Symbiotic Colony of Yeast and Bacteria. If you’re not familiar with it, picture something like a beige jellyfish that floats at the top of a vat of sweetened black tea. This “mother” is responsible for the miraculous fermentation that takes place, turning ordinary tea into sparkling, tart kombucha.

If you’re an old hand with the SCOBY, you know all about it. Perhaps you learned about kombucha here, or at one of our classes. Perhaps a friend taught you, or perhaps it was even…your mother. No matter where you learned about her, if you’ve been brewing buch for any length of time, you are no doubt familiar with her. The way she grows and grows, steadily and quietly, becoming thicker, stained with the tannins of many a batch. You may have peeled off a layer here and there, and given her to a friend to start their own batch. You may have kept her in a separate jar, called a “mothership”, or fed her to the chickens when she got too big for her jar. You may have marveled at her amazing powers of rejuvenation, self-creation, expansion. You may have felt overwhelmed by these same qualities at times, wondering if she was going to keep on growing, beyond the confines of a jar you wished to keep her in. You may have felt tied down by her, as though you could not leave her for any length of time (though in fact she is quite self sufficient, as long as she has ample moisture and air…) And another feeling, common among experienced kombucha brewers, is the sense that Something Should Be Done With The Mother.

If you have all the spare SCOBYs you need…if your friends are set for SCOBYs…if you just have too much of the cellular mat in your kombucha vat…consider Nata.

Nata, Sandor Katz tells us, is a candy made in the Phillippines from the mothers that form on the surface of coconut water or a pineapple infusion, as it ferments down to vinegar. SCOBYs formed on vinegar and kombucha are very similar, being composed largely of cellulose; a vinegar mother would work as well for this recipe. The recipe he presents for this candy in his orange tome The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from around the World, involves a series of water baths to rinse most of the acidity from the mother, before slicing it into bite sized pieces and candying it in an equal portion of sugar. In our testing, a little acidity was most welcome, and we made the Nata without the rinsing steps.

We tested other recipes, too, ones which did not involve boiling, so as to preserve the probiotic properties of the mother, but found them rather…slippery.

The flavor and method we settled on produces a candy similar in texture to a gummy bear, with a flavor that reminded some of the powdered hot apple cider packets that we used to sneak and eat dry when we thought no one was looking. If you use cherry juice instead of kombucha, the flavor becomes much more candylike, red and fruity. It’s tangy and sweet and sticks to the teeth in a pleasing way, if you like that sort of thing, It's better than you would think it would taste, and certainly better than eating it raw. However...

Is this our new favorite food? No. We must admit it is not.

Is it healthy, probiotic goodness? No, it is not. It is made of cellulose, and sugar, and acid.

Is it a love song, an exploration of flavor and culture, a celebration of the Mother and mothers everywhere? You bet your sweet-tart SCOBY it is.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. We made this thing for you.


Lay that mother down on the cutting board and chop her up into bite-sized pieces with a sharp knife. Try to find a chunk of older mother that has the layers fused firmly together; the layers from the top sometimes slip and slide off of each other.
sliced scoby
Scoop the SCOBY slices into your hands, and approximate the volume of SCOBY they contain. Place the pieces in a non-reactive pot.

scoby candy cooking
Sprinkle an approximately equal volume of sugar over the pieces. Pour 1/2 cup of kombucha or cherry juice over the SCOBY pieces.
Cherry juice
Over medium heat, cook the SCOBY bits and sugar for 15 minutes. 

Simmer the SCOBY pieces for 15-20 minutes, until the liquid has cooked off. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Place the cooled pieces of mother on a sheet of parchment and bake in the oven at 300° F until the edges begin to darken and curl, about 10 minutes. 
place on parchment
place in ovenRemove from the oven and astound your mother with this clever concoction.

SCOBY's candiedCandied Mothers For Mother’s Day! A new family tradition.

candied scoby

Over to You

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