The thing is, a recipe is a map – but your destination is your own alchemy. With naturally fermented foods, it’s an all element creation. Whether you are in the tropical swamps, humid concrete jungle or a dry desert land, your fermented food/drink will react and grow in different ways (just like my hair does when it rains 🙂
I’ve got bottles of experiments, from pineapple wine to apple cider scobys growing by the day. However, uMqombhoti is a recipe to inspire you to learn various food traditions from all over the world while bringing your own kitchen alchemy and culinary linguistics to the table.
Alongside pineapple and ginger beer, uMqombhoti has an enhanced pungent taste, high in Vitamin B and most often shared communally from a ceramic bowl, gourd or pot used for the fermentation process. It’s tradition and magic has been celebrated in South African homes for years – so when I asked my friend, @noksangoma to share her method for making one of the famous fermented drinks, she went on to say:
I dont have a ‘recipe’ for umqombhothi, I just follow an intuitive process in preparing it, because nobody actually told me how to make it. My ‘recipe’ is a mix of how my maternal grandmother makes umqombothi and how the eldest wives in my dad’s family make it.
sorghum – king korn umthombo (green packet)
brown sugar (optional)
mix equal quantities of imithombo with maize meal.
make a paste using boiling water.
place in a container (a bucket or big jar or jug. preferably use ukhamba, if you dont have a clay one, a plastic one will suffice)
store the mixture on in a dark corner or on the floor. overnight, or for 2 or 3 days – depending on how hot it is.
when the mixture smells a little fermented, boil water in a pot and add the paste slowly while stirring continuously (like how you make custard)
lower the stove’s heat as the mixture thickens. let it simmer for about an hour. once this is cooked, it’s called idokwe and is delicious as a porridge with lots of sugar.
cool idokwe – this may take a few hours.
once cooled down, mix the idokwe with cold water and mush it up with your hand til it’s drinking consistency
the potency of the umqombhothi depends on the magic of your mixing hand. my left hand is my mqombhothi mixing hand. my left side is my grancestor/feminine side – they are with me when I make umqombhothi.
once youve mixed idokwe with cold water, add more imithombo to the mixture and mix with your hand, and if you wish, some brown sugar to help the fermentation process along 🙂
again, place in a dark corner for about 3 days while it ferments.
once the umqombhothi is fermented, it smells a little pungent, and little bubbles will be popping on the surface
strain the fermented mixture. the solid sorghum bits are called izinsipho. you may freeze a handful of izinsipho to use in a new batch of umqombhothi (izinsipho help to ferment a batch quicker, since theyve already fermented before)
pour a cupful of umqombhothi as an offering, place in a sacred space in the home. this is for amaDlozi (spirit elders/ancestors/spirit guides)
enjoy the rest!
rules for umqombhothi:
it is considered rude to drink umqombhothi while standing.
umqombhothi is best enjoyed with others. preferably while sitting in a circle, before a meal or after
umqombhothi is used as an offering in ceremonies and rituals. it is an integral part of cultural and spiritual ceremonies.
Thanks Noks! xx Love, The Culinary Linguist