Southern Fired Wiccan
S. P. Sipal
Published: 24th March, 2015
Age: Young Adult
Cilla Swaney is thrilled to return stateside, where she can hang up her military-brat boots for good. Finally, she’ll be free to explore her own interests—magick and Wicca. But when she arrives at her grandma’s farm, Cilla discovers that life in the South isn’t quite what she expected. At least while country hopping, she never had to drink G-ma’s crazy fermented concoctions, attend church youth group, make co-op deliveries…or share her locker with a snake-loving, fire-lighting, grimoire-stealing Goth girl…
…Who later invites her to a coven that Cilla’s not sure she has the guts to attend. But then Emilio, the dark-haired hottie from her charter school, shows up and awakens her inner goddess. Finally, Cilla starts believing in her ability to conjure magick. Until…
…All Hades breaks loose. A prank goes wrong during their high school production of Macbeth, and although it seems Emilio is to blame, Cilla and Goth pay the price. Will Cilla be able to keep the boy, her coven, and the trust of her family? Or will this Southern Wiccan get battered and fried?
Brewing Up Your Own Bubbly from Southern Fried Wiccan
By S.P. Sipal
Do you like soft drinks? Are you a Coke or Pepsi person? Mountain Dew or Sprite?
I used to love soft drinks until I realized a few years ago that I felt better without so much sugar, or even the artificial sweeteners of the diet versions. It was then that I discovered that I could make my own fizzy drinks in a more natural way. In fact, modern-day soft drinks are descendants of the ancient practice of fermentation.
Cilla Swaney, the main character in my Young Adult novel Southern Fried Wiccan, thinks the stuff her aging hippy grandmother brews up in her farmhouse kitchen is vile. But as she gets to know her G-ma and discovers that the hottie she’s been eyeing at school loves the ginger beer, she decides to give it a try. Turns out, homemade soft drinks aren’t that bad. And like any good kitchen witch, Cilla likes concocting her own potions by playing with different flavors.
So I thought it might be fun to share a couple of G-ma’s best recipes with you. Emil, Cilla’s soon-to- be boyfriend, is partial to ginger beer, but Cilla develops a fondness for the versatility of kombucha, a fermented tea. Both of these drinks get their bubbly from the natural process of fermentation rather than simply adding CO2.
Note: As these are beverage ferments, both recipes produce a very slight alcohol content, but not so much that they can’t be sold to minors in stores.
Beware: Both of these brews can get quite bubbly. Cool bottles in the fridge before drinking, and then you probably want to open them over a sink!
If you understand the basic concept of what kombucha is, it’s really easy to make. Kombucha is tea that is fermented, then bottled and allowed to ferment a second time until the bubbly builds up. That’s it.
You’ll find lots of recipes online that vary slightly, but the general rule is to brew tea, add sugar, and then when it cools, add your culture (called a SCOBY or a mother). SCOBYs can be found online or maybe locally. I’ve had success with both Ebay and Craigslist. For the kombucha starter, you can buy a bottle of kombucha at a local health food store to get you started and also see what you’re shooting for. But if it’s your first time tasting kombucha, let me warn you…the homemade version is a lot better because you can stop the fermenting to suit your taste!
- 8 tea bags, or 6-7 tsp loose-leaf tea
- 1 cup sugar
- 14 cups water
- 1 SCOBY
- 1 cup Kombucha starter
- A big, glass bowl or jar that will hold 1 gallon
- Some cotton kitchen towels that you don’t mind getting stained
- A plastic strainer
Brew the tea just like you would anytime you’re making tea. Some people make kombucha out of green tea, but kombucha is traditionally made from regular black tea. You don’t want to use herbal tea, however, as then it would not be kombucha.
While the tea is still hot, stir in the cup of sugar until dissolved. Let cool, then pour into your container ofchoice. I like to use a wide Pyrex gallon bowl because the greater circumference seems to help the brewing process. But lots of people brew in a big gallon jar.
Once the tea is cooled, add in your SCOBY and your starter culture. Then, cover the mouth of your bowl or jar with a towel secured by a large rubber band. This will keep out flies and other varmints while your kombucha ferments. Set it in a warm, dark space away from traffic.
Length of time to ferment varies based on your personal taste (whether you want it sweeter or tangier), temperature in the house, and type of vessel you’re fermenting in. The minimum, in my experience and with my taste, is 5 days. But in winter, I’ve seen it take 2-3 weeks.
You can determine when it’s ready by taking a straw, slipping it between the side of the container and the SCOBY (that should have spread across the top), and taking a sip. If you like the taste, it’s done!
Then, using clean bottles that you can stopper firmly, and using a funnel (and strainer if you want to weed out the culture), pour your tea into the bottles and close them up. Leave the SCOBY (which has probably grown a baby) and enough of the kombucha in your jar for your new batch. Place your bottled brew in a warm, dark space to brew for about 3-5 more days, and then store in your fridge until you’re ready to drink.
**Note – During the second ferment, when adding the kombucha to the bottle, it is at this stage that some people, like my gal Cilla, choose to add different flavors. You can find many recommendations online. Play with it and have fun!
You can find more detailed directions with step-by-step pictures online as well.
Ginger Beer Receipe
To make ginger beer, you first ferment what’s called a “bug” then add this starter to a ginger syrup, add water, and bottle.
To make the bug:
- 2 tsp grated ginger
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 cup water
Stir all this together in a jar, then cover it with a dish towel sealed with a rubber band, and keep in a warm place out of traffic. Feed your bug by adding the same ingredients above daily until it starts bubbling.
To make the beer:
- 2 quarts water
- 2-4 tsp grated ginger (to taste)
- 1.5 cups sugar
Boil these ingredients together for about 12 – 15 mins. Let cool.
Add the juice of 2 lemons and the bug (reserving a couple of TBSPs if you plan to keep the bug going).
Run the mixture through a strainer, and then add water to make a full gallon.
Bottle in clean, sealable bottles. Place in a warm spot and let ferment for 10 days – 2 weeks, again depending on your taste and the warmth of the room. Store in the fridge until ready to drink.
Whether you’re a witch or not, I hope you like brewing up your own soft drinks. You can find so many more recipes online and experiment with your own flavorings. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you could even try G-ma’s beet kvass or grape cooler!
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About the Author
Born and raised in North Carolina, Susan Sipal had to travel halfway across the world and return home to embrace her father and grandfather’s penchant for telling a tall tale. After having lived with her husband in his homeland of Turkey for many years, she suddenly saw the world with new eyes and had to write about it.
Perhaps it was the emptiness of the Library of Celsus at Ephesus that cried out to be refilled, or the myths surrounding the ancient Temple of Artemis, but she’s been writing stories filled with myth and mystery ever since. She can’t wait to share Southern Fried Wiccan with readers in March 2015.
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