Probiotic Plum Shiso Soda

Make Your Own Fermented Soda

Come on! Is there anything better than hot pink, probiotic fizz?

I was not planning on sharing this recipe but the richness of the fizzified shiso and the color of this beaut swayed me to share. This was a backup soda that I tested for an upcoming fermentation dinner I’m doing (very exciting!) with Food Underground,* but after just a couple test batches I’m a convert.

If you read this blog or have taken soda classes with me in the past, you probably know that I grow and love purple shiso. I think it adds that je ne sais quoi to my potluck soda offerings and to many other ferments. And while all sodas are not probiotic, not even all fermented ones, this one is made with kefir whey, so it is. For a vegan or dairy-free version, try using something like this fermented bulgur liquid or  finished water kefir or coconut water kefir in place of kefir whey, but do be aware that they have the potential to impact the flavor more than the relatively neutral tasting kefir whey.

As for plums, I like to use a sweet/tart plum variety for soda. Santa Rosa plums are my favorite (I will admit that it’s in part because they’re GORGEOUS), but just about any plum will do. Go for purple or red varieties to get that bright red hue.

Probiotic Pop Plum Shiso Soda

Plum Shiso Soda Recipe

Yield: 4 liters 

This soda will age nicely (and eventually become wine) in the fridge, however remember that any time you’re bottling without measuring the conversion of sugar into alcohol (and especially when you’re intentionally leaving fermentable sugars in there for carbonation and sweetness), there is a risk of explosion. Explosions are not a joke, and exploding glass bottles are seriously dangerous. For that reason, I always bottle soda in plastic bottles. Recycled two liters are excellent vessels, and they’re intended to keep the carbonation trapped, so they’re less prone to explosions and leaks, and more apt to give you a delightfully bubbly soda. I soak mine overnight with soapy water to get the flavors of the soda out of the vessel, and then rinse thoroughly with cool water to get the soap out.

Overflowing bottle of homemade soda

Do take care when opening fermented sodas. There are plenty of sugars left to ferment when you bottle, so they’ll geyser if you let them!

  • 1-gallon or larger crock or open container**
  • Long wooden or plastic spoon
  • Fine- or medium-mesh strainer
  • Funnel
  • Two 2 liter bottles that seal well enough to trap carbonation (see headnote)
  • 2 pounds plums (seconds are great for this!)
  • 1/2 cup packed shiso leaves (okay to leave the stems on)
  • 2 cups cane sugar (or more to taste)
  • 8 cups filtered water, plus more to fill bottles
  • 1/2 cup kefir whey
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice (or more to taste)
  1. Gently rinse plums and shiso in cool water. Roughly chop plums and compost their pits.
  2. Put plums into a 1-gallon or larger vessel and toss with sugar. Allow to macerate for an hour or so, until the plums are steeping their own juice. Add shiso and toss it all together. Pour in 8 cups of filtered water, kefir whey and lemon juice. If you overfill your vessel, you’ll be quite unhappy later, so try to keep it to about half full.
  3. Using a long and strong wooden or plastic spoon, stir vigorously, creating a tornado-like vortex in the center of your container. If you overfilled, this is when you’ll feel it: when the contents of your crock spill out onto the countertops. Stirring is an incredibly important step. At this stage, the yeast want oxygen to be active and replicate, and stirring is how you give them that air supply. Continue stirring as vigorously and as frequently as you can, a minimum of twice a day. The more you stir, the sooner your ferment will become active and the sooner you get to drink it!
  4. Cover the container with a kitchen cloth and rubber band. At this stage, you want air in, but no dust or passing buggies. Depending on temperature, how frequently and vigorously you stir, how fresh your kefir whey was and how concerned you are with alcohol content (shorter fermentation for less booze), you’ll continue stirring and recovering for 12 hours to 3 days.
  5. When the plums and shiso have risen to surface and you see a lot of bubbling when you stir, you’re almost ready for bottling. Strain out the plums and shiso and reserve for another use or compost. Taste the liquid with a clean spoon (don’t double dip). If it needs a bit more acid, add some lemon juice, a tablespoon at a time. If it’s not quite sweet enough after those first, sugar-devouring days of fermentation, add a bit more sugar (1/4 to 1/2 cup is the most I ever add).
  6. Stir to incorporate additional sugar and lemon juice and then split the mix evenly between your two bottles. Add filtered water to the bottles until they are full to about 3 inches from the top. Secure the lids and set them in a room temperature spot away from direct sunlight.
  7. Once the bottle has become rigid (test by squeeze the sides), you know it’s carbonated. The timing on this will depend on a few things (like temperature), so it could be anywhere from 8 to 24 hours later. In the winter, it can take a few days. Chill it in the fridge for at least an hour before opening.
  8. Open with care! My kitchen ceiling is permanently strawberry soda-stained, and there’s no reason for that to happen to you.
  9. Long term storage in the fridge is not recommended because explosions are a thing, even in plastic!
Shiso in Plum soda

This is soda, not health food, but at least it’s probiotic!

*Buy your fermentation dinner tix here (and check out that menu!)

**If you have a larger crock, you can add a lot more water and just add less when it comes to bottling.

Soak Those Oats: Fermented Oatmeal is Better Than Your Oatmeal

fermented oatmeal for flavor

One of my very favorite takeaways from Sandor Katz’ fermentation residency was his countertop bowl of fermenting grains. The way he does it, it’s a big ol’ bowl, where any bits of leftover grain from a meal get tossed. He adds a bit of sourdough starter, or idli batter or whatever other starter he has on hand, with some liquid from time to time, then gives it a stir and uses it to make delightful pancakes a day or so later. It’s a super simple meal, quick as can be, and it can be easily jazzed up with the addition of fermented vegetables, cheese or eggs.

Soaking oats phytic acid removal

The oats will absorb almost all the liquid, so there will be a little exposed oat surface. Stirring reduces the risk of unwanted surface yeasts.

The first new practice I wanted to institute back at home was this grain bowl. However, we’re a family of two and I don’t eat a whole lot of grains, so it quickly became obvious that this would be more like another pet to care for than like a convenience food in my house. My husband is a fan of good old fashioned oatmeal for breakfast, though, I so I suggested he might enjoy fermenting his oats before cooking them. Not only would it definitely improve the flavor (a little bit of sour, a lot of complexity), but it would also reduce* the quantity of  phytic acid naturally present in grains, nuts and seeds. Phytates aren’t great, because they bind to nutrients, preventing us from absorbing them.

fermenting grains for health

The liquid has not yet been absorbed by the oats.

He tried it, and now he’s totally hooked. It’s his almost-everyday breakfast. He now removes 3/4 of the oats about every other day (every 3rd day in cooler weather) and then adds fresh oats into the already fermented oats. For him, 2 to 3 days is the right amount for peak deliciousness. The oats are not mushy, they cook more quickly, and regular fermenters will immediately recognize the sour, yeasty flavor and aroma. If they go too long, you may see a yeasty film on top, experience a slimy texture or end up with a super cheesy aroma, so if you’re going to push it to the 3 day mark, make sure to give it a good stir at least daily. That will disrupt the surface and keep stuff from forming and it will serve as a bit of a check-in for you.

why soak oatmeal

Extra nutrients made more absorbable? Yay for fermented oats!

Fermented/Soaked Oatmeal Recipe

This is not so much a recipe as a guideline, because this is a truly simple practice that doesn’t require much instruction. If at any point you don’t want to feed your grains, just eat them all and start again when you’re ready to enjoy them again. This is so easy to get going that there’s really no need to keep your “starter” alive if you feel like a break. If you want to scale this up or down, go nuts. A 1:1 1/4 ratio of oats to water by volume will get you where you need to be.

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 2 1/2 cups filtered water
  • 3 tablespoons phytase-rich grains (optional: see below). If using extra grains, use a 1:1 ratio, by volume of extra filtered water.
  • Put oatmeal and other grains, if using, in a medium bowl, preferably a glass one with a lid that fits. add water. If using the phytase-rich grains, add an equal amount of water, by volume (for example,  3 tablespoons extra grains, 3 tablespoons extra filtered water).
  • Cover the bowl and place it at a room temperature spot away from direct sunlight. Let it sit for 2 to 3 days, stirring daily, and taking notice of changes in aroma and texture when you stir. The water will absorb into the oats overnight, and some of the oats will not be submerged after that time. As long as you stir daily and your house isn’t crazy hot, you should be fine. If your house is crazy hot, consider a 24 hour to 48 hour fermentation instead.
  • When you’re ready to cook your oats, remove about 3/4 and cook them how you normally would. Jake basically just warms them on the stove, or cooks them for 1 minute in the microwave.
  • He recommends eating them with coconut oil or butter, fruit (especially blueberries and peaches) nuts, honey, maple syrup, cinnamon, candied ginger, dried fruit, jam or some combination of the above. I think the sour flavor would lend itself very well to some savory breakfast oats. Try it with fresh herbs, cheese, sesame oil and soy sauce or topped with a poached egg!
  • Don’t forget to feed your grains! Add your fermented oats to 1 1/4 cups of water and 1 cup of fresh oats (or more or less if you wish, just keeping to the volume ratio of 1 part oats, 1 1/4 parts filtered water. Cover your bowl and repeat.
fermented oatmeal

Be creative with flavors and be prepared for the exciting sour flavors of fermented grains!

*Notice that I wrote “reduce” rather than “eliminate.” If you have difficulties with nutrient deficiency or absorption, I would follow a bit of advice from Amanda Rose of (an excellent site on Phytic Acid) and add roughly 10% of a grain that contains more phytase and therefore more readily breaks down phytic acid during soaking. The addition of other grains will dramatically reduce the amount of phytic acid in your oats. Great options include barley, spelt, rye and buckwheat.

What to Ferment with Leftover Fermenting Liquid

If you make the doogh recipe I posted earlier this week, you may have some leftover bulgur liquid (depending on what kind of yogurt you use to make your fizzy, minty, dairy drink). If you do, don’t dump it! There are so many things to do with fermented liquids. You’ll find it a useful liquid for there 5 recipes.

Spiced, Fermented Ketchup – Use 1/4 cup of freshly fermented bulgur liquid in place of the sauerkraut juice called for in this recipe. Since the kraut juice is salty and the bulgur liquid isn’t, include a 3/4 teaspoon of salt with the spices.

Cultured Ketchup with cloves

Culture the ketchup, cuz it’s cooked.

Vegan Cheese – Do a 1-to-1 sub of bulgur liquid for the millet rejuvelac called for in this recipe. No other changes are necessary.

Vegan cultured  cashew cheese

Mmmm…cashew cheese

Strawberry Basil Soda – Alright, so maybe strawberries are kicked for the year (at least where I live). If you’ve got some in the freezer, though, why not make some soda? Sub 1/2 cup of bulgur liquid for the culture (or yeast) in the recipe.

Strawberry soda with straws and lemon

This is what summer tastes like at parties at my house.

‘So Peach Soda – Since you’re already in soda-making mode, why not whip up a nice batch of this seasonal peach soda, again, with 1/2 cup bulgur liquid in place of whey or yeast.

Peach and purple shiso soda

Perfectly seasonal soda. Naturally fermented.

Bread Kvass – I usually use sourdough starter to kick off my bread kvass, but 1/4 cup of fermented bulgur liquid per quart of kvass would be a very fun substitute with a less yeasty flavor profile.

Cinnamon Toast Kvass

Bread kvass is normally a yeast ferment, but it works with other fermented liquids, too!

Gluten-Free Sourdough Buckwheat Bread Recipe

3 ingredient gluten free bread

Finished loaf. Crispy out layer, cake-y interior. Loads of savory panache.

Yup, this whole buckwheat bread is gluten-free. Better yet, it has only three ingredients, and you can get two of them at the normal grocery store (and the other one is water). No grain mill or expensive flour required and you don’t need any atypical kitchen equipment to make it. It makes for a great sandwich. It tastes fantastic (unsurprisingly, it tastes like rich, savory buckwheat), and although it doesn’t have the texture of bread with gluten—it’s a little cake-ier—it also doesn’t have any of the gross gums, sweeteners and fillers that many store-bought gluten-free breads have. It’s an easy win for the whole foods crowd.Loaf of gluten free whole buckwheat bread recipe

This is not my brainstorm. This is one of those delightful grain things we fermented at Sandor Katz’ residency, but I’ve tweaked the loose recipe we made, and broken things down into specifics. My soaking and fermentation times are significantly longer than those we used at the residency, but this is the end product that best fits my preferences, so this is how I’m making it.

Crumb on gluten-free sourdough bread recipe

This ain’t no gluten bread. You can tell because it isn’t exactly beautiful and the crumb is not airy and chewy. It’s dense and cake-y, though, which provides its own pleasures.

I am not gluten-free (I don’t eat a ton of carbs, though so my grain intake is very limited), but I am a little obsessed with this bread. It is one of those simply genius recipes that’s hard to believe until you try it.

Actively fermenting buckwheat gluten free bread

Those bubbles in the batter indicate that fermentation happened! Yay! You’re ready to bake it.

Gluten-Free, Naturally-Leavened, Whole Buckwheat, Sourdough Bread Recipe

Makes 1 loaf, adapted from a loaf made at the Sandor Katz fermentation residency

This is a pretty versatile bread. You can add a variety of seeds (sunflower is super tasty). I’ve been busy working on this basic recipe, so I haven’t experimented much beyond sunflower and sesame, but I’m betting you could throw other goodies in there with great success. Just make sure you add them before fermentation. You don’t want to disturb the batter too much just before baking. Also, make sure to check out the photos for hints on how things should look at each stage. Getting this to where I liked it took a several dozen pounds of buckwheat, and the visuals are the key.

dough consistency of gluten free bread

I call it batter because it’s way wetter than dough. Make sure to gently smooth out the surface. it won’t rise a ton, so what you put in will be similar in shape to what you take out. This is a smoother version of the dough/batter than I prefer.

  • 2 cups (375 g) hulled, whole buckwheat
  • 1 cup (235 ml) filtered water, plus more for soaking
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3-4 g) kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup (45 g) sesame seeds (optional)
  1. Rinse buckwheat and remove any debris. Place buckwheat in a large bowl and cover with at least 2 inches of water. Cover with a cloth and let it soak overnight.
  2. Drain buckwheat well in a fine mesh strainer. DO NOT RINSE! That slimy stuff is what makes this work. You’ll lose a little of it just by dint of draining off the soaking water. No worries on that.
  3. Pour the strained buckwheat into the blender or food processor and add 1 cup of filtered water, salt and sesame seeds. Pulse until combined, but not smooth. In a Vitamix, this is like 2 seconds of it running, followed by 2 to 3 pulses. In a food processor, it’s more like 10 pulses. Your goal is to integrate the liquid and grain so that they don’t separate when poured out of the blender, but also leave some of the grains relatively in tact. If it gets too smooth, no worries! It will be just fine, but it tastes nicer and has a way better texture when not fully blended. If you pour it and you’re seeing too much water separated, blend it again. Better over-blended than under-blended, but you can also toss it back into the blender for another pulse or two if it pours and separates quickly.
  4. Pour it into a large glass bowl (the same bowl you soaked it in is fine), cover with a kitchen cloth to keep dust out and let it sit for 24 hours at room temp. If your home is particularly warm, you may want to cut that time, or if it’s particularly cool, you could go up to 36 hours. I’ve tested this at room temperatures ranging from  64°F (17.7°C) to 78°F (24.5°C), (all in the same summer month! Thanks, climate change!)  and I was able to bake it after 24 hours of fermentation at both temperatures.
  5. If you want to measure how much your dough/batter has risen, place a piece of tape along the side of the bowl, even with the level of batter. This isn’t a glutinous bread that will double in size. It tends to rise between a 1/2 inch and an inch. You’ll be able to see the bubbles in the batter that tell you it fermented, though, so keep your eyes peeled for those.
  6. Once it’s ready, heat the oven to 425° F (218° C), and gently pour batter into a greased loaf pan. Since this bread doesn’t rise a ton, I prefer a deep loaf pan so that I get a more sandwich-worthy slice. It should be full to about a 1/2 inch below the rim of the pan. My best results have been in my 1.5 quart pyrex loaf pan.
  7. Place it in the oven, middle rack, and allow it to bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Mine is done at 38 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the entire surface looks like cracked desert sands. The edges should be lightly browned. The middle will set last, so if you see a wettish spot there, it hasn’t finished baking.
  8. Allow to cool completely before removing from pan. It should release easily once cooled.
  9. This loaf will keep for 3-5 days at room temperature. Underbaked loaves will be wetter and won’t keep as long. You may want to store those in the fridge.
Gluten free sourdough bread with three ingredients

The edges are browning, so it could be tempting to pull this out of the oven. Don’t do it. Wait until that wet patch in the middle is as craggy and dry looking as the rest of the surface.