Fun times, y’all! This weekend I taught my first ever soda-making workshop. As is my wont, I may have crammed a bit too much in, and I definitely could’ve used a bit of logistical help moving from project to project and station to station, but even so, it was fun! While I love all the health benefits of fermented foods, there are times when it’s fun to just play with the bubbliness of it all and not obsess about which bacterial strains will best colonize your guts.
I’m a big fan of sodas that combine herbs and fruit because you never find those on grocery store shelves, and because I think herb/fruit combinations were made in heaven. My garden is getting ready to wind down, though I’m still hoping there’s time to get a fall crop in the ground (I’m really lagging this year), so I’m harvesting my herbs like crazy, in the hopes of getting my fill before it’s time to compost or dry them. My favorite herb this year, by far, was the huacatay I grew, from seed of course, to fill the huacatay void in my belly since returning from Peru. Runner up, though, would have to be the purple shiso. It’s so fragrant and has such a lovely hue, that just walking by it and rubbing my fingers through it during my morning watering sessions brought a bit of peace to my soul; a great way to start the day. I made lots of samples for my soda class, but my personal favorite was the shiso peach flavor. The floral notes of both ingredients played off each other perfectly, and I felt a little transported while drinking it. It’s definitely a new favorite, so I thought I’d share it here.
This WILL become alcoholic the longer it sits, so if you are concerned with alcohol consumption, please make sure you consume this quickly. The early hours of fermentation are spent replicating yeast, if you’re using a yeasty starter, so no alcohol is produced. After that, the yeasts start consuming the sugars and you get lots o’ bubbles and a little bit of alcohol. So to limit alcohol, there are two things you can do. First, you could bottle it right way (skip the fermenting it in an open vat direction), stick it in the fridge the second your bottle is hard, and drink it within a few days after chilling. Option two, would be to ferment it for a few days in an open container, stirring regularly and vigorously, once you see bubbles, bottle, and as soon as it’s hard, stick it in the fridge and enjoy quickly. The open vat part keeps alcohol away, because alcohol requires anaerobic conditions (or you get, as one example, wine vinegar rather than wine), but you must stir in order to keep it aerobic.
PLEASE don’t ferment in glass. This is a very, very vigorous ferment and explosions of glass are a bad thing.
‘SO PEACH SODA
Yields 2 liters. Easily Scalable.
I like my sodas to have a good amount of, shall we say, texture to them (it sounds nice than fiber) so I filter them once, bottle and add just a touch of water. For a more soda-y consistency, fill your bottle with 25%-50% filtered water.
- 3-4 pounds of fruit, after cores/pits/stems are removed or 4 cups of nothing-added fruit juice
- 1 cup sugar*
- 3/4 cup water, plus some for filling your bottles
- The juice of one, large lemon or lime
- 1/2 cup packed herbs (optional)
- Whole spices to taste (optional)
One of these starters (optional):
- 1/8 t yeast
- 1/2 cup whey
- 1 cup ginger bug liquid
- skip the starter altogether for a drier soda that becomes alcoholic pretty quickly
- Chop your fruit into 1-inch chunks. Berries can stay whole. Ensure that pits and gross bits are removed
- Squeeze the juice from your lemon. Place herbs (if using) into the lemon juice.
- Start making your syrup: heat water and sugar on the stove, stirring until sugar is dissolved, and then letting it come to a boil. Once it has boiled, remove it from heat and allow it to cool for a few minutes.
- Meanwhile, pour the lemon juice and herbs over your fruit in a large bowl and toss to coat.
- When the syrup has slightly cooled, pour it over your fruit and let the mixture sit for 20 minutes at least (I will sometimes let this sit overnight). (If using juice, just add the syrup to your juice and skip the above steps)
- Once the mixture is relatively cool (room temp), pour the whole shebang into a blender or food processor. If using whole spices, remove those first.
- Mix until very liquid, 3-4 minutes.
- Once liquified, check the temperature with a very clean finger. If it feels warm, give it a few more minutes to cool.
- Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer (If you like a more fiber-rich soda, you can ferment the whole mash and skip this step).
- Pour liquid into your fermenting vessel, ensuring that there is enough room for your starter, and two inches of head space. Normally these quantities will fill your bottle to 3/4. Then top off with filtered water. If you want more of a true soda (less pulp) fill to half full.
- At this point, you can go straight to bottling (skip ahead a step ) or allow it to ferment in an open container. Add your starter, cover tightly with a cloth to prevent flies and stir a few times a day to prevent surface mold and keep it aerobic. Once you see a good amount of bubbles/foam, bottle it and proceed to bottle as below. This process could take anywhere from 1 to 7 days, depending on which type of starter you use (ginger bug can be slow)
- Seal your vessel and shake to distribute your starter (no need to add more starter if you’ve already fermented your beverage in an open vessel)
- Let it sit for several hours or until your plastic bottle is rigid, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Enjoy! Once you crack your bottle, the fizz will start to dissipate, just like with store bought soda, however you can usually get another day or two of fizz by resealing your bottle.
- When opening your soda bottle, take care to do it over a sink and use a towel. It helps to have a friend with a glass nearby to catch what comes spewing out! Depending on how many fruit solids you left in your soda, you may want to pour it into your glass through a strainer.