Want to learn more about fermenting your own sodas? We’ll cover this and several other methods for making your own bubbly beverages in a class I’m doing for Greensgrow in September. Tickets here.
You all know that I’m a wild fermenter. I’ve mentioned before that Sandor is my spirit animal and my love and appreciation for his methods and his guidance (in book form) will never die. As such, when I make fun, fermenty beverages, I always take the wild road. Until now, that is. I made some with packaged yeast! There were a few reasons for this:
1) I got Emma Christensen‘s new book, True Brews. Her soda recipes call for packaged yeast and I always try to be faithful to the spirit and instructions of a cookbook when I first use it. (Wanna annoy a recipe-writer? Ask loudly why their recipe didn’t work after you didn’t follow their instructions!)
2) I know this is convoluted: but, in all these years, I’ve only ever made one fermented soda with packaged yeast and I feel to stay true to my mission of experimentation, I should explore other approaches, even if they are technically easier and definitely less wild.
3) I’ve been short on time for, say, the past six years and I thought it could be fun to speed things up for once.
I was really happy with the results! Having said that, you dyed-in-the wool Wilders might want to stick to your wild yeasts, cultures or starters. See below the recipe for a couple conversion starting points. There are definitely advantages to using packaged yeast over wild yeast. You control for off-flavors that can sometimes come from wild yeasts and the time to get your final beverage is drastically reduced!
Despite my wild tendencies and slightly less wild nature of this book, it’s definitely one I’ve been waiting for and it did not disappoint! As you have probably picked up from the title, it’s all about fermented beverages. It is a beautiful, well-written book, not surprising if you’re familiar with Christensen’s work on The Kitchn. It’s so full of fermenty goodness, you might burst!* It will definitely be accessible to those who have never fermented a thing in their lives, but fermenting dab hands will appreciate the details and the wide variety of beverage ferments that are covered. From sodas to sakes and wines to beers, this book is full of fun fermentation (my favorite kind).
I decided to use one of my most beloved herb/fruit combinations, but you should definitely feel free to experiment with what you have on hand. Strawberries are dwindling in these parts and blueberries are just coming in, so if that’s true in your region, by all means, sub blueberries! Blueberry/basil is a great combination, but personally I would use blueberry/fresh oregano. Did I say would? I mean will. I will definitely be making blueberry oregano soda with pre-packaged yeast in the hopes of converting some sugar-loving, reluctant family members to love fermentation as much as I do.
Strawberry Thai Basil Soda
Adapted from Emma Christensen’s “Master Soda Recipe” in True Brews
Makes 1/5-2 liters
If you don’t have access to thai basil, any variety of basil will work. You might also sub half tarragon, half sweet basil to more closely approximate the taste of this version. So many typical garden herbs would work well here. Think: cilantro, parsley, rosemary, mint, savory, thyme, etc. This recipe yields a sweet, pulpy soda. If you want it to just be liquid, you can sub 6 cups of juice for your strawberries, or strain by lining a strainer with a fine-weave cheesecloth after pureeing. Be aware that the latter will take a while. I personally love the pulp and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
- Fine mesh strainer, metal is okay here
- Large saucepan
- Food processor or blender
- Sealing bottles (recycled plastic 2-liter bottles work well for this, always be aware of the risks of fermenting in glass, namely explosion)
- 2 pounds fresh strawberries, preferably organic, thoroughly washed
- The zest and juice of 3 lemons (about 8 T juice)
- 1/2 cup of tightly packed Thai basil leaves
- 1 cup of water
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1/8 t dry champagne yeast, divided
- Heat one cup of water until boiling, turn off the heat and add sugar and salt. Stir until dissolved.
- Zest and juice lemons. Add basil leaves to the lemon juice and let them sit while you hull your strawberries. I’ve found this method preserves the fresh taste of the basil pretty well.
- Put strawberries, lemon stuff and bail into a heat-proof bowl and pour the heated sugar water over them to macerate. Let it sit for 20 minutes.
- Pour the whole shebang into your blender or food processor and blend until completely pureed. Depending on the size of your machine, you will probably need to do this in two or more batches.
- When it’s all pureed, strain mixture through your fine mesh strainer, into a pitcher or bowl. I use a chopstick or small, silicone spatula to stir, allowing the juices to flow through and the larger solids to stay in the strainer to be composted when the straining is done.
- I like to do smaller bottles to preserve the bubbles (once you open it, they dissipate, just like with store-bought soda), so I bottle mine into a one liter and a half liter bottle. Divide your yeast according to the bottle size you choose to use. Fill bottles to 3/4 full and top with water, leaving an inch of headspace.
- Shake the bottles to distribute yeast.
- Let them ferment at room temperature until the plastic bottle becomes hard. My large one took 24 hours, my small one was done overnight. Stick them in the fridge.
- Once they are chilled, you can drink them! Chilling is important because it also slows fermentation.
- 1/4 cup of whey to 2 liters of soda. Ferment covered with a secured cloth, stirring twice daily until you see bubbles, about 12 hours to one day. Then bottle and proceed with recipe.
- 1/2 cup ginger bug liquid to 2 liters of soda. Ferment covered with a cloth, stirring twice daily until you see bubbles, about 3 days. Then bottle and proceed with recipe.
I bought True Brews for myself but Ten Speed Press is generously gifting the giveaway copy to one of my readers. So here’s how to win your free copy:
- Contest is open to residents of the continental United States.
- To enter, leave a comment telling me about your very favorite fermented beverage.
- Contest ends at 11:59pm EST on Thursday, June 27, 2013.
- One comment per person, please. Additional entries can be made, for a maximum of three per person, by tweeting a link to this post with the hashtag #phicklebrew, or by pinning it and posting a link to the pin in a separate comment before the contest ends. I will add tweet entries to the end of comments in number terms for random.org consideration.
Congratulations, Heather M! Please come back and tell us what excellent brews you’ve made with this book!