Sunday, December 9, 2012

Pop goes the soda

I have to confess. I like pop (or soda for our friends south of the border). I grew up with Coke as my Uncle Al was a GM at Coke in Saskatchewan. To this day an ice cold Coke in a glass bottle reminds me of that sweet giant of a man who left us far too early.

One of the things I love about the way we live is the inventiveness of it. When looking at what we eat and drink to figure out if we can be more DIY with it, we often find people who have boldly gone there before.

Commercial soda pop is made with sugar, water, flavouring and carbon dioxide gas in water (carbonated water) . Once thought to be a healthy practice, the drinking of carbonated water now mainly occurs through commercial soda pops -- highly laced with sugar and other sweeteners and mostly artificial flavours.

So when reading through Rachel Kaplan and Ruby Blume's book "Urban Homesteading" (highly recommended!!) I was thrilled to find a way to make our own soda. This lacto-fermented treat is right up my alley (and literally the pop started is sitting on my counter next to the milk Kefir and the Kimchi -- both lacto-fermentations of different food types.) So I thought -- why not!?!

The recipe begins, as all fermentations do, with a starter culture. This starter consists fermenting ginger root and sugar in water. Starting with a tablespoon of finely grated ginger and two teaspoons of water, you then 3/4 fill a mason jar (1 gallon) with un-chlorinated water (actually I used a two-gallon mason jar and doubled the recipe). Put a lid on it, but not too tight. Over the course of the next seven days, continue to add two teaspoons of grated ginger and two teaspoons of sugar to the liquid. You will notice it will get quite active.

Once you have a nice lively starter, you simply mix 2 c of the starter (saving two cups to begin a new starter) with fruit juice, water, a1/2 tsp of salt, and 1 c of sweetener (honey, agave, or maple syrup). I put this into a 2 gallon jug with a fermentation lock. You want enough liquid in the jug to fill it to the neck. Once everything is mixed and you put the fermentation lock on, sit the jug in a warm spot for 3-4 days to get bubbly.

Once it is bubbly, you put the liquid into pressure bottles. I got some at the supermarket with some other drink inside and we used  a few that were beer bottles. Once bottled, store it in the fridge (or outside if it is winter) but make sure you relieve some of the pressure on the bottles every couple days. Lacto-fermented foods can pack quite a punch if allowed to build up too much.

The first batch I made I used the recipe in "Urban Homesteading" for Lemon-Grapefruit soda. I also put a bit more grated ginger into the jug for the final fermentation. It made it a bit too strong in the ginger department for me so I have omitted it in my next batch of apple, orange and mango soda.

Really the options are endless for experimentation with fruit juices. This method might also be nice using some vegetable juices that need a bit of a "lift' out of their often thick stodginess.

The result isn't even close to the cloyingly sweet concoctions you buy called soda and the ginger base may take a little getting used to, but this is a very refreshing and light drink. I am going to try it with the juice of some frozen blackberries that I have and maybe even some of the blueberries will find their way into a fruit syrup for this drink. 

If you give this a try, let me know how it goes for you. Would love to hear about your combinations.


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