We all know that soda* makes our teeth fall out, contributes to the obesity epidemic, etc. But on a hot summer day (not that it’s summer right now, but I trust that it will be), a glass of water doesn’t cut it. I want something highly carbonated and lightly sweet. Last summer I was briefly obsessed with the Sodastream (you know, the device that carbonates whatever you ask it to) because I wanted a way to carbonate my lemonade and iced tea during the hot months.** What I discovered instead was that I could MAKE my own soda for a couple dollars (take that Sodastream!), no corn syrup, minimal effort, and a wide margin of error. Woot! Enter: lactofermented soda.
It’s so good. Not only does it have the good little yeasties that make your gut happy, the fermentation process actually eats most of the sugar you put into it, which leaves you with a tasty, fizzy, lightly sweet beverage that is low in calories.
*I’m from the Midwest, where the word “pop” is preferable. I use “soda” now because it makes me sound like a Pacific Northwest native. See, we’re slowly getting to know one another.
**Also, my husband doesn’t drink alcohol, and he has always lamented that at social gatherings everyone else gets wine or microbrewer beer or some tasty cocktail with fresh herbs ‘n whatnot, while his options are restricted to GMO corn syrup-saturated soda pop or coffee. Why can’t there be gourmet nonalcoholic beverage? Something special for the teetotalers among us? Why not indeed.
Stuff you’ll need:
- a sizable chunk of fresh ginger root
- unbleached granulated sugar
- filtered water (I just use my Brita)
- some sort of fresh fruit or root flavoring
- a quart jar
- a gallon jar
- flip-top bottles (you can get these at a brewing supply store, and they are the safest choice.)
1. First we make the “bug.” I don’t know why it’s called a bug, but don’t panic. No insects were harmed in the making of this beverage.
- Chop up a 1″ chunk of your ginger root coarsely. Don’t bother to peel it. Throw the chopped ginger in your 1-quart jar, and add a heaping tablespoon of unbleached granulated sugar, stir to dissolve. Fill the jar 2/3 full with filtered water. Cover with a paper towel and secure with a rubber band and put it somewhere out of the way, but not SO out of the way that you’ll forget about it.
- Every other day, chop up another 1″ chunk of ginger root and add another heaping tablespoon of sugar. These measurements aren’t exact. (Remember, WIDE MARGIN OF ERROR.) This “feeds” the starter culture.
After 7-10 days (maybe sooner if your house is warm) you’ll notice a foamy bubbly rim on your starter bug. Here’s what it should look like:
2. This means your bug is ready to be made into wort. (I know, the icky terminology isn’t helping matters…)
- In a saucepan, bring ~4 c. filtered water to boil. Once it’s boiling, add 1 1/2 c. unbleached granulated sugar and stir to dissolve. Also add ~2 c. chopped fruit of your choosing. See below for some of the fruits I’ve tried. Mash the fruits if they’re the sort that mash well. Remove from heat and let cool to room temp.
- Dump this sweet fruity pulpy mixture into your clean gallon jar, and dump in your ginger bug. Some of the ginger will likely cling to the bottom of the quart jar. Leave it there. These bits of yeasty ginger will jump-start your next starter bug, and it will take only a day or two instead of ten.
- Add filtered water to nearly the top of the jar.
- Taste your wort now, so you have a frame of reference.
- Loosely screw on the lid (air should be able to escape)
- Stir once or twice a day, it’ll ferment faster. You’ll start to see a foam on the top of the wort.
- This first ferment should only take about 48 hours. Taste it after a day and a half. It should taste fruity and yeasty, and yes sweet, but not VERY sweet. If it’s too sweet for your liking, put the lid back on and let it go 12 more hours. Taste again.
- *Warning* It will eventually turn to alcohol, and probably not the delicious kind. Stop before you get to this point.
Here’s a photo of my almost-finished wort:
APOLOGIES. That’s not a jar of mud. That be green tea soda in th’works. I used matcha powder as my flavoring, except that my jar of matcha is a few years older than fresh, so instead of being a vibrant cheery green, it’s a frightening nuclear-sludge green. I assure you it tastes fine. But if you come visit me, I’ll probably offer you soda from a different batch.
3. Once the wort has eaten up much of the sugar and you’re happy with the taste, it’s time to bottle.
- Pour the fermented wort through a strainer to remove the fruit pulp and chunks of ginger.
- Use a funnel to fill your flip-top bottles. I emphasize the importance of flip-top bottles. The carbonation that will build over the next couple of days will surprise you, and can and will explode non-flip-top bottles. Flip-top gaskets allow pressure to release, preventing said explosion. It’s worth the $1.50/ea they will cost you.
- Cap the tops, and set on a shelf somewhere. Leave them for 3-7 days.
- Cautiously open a bottle on day 3 or 4 over the sink, and be prepared to slam that flip-top closed again if it volcanos. Don’t be intimidated by this step, this is the fun part 🙂
- Taste the soda. Is it bubbly and carbonated? Then you’re done. If not sufficiently carbonated, put it back on the shelf for another day, and check again.
- Put your bottles in the fridge when you’re finished. This stops the pressure buildup.
Here are the bottles of green tea
sludge soda sitting up on our “fermentation station,” next to active batches of sauerkraut, kombucha, and kefir:
You can use just about anything you want to flavor your soda. Thus far, I’ve made:
- root beer (sassafras and sarsparilla)
Yet to try:
- vanilla bean
Give it a try! And let me know if you have any questions. That’s the advantage of a new blog. You have my undivided attention.