Friday, April 12, 2013

How To: Homemade Fruit Soda

I pray on the principle that wine knocks the cork out of a bottle. There is an inward fermentation, and there must be a vent. – Henry Ward Beecher

Success x 6.75 341 ml.

Sometimes things work, sometimes things don’t. And then there’s times things work unbelievably well. This is one of those times what I did exceeded all expectations.

Simple, simple ingredients.
Last year I found making soda quite a rewarding experience. Interesting and rewarding. Making the soda "mother" was pretty easy.

If you read yesterday's post, the mother is three simple ingredients: 2 tsp sugar, 1 tbsp ginger and a 1 L Mason jar 3/4 full of spring water (non-chlorinated). This sits on the counter, covered elegantly with pantyhose (or cheesecloth) and an elastic band.

The mixture gets fed every day (2 tsp more ginger and sugar). It looks unpromising, and then a miracle happens. Bubbles start to form, then more and more and more. This is the soda mother, which I have read can be kept alive for quite a long time if tended and fed. (Much like a real mother...)

From an unpromising start...
After the mother is made you then proceed to actually making soda. To do so you use juice or other flavourings, sugar and some of the mother. Mix, let sit for 3-7 days and voila. Soda. (Refer to yesterday's for more detail...)

3-7 days... Right. I made this in the height of summer last year. My soda culture took 24 hours to brew. Not 3-7 days. Maybe my mother was particularly alive, maybe it was the heat (its was about 26°C outside), who knows…

But it worked – and FAST.

I received an email at work the day I made this with the following photo attached:

This process was supposed to take days, not hours. The thing was alive on our counter top and was demanding attention.

A fruit-based recipe, after making the mother, is below. It's  "flexible," as quantities are subject to changing depending on the fruit – or herbs/spices – used, your desired level of sweetness, etc.

Fruit Soda
4 L Spring water
5-6 cups fruit (your choice) – I used cherries
juice of a lemon (optional)
1-1/2 cup sugar*
1 cup ginger soda mother
1 piece of panty hose
1 gallon jug (or better yet, a carboy)

Wash and clean the fruit. Add it to a large stock pot with 2 litres of the water and the sugar. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Taste to see if it's "fruity" enough. If not, add more fruit and simmer a while longer. If not sweet enough add more sugar. You need to be happy with the flavour of this mixture. Then add the lemon juice and the mother.

This was my carbonization after only 24 hours.
More than enough for bottling success.
Mix well and pour into the fermenting container. Fill the rest of the jar with water, leaving some space at the top.

Place the pantyhose over the mouth to keep out flies, etc, and let sit. The mixture has to breathe. It's a living organism.

Let the mixture ferment, stirring at least twice a day for several days. The shorter time yields sweeter soda, longer more "robust" flavour. 

What happens is the sugar is converted to healthful lactobacillus, like in yogurt, and if I'm not mistaken – a little alcohol. Other elements in the juice are also converted and some are even made more easily digestible (or bio-available) by the process.

Taste to see how it's doing from time to time. When you're happy, bottle it. Let the bottled soda sit on the counter at least overnight. The bottles will get hard as they pressurize from the carbonization.

To slow the process down, put in a cool room, or refrigerate. You'll want to chill it anyway to drink it, and your homemade soda should be consumed within 1 month.

I found PET plastic bottles (recyclable) at a local wine store for $15.99 for 24. Not too bad. My yield was 6-3/4 bottles.

I would definitely recommend a carboy as opposed to a 4 L glass Mason jar. The 4 L jug didn't have enough room when the thing started growing.

I had lots of mother leftover. I should have bought a carboy for the next batches but didn't. After this I made ginger ale and cola. Both were successes.

Never allow the mother or soda to age in metal. It will react unfavourably with the container.

Do this with your kids this summer
This worked like gangbusters. It would be a wonderful project to do with kids in the summer when they're home. It's absolutely amazing what you can make at home when you put your mind to it.

A word of caution. If not tended, bottles can explode – and depending on your success at carbonization you may get some fizzing up and over your bottles when you open them to drink, so beware. Open the first one in your sink, or outside... Crack it slowly.

I believe that *some* of the sugars may actually get converted to alcohol, so maybe watch it if serving to minors. It's pretty easy to tell if you've made booze. You can smell it. Maybe you'll make your new favourite summer patio libation!

* This is real old-fashoined soda. It's not sweet soda pop. You may want to increase the sugar content by 1/2 cup. Or enjoy it the way it's supposed to be.


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