Saturday, May 19, 2012

How To Turn Any Juice Into Lacto-Fermented Soda

At Nik's suggestion, we lacto-fermented this standard, store bought grape juice that we had in our pantry from our grocery-shopping days (read about how we quit the grocery store here.) The grape soda that resulted was exceptionally delicious, perfectly sweet and bubbly without being cloying like a canned soda. Plus, fermentation greatly reduces the sugar content in juices and increases the beneficial enzymes and lactic acid. 

I like that we took pasteurized juice off the shelf, a basically dead, sugar loaded food (it has no added sugar, but still) and brought it to life through natural fermentation. You really can ferment anything, any sweet liquid can be vitalized this way. Why drink plain old juice when you can make it bubbly, and much better for you?

As a kid, I always chose grape or orange flavors when we were given soda, so I am very excited to be able to make this healthy version. (We haven't tried making orange soda yet, but it's definitely on the list!) One of the things I've noticed with homemade sodas is that they can end up with a little bit of alcohol, some batches more than others. It's never enough that I would worry about my kids having a glass. The health benefits far outweigh any risk associated with this mild alcohol consumption. Most our sodas turn out quite "soft", but alcohol can be a byproduct of this fermentation. If you want to make some actual wine, here's my recipe for honey wine.

How to make lacto-fermented soda from juice:

Start with any juice.

Place it in a glass container. I generally use a gallon jar, but for the batch pictured above I fermented them in German beer bottles, because all my gallon jars were in use. This meant that when it was time to give them a stir, I would cap them and give a couple gentle shakes, since I couldn't fit a spoon in the bottle to properly stir them. Basically, anything goes with fermentation, although I always stick with glass or ceramic containers, since I don't want my fermentations leaching junk out of plastic or metal containers.

Pour in some ginger bug, which is a natural soda starter, and helps safely ferment just about anything. All it takes is fresh ginger, sugar, and three days to make your own by following these instructions. Use about 1/4 c starter for every quart of liquid that you're fermenting.

Everlasting Ginger Bug: feed it occasionally and it will last for ages
Cover your fermenting jar with a cloth, so it stays clean but can still breathe. Stir this mixture twice a day, for three days. I always mark my calender so I don't forget which day to bottle it. The longer it ferments, the less sugar it will have in the final product. Also, a warmer room will cause the rate of fermentation to speed up. It's nothing to worry about, but having so many variables does make every batch of homemade soda mildly different: some sweeter, some more dry, and some way bubblier.

After 3 days of fermenting, bottle it tightly and let it carbonate for 24 hours. I use spring-loaded German beer bottles because they seal so easily, but mason jars work as well. After 24 hours, refrigerate your soda. Leaving it out at room temperature for too long will risk explosion at this point, because this is when carbonation is building up in the bottle. While I've never had a bottle explode, I have had soda that fountained out like champagne when we opened it. It's better to avoid over-carbonating the soda!

You might also like to try my delicious lacto-fermented ginger ale recipe, made from only ginger, sugar, and time.

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