How to Make a Simple Berry Fermented Soda: It's Easy, Healthy, and Delicious!
I made pancakes the other day with my extra sour dough starter, and they turned out quite tasty! When I make pancakes, we don't use syrup to sweeten them. Instead, I just heat frozen berries on the stove and create a yummy unsweetened chunky fruit or berry syrup! It's always a hit. But on this day....I had leftover berries! About a cup and a quarter, to be exact. I can't stand waste....so I decided to experiment with fermenting them.
Fermenting vegetables and fruits are totally different. For one thing, the natural sugars in fruits can turn to alcohol in a ferment if you're not careful. Also, the fermentation process generally happens more quickly than with vegetables, and there is also a greater chance of mold or it just not working out.
(Vegetables are pretty fool proof, as long as you keep the vegetable matter under the liquid, and especially because you use salt, which creates a poor environment for the bad micro-organisms to stay alive.)
Well, I have been meaning to make my own natural fermented soda for a LONG time, but have never gotten around to it. I don't have much of a sweet tooth, and Mr. V. and I stopped drinking any kind of soda decades ago. However, when the grand kids come over, it's good to have their kind of foods and drinks around, even if they are a healthy version, right?
So...I decided I'd actually ADD some additional sugar in the form of raw honey to these unsweetened berries and see if I could create a fermented berry soda! Here is the result of my little soda experiment made with leftover berries!
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How to Make Fermented Berry Soda
Ingredients for Making Berry Soda:
1) Defrosted organic unsweetened berries.
Mine were cooked down into kind of a mushy syrup because we used them on pancakes. However, you could probably just defrost them without cooking them, too. I had about a cup and a quarter of berries and juice. I just used the frozen berries from the store.
2) Raw honey
I don't measure things, generally, so I'd estimate I used about 1/3 cup of raw honey for a quart size Mason jar.
3) A starter culture
If you are using salt/brine in your ferment, you don't need a culture necessarily. However, I wanted this to be a soda-like drink (a little sweet with some fizz), and salt would not have worked in this ferment. And, fermenting fruits has to be a quicker process because the potential for spoilage is much greater than with vegetables, especially without using salt.
Good starter cultures can be whey or liquid from another ferment, as long as the tastes match up for the most part. I even considered using a little bit of culture used for making wine, like this Lalvin from Amazon, but I didn't want to take the chance of alcohol forming too fast. This is what I use when I make beer using herbs, like this Chamomile Ale, or even Hard Apple Cider.
You see, the bacteria and yeast consume the sugar, and if the timing isn't right, you get a bit (or a lot) of alcohol...and that was NOT what I was going for in this experiment.
I had just run out of whey, so I decided to use some of my beet kvass I had in the refrigerator. Beet kvass is a delicious, tangy/slightly salty fermented drink---so I knew it would be a good choice for this ferment.
Tools I Used to Make Berry Soda
1) Mason jar, wide mouth quart size
I used the Fermentools kit. It's great for turning a quart size Mason jar into a fermenting mini-crock.
You don't have to have an airlock, though. Alternatively, just place a lid on the jar and be sure to burp it once or twice a day.
Directions for Making Fermented Berry Soda
Step 1) Place the berries in the jar.
Step 2) Pour the honey over the berries.
Step 3) Pour in your starter culture.
Step 4) Add water to within an inch and a half of the top. Stir the mixture to get the honey to dissolve somewhat.
Step 5) Place your lid and airlock if using, on the jar.
Step 6) Put it aside on your counter to ferment.
Step 7) After about three days (or even sooner if it's warm in your kitchen), it should be ready. You don't want to let it go too long because a) you risk mold forming, and b) you risk getting an alcoholic beverage.
Mine was nice and bubbly when I decided to strain it.
NOTE: If it smells bad or the berries have mold going on, compost it. Some fermenters believe in just scraping off the mold and still using the ferment, but I am not one of these folks. Mold can be dangerous, so why risk it?
Step 8) When it's nice and bubbly, strain out the berries and place the liquid in the refrigerator.
Step 9) ENJOY!
What Does Fermented Berry Soda Taste Like?
I personally think it's delicious! I was kind of worried about it being too sweet, since I used quite a lot of honey. However, at the time I strained it, the honey had been mostly consumed by the yeasts and bacteria, leaving just a slightly sweet taste that perfectly complemented the berry flavors!
There is a very slight overtone from the beet kvass if you're tasting it hard--so you do get some beet"ness" in the drink, but I don't think it's unpleasant at all. It enhances the health aspect of this soda, for sure!
I think if I had used whey instead, it would definitely have tasted different, and perhaps it may have fermented differently too. I can't say if it would have been better that way or not? That's an experiment for another day!
If you like a sweet soda, then you could increase the honey to about half a cup, even! It's all an experiment, right?
Final Thoughts About Fermented Berry Soda: The Experiment
You know what the cool thing about fermentation is? It's that once you know the basics, you can try all kinds of experiments with different foods! Do they all turn out? Nope. They don't. And that's ok, because everything is a learning experience. I guess this is the mad scientist in me that gets to come out and play!
At any rate, don't be afraid to ferment things! You might want to read my article about the Myths of Fermentation and Why You Should Be Eating Fermented Foods Daily, too! Fermenting is fun, it produces incredibly nutritious foods and drinks, and it helps keep your micro-biome healthy and strong!
What do you think of fermentation? What have you fermented lately? I'd love for you to share your comments, questions, thoughts, ideas, and even disagreements so we can all learn!
Hugs & Self-Reliance,
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