Probiotic Lactobacilli Soda Fermentation recipe
Artisanal Home Soda Fermentation (Probiotic Lactobacilli Fermented Soda)
So let’s get down to making lacto-fermented soda – the real thing. The first step is simply to realize that it is very easy. The minimum equipment is a glass fermentation vessel and the minimum ingredients are sugar, water and the culture. Mix them together and fermentation happens. To make it really delicious, though, some pointers are in order.
Step 1: Bring approximately 50 percent of your water to a boil and dissolve 1.5 cups of sugar in it for each gallon of soda you want you plan to make. If you are boiling roots in the water (see below), remove them before adding sugar. The sweet, somewhat viscous liquid you have now is called “syrup.”
Step 2: Pour the syrup and the remaining water into your fermentation vessel. I like to use the scalding hot syrup to sterilize my vessel, but be careful not to pour it in too fast or it could crack. The resulting diluted syrup is still too hot for the culture. You can either wait, or cool the syrup first by letting the pot sit in a sinkful of cold water before adding it to the vessel.
Step 3: Add any other flavorings, such as lemon juice (see below) to the diluted syrup.
Step 4: Making sure the syrup has cooled to body temperature, add about a cupful of culture for each gallon of water. You could add less culture, but the more you add, the greater the head start your beneficial bacteria have over any opportunistic invaders, such as alcohol-producing yeasts.
Step 5: Cover the vessel (it need not be completely airtight, but it can be) and let it ferment. Fermentation rate is highly variable. If you like a sweeter soda, four or five days might be sufficient. If you want to ferment out most of the sugar, allow at least 10 days. Some additives such as mint and honey tend to inhibit bacteria and drastically slow fermentation.
Step 6: Time to bottle! Brewing supply stores carry siphon tubes to siphon the soda directly from carboy to bottle, but if you are fermenting in a jar you can simply pour it into bottles or scoop it in with a glass measuring cup. You must have some way to seal the bottles, either with a bottle capper or stoppered bottles (both available at brewing supply stores). Do not bottle the thick layer of sediment at the bottom of the fermentation vessel.
Step 7: Carbonation. The soda continues to ferment in the bottles, giving off carbon dioxide gas. Since the bottles are sealed, the gas has nowhere to go. It stays in the bottle and makes the soda fizzy. Depending on how fast it is fermenting, 2-5 days is usually enough time to create the optimum level of carbonation. You can always open a bottle and check.
Step 8: Stopping fermentation. Now we have a problem, because if the soda continues to ferment the bottles will foam over or spray when opened. The bottles might even explode if left out long enough. So when carbonation is sufficient, it is time to stop fermentation by putting the bottles in the refrigerator. Not enough room? A cold basement will work too, slowing down fermentation but not quite stopping it. Usually soda will keep just fine in the basement for a month or more.
Step 9: Drink it! Lacto-fermented soda is an excellent thirst quencher and contains beneficial lactic acid, vitamins, enzymes and beneficial lactobacilli that can inhabit your gut, where they protect you against pathogenic bacteria and yeast.
HOMEMADE SODA BASICS
The Vessel: A one- or two-gallon glass jar is fine, but if you want to make larger quantities you’ll need a glass carboy, readily available at brewing supply stores for under $20. The five-gallon size works best. For a few cents you can also purchase a water lock, which bubbles merrily away as your soda ferments. All utensils should be clean, but antiseptic cleanliness is unnecessary. Usually we rinse the vessel a few times with water and sterilize if with the hot syrup for the next batch.
Other Equipment: You will need bottles with good stoppers – a strong, tight cork, a beer bottle top, or a stopper held down with a wire. These are available at brewing stores and also at places like the Container Store. You will also need a funnel or siphon for transferring the soda from the vessel into bottles.
The Water: Do not use chlorinated tap water, as this will inhibit fermentation. Most filtered or bottled water works fine. If you must use straight tap water, boil it to evaporate off the chlorine.
The Sugar: We have gotten good results with sucanat, rice malt, maple sugar, jaggery, honey, and apple cider. The flavor from rapadura or molasses is too strong for most people. Honey is delicious but is best used as a flavoring rather than the main sugar source, because apparently honey inhibits bacterial growth. Even at half strength, honey soda can take months to finish. You can use fruit juice, but for some reason commercial canned fruit juice, even organic brands, produce noxious results. Fresh-pressed apple cider produces delicious soda, although it will probably be slightly alcoholic (1-2%) due to natural yeasts on the apples. Remember that most of the sugar will be converted into lactic acid in the fermentation process. Use about 1.5 cups of sugar per gallon of water.
The Culture: You can use a bottle of soda from the last batch as culture, or you can make your own from scratch. Dice fresh ginger root into tiny cubes and put a tablespoon of it into a mason jar ¾ full of water, along with 2 teaspoons of white sugar. Add another 2 teaspoons each sugar and ginger every day for a week, at which time it should become bubbly with a pleasant odor. If it gets moldy, dump it and start over. Even a small amount of culture will start a batch of soda going, but it’s best to use at least a cup per gallon so that these beneficial lactobacilli can dominate before less desirable microorganisms have a chance.
Flavorings: The water used to dissolve the sugar need not be just water! You can use any herbal decoction to make soda with the flavor or medicinal qualities you are seeking. For example, to make ginger beer, boil sliced ginger root in the water, about one thumb’s-length per gallon of soda, for twenty minutes.
Peppermint, spearmint, or other mint can also be used to flavor soda. Put the mint in boiling water, turn off the heat immediately, cover and steep. Lemon juice is a good addition to almost any soda flavor and seems to help preserve the syrup before fermentation gets going. Use approximately two lemons per gallon of soda, depending on juiciness. One of the favorite beverages in colonial America was root beer. Any roots can go into root beer, but the essential ones for flavor are sassafras and sarsaparilla. Sassafras in particular lends a pungent aroma and beautiful reddish color to soda, and is readily available throughout the Eastern US. Common medicinal roots like burdock, chickory, dandelion, and so forth tend to impart a strong medicinal “herbal” flavor to the soda. It’s the sassafras or sarsaparilla that make people say “Yum!”