Delicious and healthy homemade natural soda: Bartlett Pear (beginning of second fermentation), Turkish Apricot and Montmorency Cherry

WAIT FOR IT….

I am feeling so grateful for all the attention this little blog of mine has gotten lately. I feel really fortunate to have found my voice with this blog over the last 2 years, and recently have had so much support coming in for that voice and the work we do on our homestead! THANK YOU! It is amazing the outpouring of notes, questions and appreciation we have been getting since we really starting doing our Life’s Work here in Northern Vermont and that is no small thing. So I thank you, if you are reading this, for your support, on the blog and also through facebook and twitter.

Today is no exception. My kitchen and blog is being featured on CHEESESLAVE today through AnnMarie’s new series: Real Food Kitchen Tour! This is an honor on so many fronts. Not only is CHEESESLAVE a very successful food blog at the heart of the real food movement, but AnnMarie and I are a bit like kindred spirits, her starting Real Food Media around the time Roberto and I started The Foodie Blogroll. So we have conversed often not only about food, farms, sustainability but also about business! I really appreciate the work she does with Real Food Media and small farms! So thanks AnnMarie for your support and for the feature! We hope to see you and Seth here in the future – I know we would have a great time together!

In that light and to show my appreciation, I want to share with you a simple technique for making a delicious, fizzy and flavorful PROBIOTIC “soda”.  That’s right, a soda that is actually good for you. Really good for you. Now the technique is simple, but I will tell you that I have worked on perfecting it over a couple of months. Many people have heard of dairy kefir, that is a kefir that is made with dairy and is a bit like a yogurt smoothie. Water kefir is a bit different in that instead of fermenting in the presence of lactase (sugar found in dairy) it ferments in the presence of the other “-oses”, like sucrose and fructose. I use organic cane sugar. Last year I tried using maple, and may try that again, but most people use organic cane sugar, so I decided to be a purist. For me, the most important thing in making a fizzy, non-dairy probiotic drink is the FIZZ. Last year I brewed both water kefir and kombucha at home, and wasn’t 100% pleased with the outcome of either in regard to the fizz.

 

This year, I decided to do a double fermentation method, the first time brewing the kefir with sugar water, and then letting it ferment again in the presence of fruit.  This second fermentation creates a lot of beautiful fizzy bubbles, which was exactly what I was looking for! So far I have made a batch with tart cherry concentrate syrup and another batch using dried Turkish apricots. Both were excellent, but on the outset, we were both partial to the apricot.  I am currently brewing one with dried Bartlett pears as one of my favorite sodas is one from Sweden that is pear flavored.

I know kombucha is all the rage these days, and that is a good thing, as it is very good for you, but it can be very expensive – at $3-5 a bottle (16 oz) and I am always for saving money if you can make it yourself for substantially cheaper, which is absolutely the case here.

 

Now you can brew kombucha at home, but I find it to be a bit messy and cumbersome. Kombucha really needs a dark place to brew, and has to be brewed in a bowl with a towel over top, making it hard to move it to that dark spot. Water kefir on the other hand can be brewed right in a large mason jar on your countertop. There are no teabags or lots of pouring liquids, like there is with kombucha. All you need is sugar, water kefir grains, called Tibicos, which is a colony of beneficial bacteria and yeast, sugar and water. For complete instructions and variations and to obtain the water kefir grains, please visit Cultures for Health, by following this link or clicking on the ad on my right hand sidebar. They have the highest quality cultures (kefir, water kefir, kombucha, yogurt, sourdough, cheese, you name it) that are out there and I cannot recommend them highly enough! If you are a member of The Foodie Blogroll, please comment and enter to win a gift card from Cultures for Health!

The water kefir grains are about $16, but can be used INDEFINITELY. Making this a MUCH cheaper and not to mention far healthier option to soda, whether organic, or conventional – and you already know, you shouldn’t be drinking that stuff. You can experiment with your favorite flavors, and it couldn’t be easier to make and the taste is fantastic! I suggest getting some grains today so you can start making this refreshing, perfect for summer beverage!

Here is what you need.

* Water

* Organic Cane Sugar (1/4 cup to one quart of water)

* Water Kefir Grains

* Small unbleached muslin bag

* Clean glass jar (I use a quart size)

*Fruit of your choice

 

To Make Water Kefir:

Heat the sugar in some water to dissolve sugar. Let cool. Place kefir grains in the muslin bag and drop into the glass jar. Pour the sugar water into the jar and then fill the rest of the jar with water.  Place a cloth over the mouth of the jar and allow to sit out on the counter for 2-3 days. The first few times you use your grains, you may not notice any bubbles, this does not mean that your kefir is not culturing properly. You can tell by tasting your kefir before and after. Cultured kefir will still be sweet, but not as sweet as when you started. The bacteria in the grains feed on the sugar, meaning the sugar content decreases exponentially through the brewing process. I have noticed that in the spring and summer, my kefir cultures in about 48 hours. But in the winter it can take another day. Do not let kefir culture for more than 72 hours.

Once the kefir has cultured, pour it into a bottle with a secure lid (leave the grains out). Add about 1/8-1/4 cup of dried fruit of your choice and allow to brew for about 3-5 days with a tight lid on. Then rinse the muslin bag and you are ready to start the process all over again. Let your fruited batch brew until you see lots of bubbles form and it tastes like soda.  DO NOT SHAKE BOTTLE! Remove the fruit at this point, and use it to make clafoutis or put on top of ice cream, yogurt or pudding! You can store the kefir in this container, or pour it into a different glass container for storage and it can be stored in the fridge indefinitely.

TIP: To make your water kefir making experience even easier, I suggest purchasing (also from CFH), a small muslin bag that you can keep your grains in. This makes it easier to make subsequent batches. All you need to do it remove the bag and rinse it before making a new batch.