Before I share my lacto-fermented blueberry soda recipe, let me explain first why you should make it.
Did you know that at one time sodas were actually considered a healthful beverage?
I know that’s hard to imagine but it’s true. Today’s commercial sodas are so full of sugar, caffeine, artificial colors and preservatives that most people have no idea that they evolved from healthful lacto-fermented beverages.
Lacto-fermentation is a natural process by which the starches and sugars in fruits, vegetables and dairy are chemically broken down by naturally occurring bacteria and converted into lactic acid (thus, the “lacto” of lacto-fermentation). More importantly these chemical changes have some remarkable health benefits, especially for digestion.
Lacto-fermentation presents our body with valuable enzymes, probiotics and actual nutrients such as trace minerals in highly absorbable form. Furthermore, the carbonation in lacto-fermented soda is a natural byproduct of the fermentation process. This is of course what gives soda its notorious fizziness. Because modern sodas are not lacto-fermented, carbonation is mechanically added. While this doesn’t seem to have a negative health impact (though some believe it does), it certainly doesn’t add anything beneficial.
Traditionally, lacto-fermented beverages were made from the roots, leaves, fruits and even barks of various herbs, plants and trees. For example, root beer was commonly made from the roots of the sassafras plant. Ginger ale was made from ginger (a root), of course.
And unlike the super-sized portions of today’s sodas, they were commonly consumed in small amounts and were often used for medicinal purposes.
Sally Fallon, in Nourishing Traditions, writes, “Throughout the world, these lactic-acid containing drinks have been valued for medicinal qualities including the ability to relieve intestinal problems and constipation, promote lactation, strengthen the sick and promote overall wellbeing and stamina. Above all, these drinks were considered superior to plain water in their ability to relieve thirst during physical labor.”
Another benefit of lacto-fermented sodas is that they contain considerably less sugar as the bacteria feed on and convert the sugar during fermentation. And of course, there’s no genetically modified high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners.
My lacto-fermented blueberry soda was actually my first attempt at making real soda so I don’t claim to be any sort of expert. However, my first batch came out beautifully and I’m pretty confident yours will too if you follow my simple recipe.
One thing you will need to increase the carbonation is soda bottles as they provide the perfect vehicle to trap carbon dioxide and increase the fizziness.
As proof, here’s a short video of myself opening my first batch:
I picked up the soda bottles at a local kitchen supply store.
OK, let’s get to the recipe!
How to Make Lacto-fermented Blueberry Soda
Makes about 2 quarts
- 4 cups organic blueberries
- 1 cup organic cane sugar, dehydrated cane juice or rapadura
- 1/2 cup whey as a starter culture (there are other options – see below)
- 2 quarts filtered water
1. Simmer blueberries and sugar in water for about 20-30 minutes.
2. Cool to room temperature and strain out the blueberries.
4. Add whey and let it ferment for at least 3 days. Look for visible signs of fermentation via a slight fizziness. You can let it go longer if you’d like a less sweet soda as the bacteria will continue to feed on the sugars. I let mine go about 5 days but you can go as long as 10 days. Taste the soda as you go to get the sweetness you desire.
Note: there are several options for using starter cultures. If you use whey, you’ll have to make it yourself at home (don’t worry, it’s ridiculously easy). Other starter cultures include a ginger bug, water kefir and champagne yeast.
5. Transfer blueberry soda to soda bottles via a funnel or measuring cup. Like so:
My two quarts fit perfectly into these three soda bottles:
6. Keep the soda bottles at room temperature and check every day. As the video above showed, the carbonation can increase rapidly! Make sure to open the bottles every day to let some of the gasses escape. After a few days, you can move the bottles to your refrigerator where the fermentation will dramatically slow down.
Want more recipes? Here’s a fantastic resource with not only great soda recipes but many other traditionally brewed beverages as well such as cider, wine and kombucha.