When I was a kid my favorite flavor was grape.
You name the artificially colored, artificially flavored, high fructose corn syrup-sweetened junk food, I wanted the grape version of it – grape candy, grape juice, grape jelly and of course, grape soda.
But I could never understand why none of it ever tasted like grapes.
Growing up on Long Island in the 1980s my father would come home from the grocery store with green and red seedless grapes from California. They were OK but they were more tart than sweet.
Fast forward to 2010.
I’d just moved into a new place in western Massachusetts and there was a Concord grape vine growing in the backyard. I’d never had a Concord grape in my entire life. Never saw them in a grocery store.
But with my first taste, I finally understood.
They were so juicy sweet and so full of that big, bold, bright grape flavor so characteristic of so many of my favorite childhood grape-flavored sweets.
Fast forward to the present.
And this past week I finally got around to making a lacto-fermented Concord grape soda.
Now before I tell you HOW to make it you might be wondering WHY you’d even want to do it. Well besides the fact that it’s a lot of fun, here’s some additional reasons:
On rare occasions, I’ve noticed them in grocery stores. But if you live in my neck of the woods, you can get them for free by foraging for them.
Don’t worry. They’re not hard to find. They grow wild here in Massachusetts and many other parts of the northeast. During late summer and early fall, they seem to grow everywhere – along trails, bike paths, roads, up and over fences, trees and utility poles. Just start looking for them and you’ll probably find them.
For example, if you weren’t paying attention you could walk right by this patch…
…and not realize that underneath are thousands of Concord grapes…
Now the key, and this is the most important part, is to find the big fat juicy sweet ones. That’s not always easy.
In the past few years the majority I’ve found have been on the small side. Here’s a good example…
You could use the ones on the left but the ones on the right are SO MUCH SWEETER. So try to find the bigger ones if you can.
This year I found a few great patches producing some nice big beauties. On several occasions I’ve come home with this much…
Besides making soda, they make a fantastic and healthy snack too. It’s literally like eating grape candy, but without all the chemical crap. If you suffer from sugar cravings, especially at night, these are soooooo much better than say, oh I don’t know…grape Skittles.
And I’ve frozen quite a few too. They’ll make a great snack in the middle of winter.
OK, let’s finally get to making the Concord grape soda.
Makes about 2 quarts
1. Simmer grapes and sugar in water for about 20-30 minutes.
The skins and seeds will separate out…
2. Cool to room temperature and strain out the grapes.
4. Add whey and let it ferment for at least 3 days.
Swish the soda around once a day to prevent mold from forming on the surface. Look for visible signs of fermentation via a slight fizziness. Like so….
I let mine ferment for about 5 days but you can go as long as 10 days. The longer you let it ferment the less sugar there will be as the bacteria will consume and convert the sugar during fermentation. Taste the soda as you go to get the sweetness you desire.
Now regarding the whey, I usually get TONS of questions about whey. Here’s my jar of whey that I made from a quart of yogurt.
Whey is a starter culture. It kickstarts the fermentation process as it contains live bacteria cultures.
Yes, you have to make the whey yourself. No, you can’t buy it in stores (we’re using liquid whey not a whey powder). Don’t worry. It’s ridiculously easy to make. Here’s how to do it.
Now if you have a dairy allergy there are several options for using starter cultures beyond whey. Other starter cultures include a ginger bug, water kefir and champagne yeast.
5. Transfer grape soda to soda bottles. Soda bottles increase the natural carbonation.
Here’s some soda bottles I picked up from a local kitchen store where I live in western Massachusetts.
Those flip cap bottles are fantastic and make bottling and opening the soda very easy.
If you can’t find soda bottles in a store near you, you can find them here on Amazon.
You can also use plastic soda bottles too.
To transfer the soda to the bottles, use a funnel or measuring cup. I use a measuring cup:
Here’s my final product:
6. Keep the soda bottles at room temperature and check every day. The carbonation will increase rapidly! That’s what the soda bottles are designed to do. The soda is often ready in one days, two days max. Open the bottles every day to let some of the gasses escape. Do it over the sink to be on the safe side. You’ll probably get a nice pop and fizz the first time you do it. After a few days, you can move the bottles to your refrigerator where the fermentation will dramatically slow down.
This is a REAL fermented grape soda made with actual grapes and real ingredients!
Simmer grapes and sugar in water for about 20-30 minutes.
Cool to room temperature and strain out the grapes
Transfer what’s now essentially grape juice to some 2 and 1 quart glass ball jars or demijohn.
Add whey and let it ferment for at least 3 days. Swish the soda around once a day to prevent mold from forming on the surface. Look for visible signs of fermentation via a slight fizziness.
Transfer grape soda to soda bottles.
Keep the soda bottles at room temperature and check every day. The carbonation will increase rapidly! That’s what the soda bottles are designed to do. The soda is often ready in one days, two days max. Open the bottles every day to let some of the gasses escape. Do it over the sink to be on the safe side. You’ll probably get a nice pop and fizz the first time you do it. After a few days, you can move the bottles to your refrigerator where the fermentation will dramatically slow down.
Craig Fear is the creator of Fearless Eating and the author of three books, The 30-Day Heartburn Solution, Fearless Broths and Soups and The Thai Soup Secret. After years helping clients with digestive issues, Craig decided to pursue writing full-time. He intends to write many more books on broths and soups from around the world! Click here to learn more about Craig.