Fermented fizzy drinks

by Farmer Liz
I’ve never really enjoyed commercial fizzy drinks.  They are usually too sweet and too fizzy for my taste.  Apart from the fact that I don’t actually enjoy them, the artificial colours and flavours in just about every commercial fizzy drink also put me off.  Then I discovered fermented fizzy drinks, more from a desire to use the sour whey from making cream cheese, than wanting to create a fizzy drink.  But now I find that they are very refreshing, and creating new flavours is now part of the fun.

Rosella ale ready to drink
At first I just made the ginger ale, lemon barley and fruit punch recipes from Nourishing Traditions.  But then I couldn’t get all the ingredients that I needed, so I started to experiment.  I started just using any citrus that was available, and anything else that I had in excess, my latest flavour is rosella ale.  All my experiments are based on the this basic recipe.....

The basic recipe is about half to 1 cup of whey, the same of sugar, the same of citrus, add any other fruit, herbs or spices, and top up to 2 L with rainwater.  The amounts I use just depend on what ingredients are available at the time.  The whey can come from several sources, it can be drained from cream cheese (made without rennet), yoghurt or kefir.  The whey just needs to be rich in lactic acid bacteria, because this is what will consume the sugar in the mixture (added sugar and from the fruit) and convert it to carbon dioxide which will produce the bubbles.  Lactic acid bacteria also produce lactic acid which will produce a nice acidity in the drink.  While they do feed on the lactose in milk, they can also consume glucose if there is no lactose present (this is all explained in this Wikipedia article under “metabolism”). 

brewing rosella ale
For the sugar, I use rapadura , but any natural sweetener could be used, just experiment with the amount to get the taste you want..  The final drink is not sweet, as most of the sugar is consumed by the bacteria.  Lemon and lime are the citrus in the recipes, but if I see oranges or mandarins on special, I’ll use them instead and reduce the added sugar.  Ginger (and galangal) and rosella are the other flavours that I’ve added so far, but you can use a range of fruits, herbs and spices.  The fruit punch is just a mixture of lemon and orange.

To make the drink I mix up the whey, sugar, citrus and other ingredients and top up to 2 L of water in a jug with a lid.  I leave this on the kitchen bench at room temperature for several days.  Usually its 3 days, but if its cooler (or I forget), I leave it longer!  I then strain the liquid through a sieve and pour it into individual bottles.  I have a massive collection of stoppered Grolsch bottles that I reuse for my fermented fizzy drinks.  I think you can also buy stoppered bottles, but I didn’t mind drinking the beer either!  I leave the bottles of fizzy drink at room temperature for a day to let the bubbles develop and then they go into the fridge.

My only warning is that this process is variable, be very careful when you open the bottle!  Some of them will hardly fizz at all, and some will nearly take your eye out with the shot of fizzy liquid ejected from the bottle!  If you open one and its not fizzy enough, you can leave it on the bench for another day.

I hope I have inspired you to try making your own delicious fermented fizzy drinks.  It’s a great way to use up excess whey and citrus, and experimenting with new flavours is great fun as well.  I’d love to hear what you come up with.  I'm currently experimenting with adding dried seaweed, as fermenting seaweed is apparently a great way to make all the minerals available.

Have you tried making your own fermented fizzy drinks?  Are you tempted to try?  Any questions?

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