I’ve never been pro-soda but now that I’m on my homegrown kick I’m discovering new old ways to make things. I posted last month on how to harness wild yeast to make your own soda using ingredients you can find at any grocers: http://sustainableeats.wordpress.com/2009/04/18/homemade-soda/. So far we’ve made lemon soda and rootbeer (with the caveat that we used dried sarsparilla and wintergreen leaves found at Bob’s Homebrew in the U District for the root beer.)
This spring the first fruit up is rhubarb which is a favorite of mine so I have lots of rhubarb plants. I decided to turn it into soda.
To make this you will need a mess of rhubarb (maybe 5 or 6 nice sized stalks), a ginger bug, and some sugar. You can use just about any kind of sugar crystals but not honey since it may kill the wild yeast.
To make your ginger bug peel and mince about 2 teaspoons of ginger root. Put it in a small jar or glass with one cup of water and about 2 teaspoons of sugar. Cover the jar with a paper towel and rubber band – your bug needs air to grow. Feed it more ginger and sugar daily. When it starts bubbling in 3 – 6 days you can use it for soda. If it gets moldy throw it away and start over. Gently swirling the ginger in the jar several times a day will speed up the process and help keep it from molding. You can maintain the ginger bug indefinitely by feeding it more ginger and sugar at least every two days and pouring off the liquid into a new jar when the old jar gets too full of old ginger and spent sugar.
This is natural yeast which consumes the sugar, creating carbonation in the way that commercial yeast does when consuming sugar. Except this yeast bug is not genetically modified, it’s live probiotics you’ve captured and will help improve your gut flora.
To make your flavoring rinse and slice the rhubarb into 1/2 inch pieces. Cover them partially with water and simmer them until the fruits softens and begins to get mushy. Strain the juice and liquid using a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth-lined colander. Let that juice cool to room temperature.
In the meantime make simple syrup using 1 1/2 cups of sugar crystals and 1/2 gallon of filtered water. Dissolve the sugar in the water over medium heat then let that cool to room temperature.
Combine your rhubarb juice, your simple syrup, and about 1/2 to 1 cup of your ginger bug depending on how much carbonation and ginger flavor you want. I think the ginger rounds out the rhubarb nicely.
Taste the “soda” for strength. If you feel the flavor is too strong you can add one cup of water at a time. It will be very sweet at this point but after several days the ginger bug will consume the sugar so if you want it less sweet you can simply let it carbonate longer.
Put your “soda” in a jar on the counter away from light and seal it tightly. After several days you should see bubbles forming. The longer it sets out at room temperature, the more sugar the yeasties will consume. Taste it daily. When you like it put it in smaller bottles and put it in the fridge to stop if from carbonating further.
This was a refreshing drink – not too sweet and a fun pink color which the kids loved. The great thing about rhubarb is it’s high in vitamin C so if you simmer it at a low temperature you maintain much of that nutritional profile. This would be great served with some lemon verbena leaves frozen in ice cubes, or added to the fruit when you stewed it. Lemon verbena is one of those plants with magical sweetening qualities like angelica. If you add it to fruits or pies it will reduce the amount of sugar you need.
I also froze some of this into popsicle forms. The kids (even my super picky toddler) loved them. I plan to make up a big batch of the rhubarb juice and freeze it so we can enjoy this long after rhubarb season has ended. It beats that nasty chemical-laden pink lemonade concentrate any day! I wonder if we set up a roadside stand selling rhubarb fizz – do you think people would stop?