This starter-free strawberry soda is like the one-night stand of fermented drinks—no long-term commitment necessary. You don’t need to search for your dream kombucha SCOBY to make it. You don’t take on the responsibility of regular feedings to keep a living culture alive. You make it, you drink it and you enjoy it while it lasts.
Party in a jar
The naturally occurring bacteria and yeast present on the fruit eat the sugar in the fruit and the sugar you add. The microbes reciprocate by producing tangy acids and the carbon dioxide that creates that desired fizz.
Choose quality soda ingredients
Use very sweet strawberries for maximum fizzy action and flavor. For example, if you buy your berries at the farmers’ market, start this when you get home. If you wait to use your berries, they will taste less sweet. The mixture will still ferment but fresher berries will render a more delicious result.
Frozen strawberries will also work. The microbes won’t die in the freezer. They will simply take a nap.
For this batch of soda, I used granulated sugar. Sucanat, rapadura or coconut sugar would all work well and taste delicious.
I use filtered tap water in my ferments. Our tap water is fine but since I do have naked charcoal filters, I keep those in a couple of glass jugs that I keep filled with water.
Naturally Carbonated Strawberry Soda
Until you want to settle down with a ginger bug, this drink is for you.
- 1 cup sweet strawberries, cut into small 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 cup sugar (granulated, sucanat, rapadura or coconut sugar)
- 4 cups water
- Juice of one lemon, about 2 tablespoons
These may look like a lot of directions but essentially, you fill a jar with the strawberries, sugar and water and then wait. Add lemon juice for flavor. Bottle the drink. Drink the drink.
1. Stir water and sugar together in a jar with a capacity of at least six cups. The sugar will dissolve fairly quickly.
2. Add the strawberries to the jar. Stir. Close the lid on the jar.
3. Stir the contents daily.
4. After about five days, depending on your kitchen environment, the drink will start to bubble. Continue to allow it to ferment and taste it daily. I let the drink in this post ferment in the jar for eight or nine days during hot summer weather. Warm weather speeds up the fermentation. Cold weather slows it down.
5. When you like the flavor, strain your drink through a sieve placed over a large measuring cup or a bowl. Set these berries aside. Stir the lemon juice into the drink. Use a funnel to fill clean, flip-top bottles with the drink, leaving at least a couple of inches of headspace in the bottles. Set the bottles aside for between a couple of days to a week. The longer the drink ferments, the more sugar the microbes will eat and the less sweet the soda will taste.
7. PLEASE BURP YOUR BOTTLES! In other words, open the bottles just enough to release some of the carbon dioxide building up inside. You want your drink carbonated but not explosive. Burp the bottles at least every couple of days or every day if you live in a hot, humid area.
If, when attempting to burp your bottle, the drink begins to gush out, burp it more frequently as it continues to ferment or move it to the refrigerator where it will calm down. If you’re new to fermentation, you may want to burp your bottles outside in case they start to gush out and make a big mess.
If, after burping your bottle, you get only a small release of carbon dioxide, burp your bottles less frequently. You don’t want so much carbon dioxide to escape that the drink becomes flat. Because strawberries tend to create lots of carbonation, you likely won’t have this problem.
8. When you’re ready to drink your soda, move the bottles to the refrigerator to chill for a few hours.
9. Your drink will continue to ferment in the refrigerator but more slowly. Over time, it will become less sweet. If you won’t drink it for a couple of weeks, burp the refrigerated bottles.
Optional, highly recommended step: make a second infusion
After you strain the strawberries, you can make a smaller batch of this. The still-sweet strawberries, now teeming with those fast-reproducing bacteria and yeast, will ferment this next batch quickly and it will likely begin to bubble within a day or so. However, because the strawberries have gone through one infusion, they will render a weaker tasting drink. Make this batch more concentrated. Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 2 cups of water with the reserved strawberries. Proceed as with the first infusion. My second batch has less fizz but it still tastes very good.
My cookbook includes other naturally carbonated drinks, including a recipe for tepache—a fermented beverage made with pineapple peels.