Flirting with Fermenting

martha cinader
Kefir starter quietly doing its thing while I’m out and about…

When I shared my raspberry soda recipe last week I was focused on the raspberries that I have been harvesting a handful at a time from my garden. I mentioned that I have used three different methods for making naturally fermented sodas. I forgot about my dalliance with kombucha, so really there were four. In the raspberry soda recipe I really just gave up some hints about how to start with a starter… but I’m not trying to keep my romance a secret. So let me shed a little light on how I’ve been spending some of my time these past few months and how you can get your own relationship going with fermentation.

When I was growing up my mother told me to replace the friendly bugs in my stomach, after taking antibiotics, by eating yoghurt. That’s probably still good advice, but it’s not the only way to get your gut right. And really, if you have a bad feeling in your gut, you should trust what it’s telling you about your intimate relationship with food. I’ve also previously talked about learning the forgotten ways of making bread. Well, commercial yeast is to bread what carbonation is to soda. Before instant rise yeast we had sourdough starter. Before carbonation (and vinegar) we had fermentation. One is like a big box of cheap chocolate and the other a petite package of tasty truffles.

With anything untried, the mystery is greater than the difficulty of the task itself. The thing about fermenting is that even though your starter culture takes a long time to get to its climax, it isn’t very demanding of you. It’s like having a very forgiving boyfriend. You don’t have to be punctual. Whenever you show up with a little sugar will pretty much always be the right time. Just don’t wait so long that you create the circumstances for an explosion. I started out making sodas with whey from yoghurt. But if you’re lactose intolerant that’s not your only option. When I thought I would try making ginger soda I started reading online about making a ginger bug to make ginger beer (same thing just ferment it longer) and root beer. But you could use a ginger bug to make any kind of soda you want. Now I mostly make soda or beer from my kefir culture. I don’t really prefer kefir over the other methods but I have been nurturing my kefir culture ever since I bought it. We have a good thing going, and it’s all I really need.

I learned everything I know about fermenting from reading about it on blogs written by other people, and then experimenting on my own. Rather than give you the blow-by-blow description of my romance with home brewed soda, I’m going to play matchmaker and set you up with a few links to articles by fellow bloggers about each of the methods I mentioned above. I would suggest a little speed date with each link. Then get your pop-top bottles together and choose a method to begin exploring your own feelings about fermenting. If you have written an article you feel is worthy of the list, please post your link in the comments. Or if you just want to tell your me-too story, please let us all learn from your experience!

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