Wild Food Lab Projects:
Salted Fish in a Day
Wild Food Lab
Making Wild Sodas
This is an excellent alternative to the sodas you buy at the local stores and, traditionally, was the way sodas were actually made.
It’s a simple fermentation process. Basically you’re making a juice/tea, add yeast to it, let it ferment for a short time in a container (carboy, large bottle, etc...) then transfer it to a closed bottle (plastic soda or swingtop bottle). As fermentation continues within the closed bottle, pressure is building and this is what creates the carbonation.
A good source for glass soda bottles is:
Soda Making Equipment:
You don’t need a lot to make soda, here is the basic list for one gallon
White sugar or honey ( 1 cup sugar or 3/4 cup honey)
Yeast (Champagne yeast - Available online or local beer supplies store)
1 gallon Water (not tap water which contains chlorine)
Large pot with lid
1 gallon bottle
Sieve & Funnel
Soda bottles (recycled plastic bottle or swingtop glass bottle)
Airlock and stopper (Available online or local beer supplies store)
I make all kinds of sodas and although the basic principle is the same, you have slight variations in the preparation.
The main rule I follow is what I call the rule of 24.
You prepare your tea/brew or juice then let it ferment for 24 hrs in a bottle or container with an airlock. The airlock is there to let the gas escape (a byproduct of the fermentation process) and not let anything go inside (fruit flies, other bacterias).
After 24 hrs of fermentation you transfer your soda to a closed bottle and wait for another 24 hrs. Pressure builds up inside the closed bottle and creates the carbonation. After that period of time, you can place your soda in the fridge. The low temperature will stop the fermentation process.
So it’s 24 hrs of fermentation, 24 hrs in the closed bottle then placed in the fridge to stop the fermentation.
Making a simple “wild” soda from scratch - step by step
White Sage and Limes Soda
Your imagination is the only limit when it comes to making sodas. You can start with simple and tasty ingredients such as mint, hibiscus flowers, tea & lemon and as you gain experience, you can start mixing things to create interesting flavors.
As a forager, I love to blend all kinds of wild aromatic plants and to give you an example the recent “local mountain” soda that I created included such ingredients as limes, manzanita berries, white fir needles, toyon berries, white sage, California Juniper berries and oak bark.
My favorite is a soda made with local white sage and limes. Here is the recipe
1 - In a pot, pour one gallon of clean water (not tap). Add around 6 large or 8 medium sized dried white sage leaves and 3 limes. Cut the limes in two, squeeze the juice out in the water and place the squeezed limes in it as well. Add 1 cup of sugar or 3/4 cup of honey.
The amount of white sage leaves is really to taste, experiment with it a bit. Not enough, you won’t taste the sage and if you put too many leaves, it will taste soapy. Start with my recommendation and go from there.
2 - Bring the sage “tea” to a boil then reduce it down to a simmer for 20 minutes.
3 - Remove the pot from heat and place it the sink with cold water. You may need to change the cold water a few times. You want the tea to be lukewarm. The main reason is that you will then add the yeast. If the liquid is too hot, it will kill the yeast and defeat the purpose.
4. Clean your fermentation bottle. It’s usually a one gallon glass bottle which you can purchase at the local beer store or you can buy some cheap wine in a large glass bottle at your local supermarket. If the bottle is not exactly one gallon, change the recipe according to the volume. I.E. if you’re making half gallon, reduce the sugar, etc... by two.
5. Place a sieve and funnel on the bottle then pour your white sage “tea”. Throw away the sage leaves and limes.
6. Open your champagne yeast packet (usually good for 5 gallons) and pour some of the yeast inside the bottle. Basically enough yeast for 1 gallon - to be honest I usually use 1/3 of the packet.
7. Place the stopper (corck) and airlock. Clean them first. I usually use a quick hot water rinse. From time to time, I’ll clean my airlocks in a bleach solution if they get dirty.
8. Wait 24 hrs. Usually after 10 to 12 hrs, sometimes sooner, you will see fermentation activity and gas escaping. That’s what you want.
9. After 24 hrs, pour the fermenting sage “tea” into plastic soda bottles or a swingtop glass bottles. Close the bottle tops and wait for another 24 hrs.
10. After 24 hours, place in the fridge.
11. Enjoy the next day. I’ve had sodas in the fridge for several weeks too.
Ferment the "boiled ingredients" in a bottle with airlock for 24 hours
The reason you’re using a (recycled) plastic soda bottles or swingtop glass bottles is because they won’t explode. There can be a tremendous amount of pressure from fermentation and a regular bottle will not take the pressure. If you look at the bottom of plastic soda bottle, it is designed to pop out in case of too much pressure. If one day, you see that the bottom of your plastic soda bottle has expanded and the bottle start to look like a balloon, you better find a safe space (outside) and open carefully the bottle, the liquid inside will expel with a lot of force. Swintop bottles are designed to release pressure inside in case of too much pressure.
Unless your forget your fermentation project for more than 24 hrs, you should not experience too much overpressure problems.
By the way, as you make sodas, you’ll discover that some will ferment faster than others. As you gain experience, you’ll be able to judge by looking at the airlock and how fast gas is escaping. If a fermentation is really active, I may decide to leave it into the closed soda or swingtop bottle for only 18 hrs. If a fermentation is really slow, I may decide to leave it for 36 hrs. It’s a bit of an art :)
Sodas can be stored in Swingtop bottles or recycled plastic soda bottles.
Once you start making sodas, you’ll realize that your imagination is truly the limit, there is an infinity of flavor combinations you can use to make delicious concoctions.
You can use ingredients you buy at the store or use ingredients you find in the wilderness and experiment. Sometimes it taste fantastic, sometimes it may not be spectacular but you’re learning about flavor combination doing this process.
I have a passion for trying to re-create whole environments with flavors, Recently I made a soda with ingredients from the local mountain such a mugwort, California juniper, white fir, oak bark, manzanita berries, toyon berries, 3 limes and a tad of white sage. It was a bit experimental but I really loved the result. A true “Mountain Dew”.
So don’t be afraid to try things - buy smaller fermentation bottles to do experimentations if you want.