If there is one thing the various healthy living camps can agree on, it’s that high-fructose corn syrup laden sodas are bad for you. It’s not just the high-fructose corn syrup, though. Even “naturally” sweetened sodas are incredibly high in sugar and therefore more of a celebratory drink than an every day beverage.
What many people don’t realize is that sodas have health-minded roots. Many of the tonics that modern day sodas are based on were rich in herbs, barks, roots, and even cultures. These would have most likely contained a sweetener of some sort, but more for the fuel of fermentation than a sickly sweet aftertaste.
Anyway, there are many ways to achieve that fizzy, fruity, slightly sweet, wonderfully delicious tonic of yesteryear. Some don’t even require a mother culture that needs tending, which is what I’ve been dabbling in lately.
Kombucha and Water Kefir
These are the obvious places to start and for good reason. They produce consistently delicious probiotic beverages, fizzy or not, that you can continue to make for years. Kombucha is more widely known, but Julie, Bonni, and I have all sung the praises of the lesser known water kefir. It cultures up much quicker than kombucha and has a less acidic flavor that is more akin to a very lightly sweetened soda.
This bread-based kvass is a simple way to utilize sourdough bread as the base for your fermentation. Adding fruits, honey, or other flavorings makes it more akin to a soda while still maintaining its yeasted bread undertone.
Culture Starter-Based Sodas
More recently, I have been dabbling in making fermented sodas that utilize milk kefir whey. You can also use a sourdough starter as your culture as per this recipe. What I like about this is the versatility it lends. Even if I don’t have kombucha or water kefir going at the moment, we can still have some bubbly fermented sodas. I use a basic formula that follows these ratios:
- 1/4 cup whey
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup fruit juice
- enough water to make one quart
This very basic ratio is tweaked, changed, and added to in order to create all sorts of flavor combinations. Use what you have on hand or find something exotic and interesting to create that old favorite soda you used to drink. Just cap tightly and watch closely for signs of carbonation.