About a year ago, while I was still going through my brewing phase and wanted to make things other than alcohol, I purchased a book called True Brews, by a Emma Christensen. Christensen is a blogger who got a book deal, as it’s not uncommon these days. I HIGHLY recommend this book. But at any rate, I got the book and immediately tagged all the recipes I wanted to make, as I usually do. By the time I reached the end, I realized it might have been easier, and quicker, to tag what I didn’t want to make! In the year since I’ve had the book, I made a few batches of soda, mostly ginger ale (which is the best ever!), with great success, so when I found myself with a large amount of deliciously ripe strawberries, the first thing that crossed my mind was strawberry soda.
If you have never had fresh fruit soda, you have no idea what you are missing! I’m a big soda drinker, that is my guilty pleasure, but I do not buy any of the so called fruit sodas because they taste nothing like the fruit from which they are supposed to be made. But this soda, THIS soda, wow, it blew my mind. I know I’ve said this before but the flavor was just so bright, and honest to goodness strawberry. It was amazing. The best part is that it’s all natural and not loaded with crazy amounts of sugar. As a matter of fact, you may use only just enough sugar for the yeast to feed (about 2 tbsp or so0, and use any other natural sweetener you want in its place, like stevia or something along those lines. I prefer the taste of sugar, and my strawberries were already pretty sweet so I just used sugar. Another thing I like about the soda recipes in True Brews is that they are yeast-carbonated. I have seen, many, many soda recipes and what they basically do is make a fruit syrup and then combine with it seltzer or sparkling water. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, it’s just not what I prefer. Here’s the recipe:
1 empty 2-liter soda bottle
2 pounds fresh or frozen strawberries
1/4 cup lemon juice (author calls for freshly squeezed but I always use bottled), plus more if needed
1 cup water, plus more to fill the bottle
9 tablespoons (4 oz) granulated sugar, plus more if needed
pinch of salt
1/8 tsp dry champagne yeast
1.Hull and coarsely chop the strawberries. Combine them with the lemon juice in a large bowl.
2. Bring the [1 cup] water to a boil in a small saucepan on the stove top or in the microwave. Remove from the heat. Add the sugar and salt, stir to dissolve, and pour over the strawberries. Let this stand for 10 minutes to macerate the fruit. If using frozen strawberries, macerate until the strawberries are completely thawed.
3. Working in batches, puree the strawberries with their liquid in a food processor or blender. Strain the puree into a bowl, collecting as much juice as possible without forcing any solids through the strainer.
4. Pour the strawberry juice into a clean 2-liter bottle using a funnel. Top off the bottle with water, leaving at least 1 inch of headspace. Give it a taste and add more lemon juice or sugar, if desired. The extra sugar will dissolve on its own.
5. Add the yeast. Screw on the cap and shake the bottle to dissolve and distribute the yeast. Let the bottle sit at room temperature out of direct sunlight until carbonated, typically 12 to 48 hours, depending on the temperature of the room. Check the bottle periodically; when it feels rock solid, with very little give, it’s ready.
6. Refrigerate overnight or for up to 2 weeks. Open very slowly over a sink to release the pressure gradually and avoid bubble-ups. [If desired, you may pour the soda through a strainer when serving it.]
Dry champagne yeast is easy to find, but not usually locally. There are may brewing supply stores online, just look for a reputable one; I use mostly Northern Brewer, but have used others on occasion. For this soda, I used Lalvin EC-1118. The recipe does not use the entire packet, only a small amount, so to keep the yeast fresh, I fold the packet on itself, the wrap it in plastic film, and store in the freezer, where I store all my dry yeast. For the soda bottle, I just go to the dollar store and buy a bottle of something cheap, pour it out, and use the bottle. I reuse the bottles.
So, if you find yourself with some extra strawberries, or just want to taste real fruit soda, I highly encourage you to try this recipe.