bacchus, toned down ::::
“You’d better be careful, or you might end up with a lambic,” Eat warned as we peered at the large glass bowl in the kitchen. The smell of my fermenting grape juice started to permeate through the usual odors of spices and fresh fruit ripening on the counter. It was yeasty. A little sweet. A little moldy. I worried about creating vinegar inadvertently. Or poisoning my family.
Lambic was definitely not my goal, though not unwelcome. At the same time that I saw the recipe for fermented grape soda in bon appetit magazine, I received beautiful baubles of Flame seedless red grapes in my CSA box.
It seemed Bacchus, without the frenzy, the Roman God of the grape harvest and wine was upon me, with a hint of cajoling to make a drink straddling the flavor of juice and wine. Eh, what else could I do? No need for these grapes to go to waste. The recipe does take days to do, but with little active time. What better with my life these days, Mommy being pulled in every direction my three kids. I needed to sup that drink, that inbetweener, and pretend perhaps it was a bit of wine midday, without the ataxia or hangover.
And we didn’t get sick or poisoned. Don’t worry about the mold that appears: it’s normal.
See that above? It looks a lot worse than it really was. I easily skimmed it off with a spoon.
Day 2: less mold, more bubbles. The fun is beginning!
Eat and I loved this drink with lots of ice, tasting almost like a lambic but with enough sweet, grape flavor that it was a recognizable soda. It is not a clear liquid, but more opaque. After chilling, the larger bits did settle in the bottle and look, well, kind of gross, but fizzed up wonderfully and mixed in when I unscrewed the cap. (One could avoid this mildly toothsome soda if using an unpasteurized juice well strained in cheesecloth. I only used a fine mesh strainer.)
Try it with ice cream for a “purple cow” ice cream float. This creates a much different frenzy than Bacchus ever did, no alcohol needed. It is the craze of kids and their gravitation to anything fizzy and sweet. Enjoy, no matter your context.
One year ago: watermelon soda floats
Two years ago: syrian baklava
- 4 teaspoons finely grated washed organic ginger, divided (grate 1 teaspoon at a time over 4 days)
- 4 teaspoons sugar, divided
- 3 pounds organic red seedless grapes (I used the Flame variety -- try something else for color and taste variation.)
- Special Equipment: A clean 1-liter plastic soda bottle with cap; cheesecloth to cover canning bottle and large piece of muslin/cheesecloth to fit over large bowl; large mesh strainer
- DAY 1: Stir 1 teaspoon grated ginger, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 4 cups water in a 32-ounce canning jar to combine. Cover jar with cheesecloth; secure with a canning jar band (without lid) or tight rubber band. Let sit 1 day out of direct sunlight at room temperature.
- DAY 2: Stir in 1 teaspoon ginger and 1 teaspoon sugar and let sit 1 day.
- DAYS 3 and 4: Repeat twice more with ginger/sugar additions as above. The mixture (ginger bug) should have bubbles throughout and release more when agitated.
- DAY 4: After 4 days, purée grapes in a blender until smooth. Strain, pressing on solids The original recipe state that you should have about 4 cups juice; I had just over 3½ cups. I added a bit of water to the strained mixture to bring it up to 3¾ cups.
- Combine juice and ½ cup ginger bug in a large nonreactive bowl.* Cover with cheesecloth or muslin cloth; secure with a large rubber band. Let sit out of direct sunlight at room temperature, skimming white mold from surface, until mixture is slightly foamy and releases bubbles when stirred, 3–4 days. (I waited to the morning of Day 4 just to make sure it was nice and bubbly.)
- Strain into bottle, cap, and let sit at room temperature until bottle feels pressurized.** The original recipe states that it may take about one day longer; it only took mine about 8 hours, then the bottle felt so tight with pressure, I worried that it may burst overnight in the fridge. I gently and slowly unscrewed the cap slightly to release some of the air before going to bed, praying that I wouldn't awaken to the sound of something akin to a trapped animal exploding in a metal cage. Additionally, if the CO2 levels get too high, yeast will die and the fermentation process will stop. Chill until cold before serving with lots of ice. I found my soda very sweet so the ice was a must to dilute it slightly. Otherwise, it was a refreshing drink!***
- Soda can be made 2 weeks ahead. Keep chilled. Makes less than 1 liter.