This recipes was originally inspired by my time at Three Stone Hearth, a community supported kitchen, in Berkeley, California.
Sumac is a small tree, native to the North East, with fuzzy red buds that appear in late summer and early fall. The buds often stay on the trees even after the leaves have turned and fallen, adding color to the barren landscape of winter. The buds are very high in vitamin C and have a rich tradition of use for food and medicine by native peoples. I recommend wild crafting the sumac buds, however please be sure to harvest consciously and make sure you have correctly identified the plant before harvesting.
Vitamin C is destroyed by heat, so that is why we use warm water rather than boiling water in this preparation. If Sumac buds are not available you may substitute a heaping ¼ cup of rose hips or hibiscus flowers using the same method of preparation.
This recipe can be easily adapted for any other herb that you wish to make soda from. You can use the same recipe, substituting ½ cup of any dried loose herb (or a packed cup of fresh herb) for the sumac buds. I have tried many different herbal sodas – here is a list of my favorites: tulsi, shiso, ginger, lavender and ginger, lemon, rose hip and hibiscus, lemon verbena… you get the idea.
4 to 5 medium sized sumac buds
½ cup of honey or agave nectar
½ cup yogurt whey
½ lemon (optional)
filtered water, heated to 80 – 90 degrees.
Place the sumac buds into a ½ gallon mason jar and fill with warm water. Allow this to steep overnight. In the morning, or 8 to 10 hours later, strain the infusion through a fine strainer. Return the infusion to the mason jar and add the whey, agave or honey and lemon juice (optional) and shake well. With the lid on, allow this mixture to sit out, or ferment, at room temperature for 2 to 3 days.
After this initial fermentation it is time to bottle your soda! I like prefer to use glass bottles but you can use plastic too, either should have a tight fitting lid. Make sure your bottles and funnels are all very clean. Pour the soda into the bottles and tightly secure the lid. The soda can be left out at room temperature in a pantry or cupboard for up to a week, during which time it will build carbonation. Or you can refrigerate it immediately and drink it right away. This soda is delicious and a delightful color.
These sodas are alive and will continue to ferment in the bottles. As always, fermentation will be more active in warmer environments. These sodas are not meant to be aged or stored long term. Herbal sodas should be stored in the refrigerator or in some other cool environment (like a basement) where fermentation will be slower. If the soda is left to ferment for too long (over a month or less in a warm place) excessive carbonation will build up in the bottle and the bottle may explode or the soda may spray everywhere when opened!
My Favorite Sodas
Lavender – Lemon
Hibiscus – Schisandra Berry
Tulsi – Eluthero
The list goes on and on…be creative!