What you need:
- 2 cups of sweetener-sugar, molasses, syrup
- 1/2-2 cups of freshly picked fruit or flowers
- A pint jar
- Tea (I use the term tea as an umbrella for heated water flavored with botanicals and sweetened with sugar)
- A large pot
- Flip top bottles
You start by making what is called a bug. Fill the pint jar with some plant material. I’ve used many things—a stalk of rhubarb, rose hips, lawn daisies, green figs, blueberries—anything that seems like it would have a good bloom of bacteria and yeast and that you don’t feel too squicked out to not wash. Put it, uncleaned, into the pint jar. Add one cup of sugar or a big dollop of molasses or both if you feel like it. Fill the jar with water and stir. Loosely cover the jar and set it aside for four days, being sure to tighten the lid and shake it at least once a day. You’ll notice bubbles starting to form in the liquid. This is your starter bug. You might see some white film forming on the liquid. This is a certain kind of yeast and you can skim it off or leave it. If you see mold or if it smells bad, chuck it and start over. Ferments smell funky, but they don’t smell spoiled.
After your bug is nice and bubbly, make a big pot of tea. I use a six quart pot and it makes about eight 16 oz flip tops worth. You can use anything to make the tea. My favorite is berry tea. In this recipe I added about a cup of black currants from my garden, some dehydrated carrots, a bunch of lemon balm from my garden, and a cup of dry elderberries. Add the second cup of sugar to this tea (one cup per six quarts of water, reduce sugar for less water). Let the tea cool completely. Your finished drink will taste like this tea, but carbonated and less sweet.
Add three tablespoons of your bubbly bug to each flip top. Pour the cooled tea in and cap it up. Leave it to sit for 1-3 days. You may need to release the pressure, depending on how strong your bug is.
Voila! Wild fermented soda! You can keep your bug alive by adding water and feeding it some sugar (1/4-1/2 cup) once a week. I use molasses and brown sugar to feed my bug as well. Keep it in the fridge between uses and let it get to room temperature each time you use it.