Each year I get concord grapes in my CSA share, and I never know what to do with them aside from just eating them fresh (I once tried pickling grapes—never again). This year I decided to expand my solo repertoire with these intensely flavored and deeply purple fruit bombs and try making a lacto-fermented whey soda with them. I am happy to say, it was seriously tasty.
For my culture, I used the whey I collected from making yogurt cheese—this kind of cheese is basically the result of hanging plain yogurt (full fat without stabilizers, pectin, or gelatin) in butter muslin for a day or so. They whey drips out and what remains is a thick and tangy spreadable cheese. The whey contains cultures that usher along the lacto-fermentation process. Here’s a shot of the delicious cheese hanging with the whey at the bottom of the container.
To start, I washed and picked all the grapes off their stems, discarding any that were overripe, damaged, or in generally bad shape; firm, ripe, and unblemished grapes were what I was looking for. In the end, I had 6 cups of grapes. I added 2 cups of water and 1/2 cup organic sugar to the grapes and brought it all to a boil, and let that simmer for about 30 minutes. I cooled the mix and then put it through a sieve, discarding pits and skins; what was left was a thick juicy liquid.
I mixed that liquid with 3/4 cup whey and poured it into a large mason jar with an airlock lid on it, and let it sit undisturbed for two and a half days. By then, the juice was bubbly on the surface, meaning it had successfully fermented.
I poured the juice into a swing top bottle, and by end of day there was a lot of natural carbonation—almost too much, truth be told. But it was awesome.
The soda had a bright clean grape flavor that was not overly sweet, and I loved how sparkly it was. However, I wasn’t thrilled with the texture—it was too thick for my taste, so in actuality it was like a sort of grape “nectar” soda. It was so delicious, I drank it despite my apprehension with the texture. Next time I make it, I will not press the cooked grape mixture so forcefully through the sieve; instead, I’ll remove the pits, remaining grape flesh, and skin first, and just let what remains drain through with gravity. This should result in a thinner juice.
As it goes with fermentation, ambient temperature has an effect. My kitchen was particularly warm when I made this soda, so the process was speedier. There’s a part of me that really loves that variable in fermentation.
I’d like to try making this soda with different fruit, as well as cider. I’ve actually tried this with cider before, but didn’t put in enough culture, and I got some unpleasant mold develop on the surface. Live and learn. But this grape soda is a real winner. I hope you get a chance to try it—please drop me a note and let me know how it goes!
Concord Grape Lacto-Fermented Soda
6 cups Concord grapes
2 cups of water
1/2 cup organic sugar
3/4 cup active whey
In a medium saucepan combine grapes, water, and sugar and bring to a boil. Let that simmer for about 30 minutes.
Cooled the mixture and discarding pits and skins. Let what remains drain through a sieve.
Transfer to a large mason jar (quart to half gallon is recommended). Add whey and mix well. Cap with a lid with an airlock.
Let ferment for 2-3 days until bubbles develop on the surface of the liquid. This indicates the juice has fermented.
Pour juice into a swing top bottle and cap it to develop carbonation. Check after 6 hours—if the ambient temperature in your home is warm, it will ferment quicker. Let it go as long as you like but be aware that fermented beverages of this kind can build up pressure enough to explode.