I thought I was a pretty accomplished wild fermenter, before I started following Pascal Baudar; his opus, The New Wildcrafted Cuisine: Exploring the Exotic Gastronomy of Local Terroir, has reawakened me to the possibility that has been untapped all around me, on the forest floor, in the branches of native trees and shrubs, on fallen logs, even in stones… I am both humbled and excited to look at the natural world afresh, as a place that is rich in untapped flavor and the freedom to experiment.
His recipes are not so much recipes in and of themselves, but starting places, ideas, permissions.
Take this wild soda, for instance, which is a blend of several of his recipes, tailored to what came easily to hand in my own corner of the woods.
Ingredients are given not as specified quantities, but as rough percentages of a whole. And what ingredients! Forest grass, stinging nettle, wild mint. Fallen leaves and turkey tail mushrooms and juniper berries, sprigs of Douglas Fir and usnea.
This is as good a time as any to remind people that, despite the radical exhortations of professional foragers and food writers aside, it is unwise to collect and ingest any wildcrafted ingredient that you are not intimately familiar with. Can’t tell a true turkey tail from a false? DON’T EAT THEM. Can’t tell a sedge from a grass, a tan oak leaf from a live oak leaf from a poison oak leaf? Don’t eat them. Become familiar with the plants and fungi that make up your immediate environment, and your life will be exponentially richer, regardless of whether you make this wild soda, or not. It is also worth pointing out that all, or most of these ingredients, are available in dried form at many a local health food store. Nettles, mint, and juniper are all fairly easy to find, and may prove to be a good compromise between the wild and the tame, a safe yet exciting step into the wild world of fermentation.
These sodas, like other probiotic fermented beverages, are not intended to be shelf stable; drink them within a week or two, for best flavor, and store in the refrigerator after secondary fermentation.
Strain the fermenting soda to remove the solids from the liquid.
Funnel the liquid into swing top bottles and close them up tight; leave them out on the counter at room temperature, and check for appropriate carbonation after 8 hours.
Depending on the vigor of your fermentation, the pressure may be right at this time, or may require several hours more at room temperature to build up to the level that you like. Too long left at room temperature will create an excess of carbonation, and the possibility of exploding bottles; for this reason, some folks like to bottle into recycled plastic soda bottles. To test the level of carbonation in a plastic bottle without opening the top and releasing some of the gas, simply squeeze the bottle. A well carbonated beverage makes the plastic bottle firm and hard to the touch; sodas that need a little more time will have more give to the bottle.
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