Suddenly Sauer: Preserving Food and Tradition in a Modern World

Celery and Grapefruit Soda
February 27, 2010, 7:56 pm
Filed under: beverages

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I decided to make celery soda for two reasons.  1) we talk about celery production a fair amount in my vegetable production class (Michigan has these soils called “muck soils” that hold nutrients and moisture really well, making them ideal for celery production) and it reminded me of how intriguing the salty bitter taste of celery can be, and 2) My friend offered me a taste of his Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda and it got me thinking that a cultured version would be good, maybe even better… (but I’m not going to take sides just yet).  So I set out for Eastern Market one bright Saturday and bought myself a bunch of celery (organic but not local… making celery soda is a lot more relevant in the summertime, but I couldn’t wait!) and two juicy sugar sweet grapefruits.

I juiced the celery and the grapefruit (peeled), which added up to 4 cups of juice.  Then I added 1/2 cup cane sugar and 2 cups of water, and heated it on the stove until the sugar was dissolved.  After allowing it to return to room temperature, I added 1/2 cup of whey and poured the mixture into two bottles–one, the functioning grolsch style glass bottle I’ve been using, the second, a smaller grolsch bottle that is ceramic instead of glass.

I let both bottles ferment for 9 days in a dark cabinet, then I refrigerated them.  When I finally popped the cap on the large bottle last night, I was shocked and delighted to watch detachedly as the brew explode up and out of the bottle, champagne like, drenching my cloths, my ceiling, my floor, and even some of my house guests.  The flavor was pretty uniformly deemed delicious, but interestingly, the two different bottles had very different flavors.  The uber carbonated glass bottle was much more acidic, more earthy (strongly celery), with less sweetness and less grapefruit flavor, while the ceramic jug had more of the flavor I was expecting the get out of the brew: sweet, sour, bitter, and salty.

I now need to figure out why two bottles poured from a uniform mix, underwent different fermentation processes.  any suggestions/thoughts are welcome.  In the mean time, I’ll keep experimenting.  And for the record… celery grapefruit soda definitely made a splash.


6 Comments so far
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Could it be a function of temperature?. Different sizes and materials of your containers may have kept your brew at different temperatures. Or even created more temperature variation as your room where you were fermenting changed temp over the course of the day which may have favored one micro organism over another?

Comment by josh wykell

Temperature would make a lot of sense, as the glass bottled concoction clearly fermented faster than the ceramic bottle, which is made of a much thicker material. I don’t think the difference was fast enough that the type of fermentation was affected, but I do think that in the glass bottle, much more of the sugars were digested, while the ceramic bottle had more of it’s sugars intact at the end of fermentation. I guess I need to buy/scrounge some more bottles after all. Thanks for your thoughts!

Comment by suddenlysauer

i think josh’s idea about size is valid. i do think you are gonna have more consistent results with equal size bottles. maybe you need to make friends with some one who drinks a lot of grolsch i also wonder if your one bottle was less clean than the other. are you sanitizing your bottles? could be that one bottle was contaminated with other bacteria.

Comment by pa

do you know anyone who drinks a lot of grolsch?
both bottles were equally unclean (I don’t really sanitize, but i do think I ran this set through the dishwasher before using them). I don’t think that the differences were drastic enough that different micro-organisms were present… My hunch is that because the grapefruit juice contained much of the brew’s sugars, that fructose (along with the grapefruit flavor?) was more digested in the glass bottle, and remained more intact in the ceramic bottle with the slower rate of fermentation.

Comment by suddenlysauer

yay! a fermenter after my own heart. i don’t sanitize so much either. i bottled a gallon of ginger beer today. ingredients: ginger, rapadura, water, and yeast. gonna let them age a week or two. i think it’s so interesting that you’re using primarily bacteria in your drinks. i will try this at some undetermined point in the future.

Comment by uriel

friend, this sounds really quite delightful. and exploding celery grapefruit soda sounds quite celebratory. imagining that taste, how exciting, even with the two different outcomes. hooRAY for experimentation

Comment by gwen

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