Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer Recipe: White Peach-Lavender Soda

What does one do when one receives a gift of perfect and oh-so-fragrant lavender from a friend's garden? If one is like me and has just finished writing a book of homebrewing projects and suddenly has free time to play with recipes not going into the book, one naturally thinks about making soda.

Lavender became a bit of a nemesis when writing True Brews. I learned the hard way that one scoop too many can take the lavender flavor from softly enchanting to soapy-tasting catastrophe in less time than it takes to say "Uh oh." I finally nailed the recipe, but it's left me with some rather hard feelings toward lavender.

But contemplating my bounty of lavender last week, I figured that a soda would be safe. Right? It's only a few cups. I can manage that. Maybe this could be a baby step in my Lavender Appreciation Recovery.

The white peaches and white nectarines are phenomenal right now. The farmers markets are flooded with them and I can't help but hold them to my nose and snag samples whenever I can. They are juicy and floral and just a teensy bit tart. I figured a few of these fruits would be the perfect companion to my lavender.

And they were. This soda... You guy, this soda... It's kind of awesome. Way better than I expected. It tastes sweet and peachy-keen and has just the barest breath of lavender to make things interesting. It's fresh and fizzy, especially on the hot afternoons we've been having the past week. Also, just FYI, it's extremely good with a shot of gin.

I didn't intend or expect that lovely pink color either. I envisioned something pale and luminous. Instead I got lazy and left the skins on the peaches, which proceeded to dye the juice this incredible shade of pink. I definitely recommend being lazy in this instance.


White Peach-Lavender Soda
Makes about 4 to 6 servings (enough to fill a recycled 1-liter soda bottle)

1 cup water, plus more to fill the bottle
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lavender flowers (1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers)
1 pound very ripe white peaches
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon champagne yeast or baker's yeast

Need: one clean 1-liter plastic soda bottle with screw-on cap

Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan on the stovetop or in the microwave. Remove from heat and add the sugar and lavender flowers. Stir to dissolve to sugar. Let stand for 20 minutes to infuse the sugar water with lavender.

Wash and roughly chop the peaches. It is not necessary to peel them. Strain the lavender flowers and pour the infused sugar water over the fruit. Add the lemon juice and salt, and stir to combine. Let this stand for 10 minutes to macerate the fruit.

Working in batches, puree the peaches with the sugar-water in the food processor or blender. Strain the puree into a bowl, collecting as much juice as possible without forcing any solids through the strainer. You can also strain the juice through a flour sack towel or cheesecloth to yield a cleaner soda. You should end up with 1 1/2 to 2 cups concentrated fruit syrup.

At this point, you could stop, refrigerate the syrup, and add it to a glass of sparkling water to taste. To naturally carbonate the soda with yeast (you intrepid brewer you!), proceed onward.

Pour the juice into a clean 1-liter plastic soda bottle using a funnel (see note). Top off the bottle with water, leaving about an inch and a half of head room. Give it a taste and add more lemon juice or sugar if desired. The extra sugar will dissolve on its own.

Add the yeast. Screw on the cap and shake the bottle to dissolve and distribute the yeast. Let the bottle sit at room temperature out of direct sunlight for 12 to 48 hours. Exact fermentation time will depend on the temperature in the room. Check the bottle periodically; when it feels rock-solid with very little give, it's ready.

Refrigerate overnight or for up to 2 weeks. Open very slowly over a sink to release the pressure gradually and avoid bubble-ups.

Notes: 

• Feel free to substitute white nectarines, yellow peaches, or yellow nectarines for the fruit in this recipe. I'm also feeling tempted to try plums. The color and flavor will be slightly different, but most definitely still very tasty.

• For a stronger lavender flavor, infuse the sugar water for a longer period of time. Taste periodically and strain the sugar water when it tastes good to you. Since using more lavender can quickly make foods taste soapy, this is a safer way of amping up the flavor.

• I recommend using champagne yeast over baker's yeast whenever possible. It has a crisp and clean flavor that lets the fruit shine through, whereas baker's yeast tends to make sodas taste yeasty. Not a terrible thing, and fine in a soda-craving pinch, but get some champagne yeast if you can. It's sold at any homebrew supply store and online at places like Northern Brewer.

• The fruit mash left after straining makes a very good afternoon snack with yogurt.

• Sodas can also be bottled in glass or swing-top bottles, but it’s more difficult to tell when the sodas have fully carbonated. To do this safely, with every batch you bottle also fill one small plastic soda bottle to use as an indicator for when the sodas have finished carbonating. Refrigerate all of the bottles as soon as the plastic bottle is carbonated; never leave the glass bottles at room temperature once carbonated.


37 comments:

  1. can you use sparkling water and just add the flavor to it? i once put sugar into soda before (it was the sugarless kind) and the addition of sugar made the soda fiz out of control! is that why you use yeast instead? how does the fizzyness of this drink compare to a soda?

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  2. Sure, you can make the recipe up to straining the peaches and then just add some of the concentrated peach-lavender syrup to a glass of sparkling water, to taste. I'm not sure why your sugar addition would have made the water fizz so much! Just add the syrup slowly and you should be fine. I make the soda fizzy with yeast just because I like the process. The fizziness of this homemade soda is about the same as store bought.

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  3. This looks amazing! I've been playing around with homemade sodas recently and I'm hooked. To carbonate mine, I use a Sodastream, and it works great.

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  4. This looks so yummy! Am wishing it was summer in Australia right now! Shall have to file this away for Christmas time. Am thinking this would be a delicious combo in a sorbet or sherbet...

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  5. This looks yummy, but I have a stupid question. Where do you get your lavender flowers from for this recipe? Can you use any from any source - even the flower shop??? I've never tried a recipe that used lavenders before.

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  6. Not a stupid question! If you don't happen to have a handy neighbor who grows lavender, as I do, you can usually find lavender flowers with the bulk spices at health food stores and co-ops. I haven't checked, but I'd guess that Whole Foods carries lavender, or you can also order them online. Since you're using them for culinary purposes, just make sure they're organic. Sometimes lavender flowers at flower shops and aromatherapy sources have been treated with pesticides and other chemicals, which you definitely don't want in your soda!

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  7. May I please inquire as to where you bought the glass bottle photographed in this post? It's gorgeous.

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  8. @Comrade Buttons - Alas, the bottle was a gift from a friend and I don't know where she got it. I suspect it was foraged from a vintage shop!

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  9. Oh, too bad. :) Well, I can't wait to try your recipe. It sounds really fun and refreshing. Thanks!

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    1. You can buy these exact bottles at IKEA! They are only a couple bucks

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  10. Is yeast necessary, or just for the fizz? The syrups does sound good in plain water!

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  11. Just for some fun fizz! You could totally just add the peach-lavender juice to water or sparkling water on its own.

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  12. Anyone attempted a sugar free or alternative version?

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  13. N Valentine - If you want to carbonate with yeast, you'll need at least a little sugar. The natural sugar in the fruit juice might be enough, or you could just add a tablespoon or two of sugar for the yeast and an alternative sugar to sweeten. Alternatively, you could just make the syrup without the sugar, add it to fizzy water, and use an alternative sweetener to taste. Let me know if you try it!

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  14. I've infused xyla and water before with mint for mint juleps. tasted just as good.

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  15. I was wondering the same as @ N Valentine Studio. Sugar Free version sounds good. Can you mix with Club Soda for fizz?

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  16. Crate and Barrel is the source of those lovely bottles in my house. They're typically $5 but often on sale. I also use sodastream, so thanks for answering that! We have to carbonate water before adding flavoring, so thanks for all the variations! We have a lavender seller at our farmer's market - so I recommend people look there too. (Also, thanks for using a fruit that I can only eat cooked! It means I get to enjoy the flavor instead of eyeing everyone else jealously.)

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  17. if i left the soda to sit for a long while would it eventually turn into wine? i just figured because of the yeast. it seems like this would be a tasty wine.

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  18. That's an interesting question! Yes, you could definitely let this ferment until the yeast has eaten up all the sugar, essentially making wine. You'd need an air lock to let the bubbles escape during fermentation (or else too much pressure would build up and the bottle would...er...explode). You can pick up an air lock at any homebrewing store or on the internet. If you try it, let me know how it turns out!

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    1. My son-in-law puts a simple dime store bought balloon on top of his bottles of home made wine and releases the gas as needed as the balloons enlarge. It's a simple remedy to keep those bottles from building too much pressure and exploding. ~ Jamie

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  19. This sounds incredible as a wine! If someone has tried this, please let us know!

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  20. OH, and yes...Crate & Barrel has the bottles for $4.95 a bottle. They are out of stock right now and won't be available until August.

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  21. You could leave out the yeast and add water kefir for a second ferment if you wanted to.

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  22. OOPS!! Didn't even realize you wrote a whole BOOK and already know about kefir fermenting. :-P Please excuse the fauxpas!

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  23. Oh, yes! This would be awesome made with water kefir! I love it!

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  24. Mine exploded and tasted like peach bread. I haven't given up though, as soon as I can find champagne yeast I'll try again!

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  25. Hi, Jenn! Did your bottles actually explode or did they just gush a lot when you opened them?! If the former, you probably let the bottle sit too long before refrigerating, and if the latter, sometimes that happens if it was fermented in warm temperatures and you opened the bottle too quickly. The only solution I've found is to open the bottle veeeeery slowly to let the pressure escape gradually. And yeah, if you used bread yeast instead of champagne, you'll get some of that bread-like flavor you mention. Feel free to email me if you have specific questions (my email is in the "Profile" link above). I'm glad you're sticking to it, though! :)

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  26. I just finished making this and it's been 3.5 hours and the small plastic bottle I used is rock hard! I have most of the soda in a glass liter bottle but made a small batch in plastic like you suggested. Should I open them?

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    1. Sounds like your sodas are carbonated! In the warm summer months, it can happen really quickly. Refrigerate all the bottles overnight and they should be good to go! To be on the safe side, you might want to pop open that glass bottle outside in case it gushes.

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    2. Okay, great! I opened the one big bottle outside, and it was really tight! I took a good five minutes to slowly twist it off, but some of it still rushed out like champagne. I think (maybe for summer?) people should leave more than an inch and a half at the top. For the smaller bottle I had about two and a half inches at the top, and that one didn't rush out!
      Thanks again for the recipe!

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    3. Hooray! Glad you liked the soda and thanks so much for the feedback.

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  27. Curious, the measurment for the yeast; is that for dry yeas or liquid brewing style yeast?

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  28. The measurements are for dry yeast! Thanks for asking!

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  29. Thank you for this recipe. It was even more awesome than I originally thought. I had a girls movie day and made this. Didn't take long at all. I didn't make the soda part and opted to use tonic water and champagne (it was brunch....). We also tried it with ginger ale (find one that's not too sweet). The peaches alone were great. I pulled a few out to garnish the drinks with. I will be making this again but this time I will cut and marinate the peaches in the lavender water (maybe cut the sugar in 1/2) and then serve them with ice cream.

    Thanks again!

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  30. Google Swingtop Bottles. You can find many similar bottles. They sure are pretty.

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  31. I can't wait to try this! Looks delicious.

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