Friday, August 9, 2013

Watermelon soda (for the blog's anniversary)


It almost passed me by without my realizing it but today marks the third anniversary of The Ninj. Well, not exactly. I personally am way older than three. WAY older. But I've been publishing the blog, in all its glory, for exactly three years.

Certainly a lot has changed in three years. Most noticeably, my photographs (thank god). I think my goal for the next year needs to be to remake all the recipes from Year 1 and rephotograph them. There's some good stuff back there but the photos do nothing to make you want to make or eat it. Really: NOTHING.

Also, I no longer refer to myself as between careers. I'm happy to have settled into the content producer role and am even happier that I've taken on some gigs that involve more in-depth writing about food but also about other topics as well (you'll hear more about that soon).

But, of course, other things haven't really changed at all. My dogs are still nuts, I'm still doing battle with the deer (there are TWO MORE THIS YEAR, for cripes' sake!) and I am still loving trying out new recipes to share with you, best-girlfriend style.

Which brings us to the watermelon soda. Holy crap, this stuff is awesome!

I'm not exaggerating. I have never tasted such a refreshing, fizzy drink. And, mind you, I am not a soda fan. I gave the stuff up many, many years ago and don't miss it one bit. Sure, I'll have the occasional natural soda every once in a while, but I wouldn't miss it if I never had another one.

However.

I could seriously become addicted to this watermelon soda. It's fascinating to me because the combination of watermelon with a little mint and some lime juice actually makes it taste a wee bit like grapefruit (I know, right?). It's almost like getting two flavors, watermelon and grapefruit, for the price of one.

Drink it straight to experience the fullest, crispest flavor. Or try mixing it with a little seltzer water (you'll want to find ways to make it last!) for a thirst-quenching cooler. Or, better yet, booze it up: a little tequila and lime would turn this into killer summer cocktail.



I came across this recipe in Emma Christensen's new book True Brews: How to Craft Fermented Cider, Beer, Wine, Sake, Soda, Mead, Kefir, and Kombucha at Home (Emma is the creator of The Kitchn, which I'm sure you know and love). I bought the book primarily to try making my own sake and mead but when fellow blogger Pirate Jeni went bat-shit crazy over this soda, I knew I had to try it.


And I'm so glad I did.

There's not nearly as much sugar in it as I would have thought (yay for that!), and the riper the watermelon, the sweeter the soda (obvs). And just a tiny amount of yeast does an amazing job of carbonating the gorgeous mixture.



The recipe is a little time-consuming but very easy. Here's a couple of been-there-done-that hints to make it even easier for you:
  1. When draining the fruity liquid for bottling, don't press the fruit puree into the strainer, even though it will be tempting to do so to get the most liquid possible -- you really don't want a lot of fruit bits in there unless you want chunky soda (eeewww)
  2. If you want to serve your soda in Grolsch-style bottles (as in the top photo), make the soda in plastic bottles first and then transfer it to the glass bottles. The gas that builds up in the bottles during carbonation is intense and I'm afraid someone might lose an eye trying to open those flip tops under all that pressure.
  3. Speaking of pressure, when you open the plastic bottles after carbonation is complete, open them SLOWLY. I mean ridiculously slowly, or you will have pretty pink soda all over the ceiling. Seriously, I think it took three or four minutes to open my bottle fully; just twist a teeny, tiny bit at a time and let the pressure out gradually.
  4. The soda will settle in the bottles so that the fruity part is on the bottom and the liquid is mostly clear. DO NOT PANIC: this is normal. Just gently shake the bottle before opening to recombine the ingredients into the lovely pink color you see in the photo below.


Do you brew at home? Have you made your own soda? Leave a comment: The Ninj wants to know.

And thanks for reading along for three years -- you rock.


Watermelon Soda (from Emma Christensen's True Brews: How to Craft Fermented Cider, Beer, Wine, Sake, Soda, Mead, Kefir, and Kombucha at Home)

Note: This recipe makes enough for one 2-liter plastic bottle or 2 1-liter bottles. If you use two, be sure to measure the yeast carefully.

Ingredients:
4 pounds coarsely chopped seedless watermelon
1/2 cup (packed) mint leaves
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup water (plus a bit more for topping up the bottles)
9 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon champagne yeast (easy to locate at a homebrew store or online)

Directions:
Combine the watermelon, mint and lime juice in a large bowl. Boil a cup of water and the sugar and salt to it, stirring until dissolved, then pour over the fruit and let stand 10 minutes.

Working in batches, puree the fruit mixture (including all the liquid) in a blender or food processor. Using a mesh strainer (not too fine), strain the mixture into a bowl. You want to collect as much liquid as possible WITHOUT pushing any of the puree through (you will have a lot of chunky puree left over).

Pour the juice into a clean 2-liter plastic soda bottle (or 2 1-liter bottles -- half in each), topping off the bottle with some water (be sure to leave an inch or two of headspace to avoid explosions!!). Go ahead and taste it at this point and feel free to add a bit more sugar or lime if you like.

Add the yeast, cap the bottle tightly and shake it up to dissolve the yeast. Let the bottles sit at room temperature in a dark (or at least out of direct sunlight) location until carbonated. You will know the bottles are carbonated because they will become ROCK HARD: you shouldn't be able to push on the plastic at all. This takes anywhere from 12-48 hours, depending on room temperature (mine usually take about 24).

Once the carbonation is complete, refrigerate the bottles to stop the carbonation process (yeast doesn't like cold). Remember, when serving, open RIDICULOUSLY SLOWLY to avoid a soda volcano (or a sodacano, as my nephew called it).

10 comments:

  1. Happy anniversary! As it happens the theme for the new Food on friday over at Carole's Chatter is melons - it would be great if you stopped by to add this to the table. Cheers

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  2. This sounds crazy good! I've made watermelon-lime juice, but never thought of carbonating it. And happy blog anniversary!

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  3. How long does this keep? Can it be kept unrefrigerated after the initial chilling?

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    1. No, it must remain refrigerated or the yeast will continue to "eat" the sugar and give off gas (the carbonation) -- and will eventually explode! What a mess! The soda is good for about a week. I tried a bottle after almost 2 weeks and the flavor was gone. :-(

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  4. Can the batch be made in a bowl, bucket, or pan (including the yeast) then poured into smaller bottles, or is it necessary to add yeast directly to bottles for some reason?

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    1. No, the bottles are a necessity. When you add the yeast, it begins to "eat" the sugar and give off gas: by capping the bottles, you are capturing that gas and carbonating the soda, so this is a necessary step to make it soda (see comment 3.a above, also).

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    2. You can actually mix it in a bucket to pitch the yeast and aerate the brew, but you will want to to put the resulting mixture into bottles to carbonate.

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    3. Thanks for the clarity, JeniB!

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  5. "Batshit crazy"....

    you nailed it.

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