How to Make Rhubarb & Honey Soda (With Lacto-Fermentation!)

I love making probiotic sodas at home.  It’s fun and easy, and it’s cool to be in control of how sweet, how fizzy or how tart is turns out.  One of the first sodas I made was Elderflower Soda, and after that success, I made a quick batch of Rhubarb Soda, and it was also a hit.  Now that it’s almost spring, it’s Rhubarb Season again, so I whipped up the first batch of the year, this time using local honey as well.  It’s kind of like lemonade, with a rosy flavor– so nice!  Plus… Probiotics!  What a nice way to get some more into your family.     As with most home fermentation projects, this formula is flexible.

How to Make Fermented Rhubarb & Honey Soda

How to Make Rhubarb & Honey Soda

IMG_8054What You’ll Need:

  • Rhubarb– I used 6 stalks
  • Raw, local honey (or at least raw– you can order it here if you need to) And yes, you can also use sugar instead.
  • Some kind of culture– you can use sauerkraut juice or whey from strained yogurt– you only need a tablespoon or two
  • a demijohn, an airlock, a funnel and swing-top bottles.

What to Do:

  1. Chop the rhubarb into 1/2 pieces and put in a pot.
  2. Cover the rhubarb in the pot with water, and bring to a simmer.  I used about a liter of water.
  3. Simmer until the rhubarb is very tender, then cool.  I left mine overnight to steep, but you probably don’t need to.
  4. Strain out the rhubarb.  (When I stirred mine with a spoon, it disintegrated, making something like applesauce.  I added honey and now we have a nice rhubarb compote.)
  5. Add the honey and stir until dissolved.  I used about 3/4 cup, which made it very, very sweet.  Keep in mind that the sugars will be digested to create the fizz, so you do want to start with it much sweeter than you would like the soda to be.  Dilute the syrup with water if it comes on too strong (super tart, since it will get more sour as it ferments.)
  6. Pour the “juice” into a sterilized demijohn, add your whey or sauerkraut juice and add your airlock.
  7. Let it sit for about three days, and taste it.  Mine fermented pretty quickly, but there are some variables– the temperature of the room, the strength of the culture you used, etc.  Taste it and let it ferment until it’s only a little sweeter than you would like it to be.
  8. Pour it into your swing-top bottles, and store in the fridge.  You could leave them out at room temperature if you’d like to drink them sooner, but I usually pop them into the fridge to slow down the fermentation process.  You will want to drink them within a week, or risk losing most of your Rhubarb Soda to the “geyser effect.”  Your beverage will get drier, more tart and fizzier the longer you wait.  It will eventually develop more of an alcohol content, too, so you might want to taste it before giving it to your kids if you’ve been storing it for a while!

IMG_8140We enjoyed our Rhubarb Soda this weekend– it was nice and sunny, and we did a lot of work outside.  It is rosy, tart and so refreshing– and not to mention the pleasures of drinking something pink. Plus, there is something really exciting about making your own intense carbonation, naturally.  That always gives me a thrill.  I hope you’ll try making some– it’s really very easy, and you can’t buy anything like it!
IMG_8130For more fermented beverage projects, you may want to check out these books: True Brews and Real Food Fermentation. And to get more probiotics into your life, this is a great ebook full of projects and ideas, with detailed instructions.

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How to Make Rhubarb & Honey Soda

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36 Responses to How to Make Rhubarb & Honey Soda (With Lacto-Fermentation!)

  1. JoWrites March 10, 2014 at 11:42 pm #

    Looks interesting. Can’t wait to try it.

    • ariana March 17, 2014 at 9:56 am #

      I’m glad you will! Please let us know how yours come out!

  2. Betty Harlacher March 11, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

    How did you learn to do so many different things; like smoking meat, making soda? I am always afraid I will poison someone with tainted food. I have wanted to make my own yogurt forever but am fearful of bad bacteria going wild.

    • ariana March 17, 2014 at 10:01 am #

      Hi Betty! No one actually taught me to make anything beyond yogurt– I just took the view that it’s a fun biology experiment, and started trying things. I think that most of us just haven’t been exposed to people doing these things themselves, and so we begin to think that we *can’t* do it ourselves without expertise, equipment, etc. The truth is that it’s really easy to do, and actually pretty hard to get wrong, once you know the basics. I have never made anyone sick. Usually, it’s pretty clear when something goes wrong in fermentation– and you can tell by looking and smelling.

      Another thing that might be helpful to keep in mind is that good bacteria usually trumps bad bacteria– this is why fermentation is used so much to preserve food and keep it from going bad. I hope you’ll give one of these projects a shot– it’s so much fun, once you get started!

  3. Laura March 17, 2014 at 3:33 am #

    This looks so yummy but all I have right now is previously frozen rhubarb. Do you think that it would still work or shall I wait for fresh?

    • ariana March 17, 2014 at 10:02 am #

      Laura, I definitely think frozen will be fine. Since you’re getting the fermentation culture from whey or kraut, the rhubarb is just there to make a flavorful “tea” to ferment. Try it!

  4. goatsandgreens March 17, 2014 at 10:20 pm #

    Talk about worthwhile inventiveness!

  5. fairytalehausfrau March 27, 2014 at 2:19 pm #

    Another recipe of yours that I can’t wait to try! :)

  6. Ksenia March 28, 2014 at 5:49 pm #

    Question – do you have to use an airlock, or is there another option?

    • ariana March 31, 2014 at 10:03 am #

      Ksenia, I have always used an airlock. But I know some people have had success with using a balloon with a pin prick hole in it as an effective airlock. Worth a try, for sure!

  7. Danita April 4, 2014 at 2:15 am #

    Also did you add more water after straining it? I don’t understand how you had enough to fill a demijohn with only adding a liter while cooking down. Sorry I have never made soda before.

    • ariana April 4, 2014 at 7:42 am #

      Hi Danita,
      I did not fill a whole demijohn– you’re right that this wouldn’t be enough! It was about a liter. What I would suggest is tasting it, then deciding if you think it should be diluted. You want a drink that’s like lemonade, but on the sweeter side, since the culture will be eating some of the sugar to create carbonation. Don’t start off *too* sour, because it will become more tart as it ferments.

      Have fun!

  8. Wendy April 5, 2014 at 5:04 pm #

    You can make sodas with nothing more than fruit, honey/sugar and water. The wild yeasts on the fruit and in the air will create fermentation, just as they would with a sourdough starter. You may need a couple more days fermentation is all.

    • ariana April 11, 2014 at 7:48 am #

      This is true! But I believe that something that is cooked like this would kill all of the natural yeast on the fruit, so you would need to get it from the air. And it will take much longer– but that can be a really fun experiment!

  9. lightatheart April 11, 2014 at 3:56 am #

    When does the alcohol content start in the process? One of my family members can’t have alcohol and if there is the slightest taste or smell of it would not drink it. I’d like to try this but definitely don’t want it to get to the stage of having an alcohol content if that is possible.
    Thank you.

    • ariana April 11, 2014 at 7:50 am #

      It would depend on a few variables… The temperature of the room you’re fermenting in, how active the culture is, etc. I would say that over a week of fermentation would be begin to produce some alcohol. But I think the best method is to taste it, and keep the fermentation period short. I recently did a blackberry soda that we couldn’t drink right away, so I bottled it and put it in the fridge. We had our last bottle yesterday, probably a month later, and there was no hint of alcohol since we had slowed down the fermentation so much through temperature.

  10. Clare April 26, 2014 at 8:26 pm #

    This might seem like a silly question but can I just use the juice from a jar of sauerkraut that I bought from the supermarket?

    • ariana April 27, 2014 at 7:33 am #

      Hi Clare! It really depends on the type of sauerkraut you are buying. Bubbies has live probiotic cultures in it, but most do not. If you don’t have a culture on hand, the simplest whey to get it is to strain a bit of plain yogurt (I use a coffee filter in a strainer) to get just a tablespoon or two of whey. After that, you can use a little leftover soda to culture the next batch!

  11. Brian Wood April 28, 2014 at 5:19 pm #

    How much does this make? is this a 1 gallon recipe?

  12. deneen May 3, 2014 at 5:23 pm #

    Hi, I’m wondering what the yield is – considering making this for my next food swap. Want to make sure I make enough!

    • ariana May 6, 2014 at 9:13 am #

      The yield will vary a bit, but about a gallon is what this one makes. It’s so easy to adapt, though– just use as much rhubarb as you have, and dilute and sweeten so that it tastes like a sweeter-than-you-want lemonade. (It will get drier as it ferments.) And you can always dilute during the fermentation process if it’s too strong– very flexible! I hope your food swappers love it!

  13. Fatemeh May 4, 2014 at 12:49 am #

    Do you think I could use a bit of kombucha to start this? I do have some lacto fermented pickles I could use, but the brine is ridiculously salty. Also, if I don’t have an airlock (just ordered one, actually!), could I burp the bottle I pour it into?

    • ariana May 6, 2014 at 9:11 am #

      Fatemah, I think it will be OK to just use a little of your pickle brine. Sometimes I add a pinch of salt to my sour drinks anyway, as it rounds them out a bit. Maybe use 1 tsp., then just give it a little longer for the culture to develop. Unfortunately, kombucha will not work in this way. And yes– you can just burp your bottles a couple of times a day. I get nervous about forgetting and risking an explosion, but I know people do it this way sometimes.

  14. Pam Bachman May 9, 2014 at 9:59 pm #

    Really wish (for the blackberry as well), that you included the yield in your recipe. For those of us new to this, how much water (a 3 gallon, a five gallon demijohn?), would be really helpful. If I’m going to go to the trouble of making a terrific soda, I’d like to make more than just one or two bottles. Surely you could provide a little more guidance in this regard?

  15. Eric May 27, 2014 at 11:43 pm #

    Rhubarb soda sounds great, I’ll have to try it.
    You might find that you get more consistent results if you use a bit of yeast instead of the whey or sauerkraut juice. When I make root beer I use about 1/8 tsp of bakers yeast.
    I like to make soda in 2 liter bottles so that you can feel how much carbonation there is. It’s done fermenting when it feels as hard as the 2 liters in the store. Put it directly in the fridge for a day or two to let the CO2 stabilize in solution and it’s good to go.

  16. Lindsay Wansitler July 9, 2014 at 4:03 pm #

    I made a similar soda recipe with strawberries and rhubarb. It has been in there for almost a day and no bubbling from my bubbler…. help?

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