Let’s Make Elderflower Soda (It’s a probiotic, too!)

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Do you have elderflowers blooming in your neighborhood?  They are everywhere here, and I love their unique scent– a little bit lemony, kind of peach, with just a hint of banana… And so very pretty. We have tons of elder trees all around us, and so we have gone picking twice already. The first haul was on the small side, so I decided to try a batch of lacto-fermented soda with those blossoms. It turned out really wonderfully, so now I will share how to make your own. This is super easy, and anyone can do it, I promise!So, the fun part is to take some time gathering elderflowers. Few things are more enjoyable and relaxing than gathering flowers or other edibles outdoors. Never leave an area bare– take some gently, and move on to another spot to find more.We gathered our elderflowers in the same place we went for the berries last year, used to make a very successful Elderberry Wine. This area is a short walk from home, and such a luxury to me! As the trees were only just beginning to bloom we came home with a pretty small pile, but it was enough for a solid batch of soda.What You’ll Need:
  • A bunch of elderflowers, thickest stems removed. (Considered toxic, especially American varieties.) We probably had 6 fluffy cups worth of flowers.
  • Filtered or fresh water. I used about 1/2 a gallon. This is fairly flexible.
  • Sugar, local raw honey (if you don’t have a good source, you can order it online here,) or evaporated cane juice. We used part local honey and part evaporated cane juice, about a total of 1/2 cup.
  • Whey. You can get this by just draining some off of your yogurt. I used 1/4 cup.

Here is how to make it.
1. Put your flowers in a large bowl, and give them a very quick rinse.2. Heat some water to boiling, and pour it over your flowers, enough to cover them completely. Cover them with a dishtowel and leave to steep for 24 hours or up to 48 hours.3. Strain out the flowers, so you have a nice elderflower tea.
4. Add the juice of one lemon into your tea, and add sweetener. I added some local honey and then some raw sugar crystals. You want it sweet, but nothing crazy. Keep in mind that the sugars here will be digested to make the fizz you’re after, so you want it a bit sweeter than your end product. We like our drinks to be barely-sweet, so this is very individual.
5. Pour all of this liquid into a glass container or demijohn, and add a couple tablespoons of whey. Cover loosely, and put it in your cupboard.
6. Wait. Taste. Wait.  I made one small batch and one larger, and the small one fermented in one week, while the larger one took two. When it’s a barely sweeter than you want your final product, pour the soda into swing-top (grolsch-style) bottles and let it sit for another day or two, to develop some good fizz. You must use this kind of bottle— it could explode otherwise.Be careful when you open it! Ours got super fizzy, and required some controlled gas release, basically opening it a tiny bit, letting it bubble up, and closing again… It’s incredibly gratifying to produce that kind of carbonation naturally, just using sugar and whey! Keep these bottles in the refrigerator, and keep in mind that the fermentation process will continue– so don’t make more than you can drink in a week– it’s easy to start another batch. If you want to take advantage of the elderflower season, you could steep the blossoms and freeze the tea, thawing it for a new batch of soda when you’re ready. I haven’t tried drying them and making a tea that way, but that is also worth a shot!And there you have it! This method can be adapted for so many different kinds of drinks. You can also save a little of your soda to use to culture your next batch. Right now I am making a Rhubarb Soda with Mint. A lot of the natural soda recipes out there require special cultures, but this one is so easy and accessible. I hope you’ll try it!

For more fermented beverage projects, you may want to check out: True Brews and Real Food Fermentation. And to get more probiotics into your life, this is a great book full of projects and ideas.Let's Make Elderflower Soda

This post was shared at: Homestead Barn Hop, Thank Goodness it’s Monday, Mostly Homemade Mondays, Fat Tuesday, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Well Fed Wednesday, Sustainable Living Linkup.

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69 Responses to Let’s Make Elderflower Soda (It’s a probiotic, too!)

  1. grassfood July 1, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

    What a beautiful post! Thank you for such inspiration and instruction. xx

  2. Tammy Chrzan July 1, 2013 at 10:22 pm #

    I didn’t know it was a ptobiotic! I’m seriously going to have to try this!

    • Neda Breberina June 13, 2015 at 9:04 pm #

      If you want it contain probiotic, don’t use honey. Honey has natural antibiotics and will kill probiotics

      • Michael June 8, 2016 at 10:58 pm #

        Several sources say that Elderflower is antibacterial and antiviral if you look for them, too. I think that as long as you aren’t trying to reuse the old culture with honey (replacing it with the whey you drained off the yoghurt) some degree of antibacterial properties are acceptable.

        But yes, while I wouldn’t say it has no probiotics, I would probably look to another beverage if I wanted that out of them.

      • Cameo June 29, 2018 at 1:48 pm #

        Isn’t the carbonation proof that little critters have indeed colonized in there?

  3. greenbasket.me July 2, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    I have been wanting to try homemade soda and there are elderberries blooming all over the place here. If I can find some away from major roadways I’m giving this a try this weekend!

  4. lauren July 2, 2013 at 9:04 pm #

    This looks more my speed than the syrup i’ve made with them before, which is then mixed with mineral water to drink. Same effect, bubble-wise, but less sweet and good for the guts!

  5. Aimee @ Violet Femme July 3, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

    Wow, beautiful! I made some elderflower cordial recently and love the idea of making it into a probiotic soda

  6. Vicki July 8, 2013 at 12:55 am #

    If dairy is a no-can-do (not just the lactose) can you use a probiotic capsule instead of whey?

    • Anonymous July 15, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

      We’re non-dairy too, and with elderberry in our backyard, I’d also love to hear about any substitutes for the whey.

      • Shinusuke Akki February 11, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

        Have a look into using Water Kefir Cultures ^.^

    • raymondj July 15, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

      You can use a “ginger bug” as your starter – the first time it adds some time to the process (about a week), but once you get one going, you’ll always have it on hand for vegan soda-making.

    • Ariana Mullins July 24, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

      You can also try using some of the juice from a fermented vegetale– just about a teaspoon or so shouldn’t affect the flavor of your drink, but will introduce the cultures you need. Also, the amount of whey is *very* small, so some might be able to get away with it.

    • Shinusuke Akki February 11, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

      Have a look into using Water Kefir Cultures ^.^

  7. Mommypotamus July 8, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    Love this, Ariana! We just bought a farm – there have to be elderflowers somewhere around here!!!

  8. Nancy July 10, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    I love making fermented sodas and this one would be fun to try! My neighbor gives me her elderflowers which I end up dehydrating. Will have to try this one…thanks for posting!

  9. Nikki Wall July 13, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    Looks fabulous!

  10. Sharmila July 24, 2013 at 10:47 pm #

    Just beautiful! I love the flavour fo elderflower. Wish I knew where to find them near me.

  11. Little Homestead In Boise August 2, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

    Nice! I’ve made elderberry syrup. Healthy and nice flavor…

  12. Anonymous August 11, 2013 at 5:29 am #

    Where can i buy “ginger bug”?

  13. Amy Stewart August 20, 2013 at 8:31 am #

    Nice blog you have here! Other probiotic drinks would be Yakult a probiotic dairy product made by fermenting a mixture of skimmed milk with a special strain of the bacterium Lactobacillus casei Shirota. .. which is wonderful, It contain probiotics properties, Additionally can treat common digestive problems, such as diarrhea, bloating and an upset stomach.

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  15. Heidi February 2, 2014 at 11:42 pm #

    Ohhh, please post the Rhubarb soda recipe!

  16. Heather Vogel Thalwitzer May 9, 2014 at 2:56 pm #

    OMG, YIKES! The stems of elderberry plants are TOXIC. I can not believe you’re not STRICTLY recommending to REMOVE THEM ALL.

    • ariana May 9, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

      Hi Heather! I have read lots of elderflower recipes and it is recommended to remove the thick stems, as I do, and even more when they are older, with berries on them. Maybe this concern comes down to different species, but elderflower fritters are pretty popular, and I have read no reports of people getting ill from them. The bark is poisonous, and the further you get from the base of the tree, the less cyanide content there is in the plant material. Tiny amounts are in many foods that we eat. I am not recommending that anyone eat the stems.

      Here’s a nice recipe for elderflower fritters. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2011/jun/19/nigel-slater-elderflower-fritter-classic

  17. Clare May 26, 2014 at 8:07 pm #

    Do you use a stopper or keep it open when fermenting the soda in the demijohn?

  18. Dorothy October 14, 2014 at 12:18 am #

    any idea how many ounces “6 fluffy cups” are? we don’t have any around here so I was going to order some

    • Ariana Mullins March 15, 2015 at 10:19 am #

      If they are dried, I would use about half the amount.

  19. Sara March 12, 2015 at 3:26 pm #

    I’m an American living in Romania. They make this every spring and have for who knows how long (centuries?). Here, they do not add any whey or ginger bug and it will ferment.

  20. Cameo March 12, 2015 at 5:11 pm #

    I like to find the more mature blossoms so the petals can just be “petted” off the stems – and no berries sacrificed!

  21. janell March 15, 2015 at 1:05 am #

    If You can’t have dairy what could you use To replace the whey?

    • Ariana Mullins March 15, 2015 at 10:18 am #

      Use the liquid from some sauerkraut or other veggie ferment. The very small amount you use won’t affect the flavor.

  22. geert vg June 3, 2016 at 9:25 pm #

    Hi, I Made this and it’s brown instead of yellow. Will the color change after 2 weeks?

    • ariana July 1, 2016 at 8:17 am #

      Sorry for the late reply! Yes, it usually does as the liquid becomes more acidic. Did yours?

  23. Emily June 30, 2016 at 5:02 pm #

    Hello! I tried your recipe and my batch went moldy after only two days. What did I do wrong? I want to try again but am afraid the same thing will happen without refrigeration. Is it possible to make it if you ferment in the fridge for the two weeks?

    • ariana July 1, 2016 at 8:16 am #

      Hi Emily,
      How discouraging! A few things to consider are good sterilization technique, and putting an airlock on your demijohn to keep out outside bacteria while it ferments. In the future, if you see a little mold, just strain it off and keep going. Eventually the good bacteria should take over. The other thing is to add more of the culture you’re using to ferment with, so that bacteria population is stronger from the outset. And you should not do it using refrigeration– the conditions that keep the undesirable bacteria from growing will also keep the good ones from growing. Good luck!

      • Emily July 3, 2016 at 7:48 pm #

        I covered mine with a coffee filter and an elastic, maybe that’s where I went wrong. If I don’t have an airlock will a rubber glove be good enough? I’ve read a glove can help the gas release.

        • ariana July 3, 2016 at 7:55 pm #

          Sure you can. If the glove looks like it’s super inflated, then you need to release some gas, but otherwise should be fine.

          • Lila October 23, 2017 at 12:42 am #

            Hi is there anyway to preserve the soda for longer shelf time or refrigeration time

        • Ariana Mullins October 23, 2017 at 7:06 am #

          Lila, I haven’t found a way to do that well. When I have a “slow” soda (one that just hasn’t gotten super fizzy), I can keep it in the fridge for months. Using only honey will produce a slower one, but I don’t have a method that is “tried and true” for this.

  24. Jill June 14, 2017 at 6:59 pm #

    Well here I am. I have a jar fermenting in the cupboard. Grolsch bottles at the ready.

    Question. .Do I strain the juice or just pour it into my bottles? and if I keep a bit back will that go into my next batch as a starter? .. Smells great and there’s been a lot of activity in the cupboard. .
    And loads of elderflowers to be harvested in my area.
    By the way I used buttermilk whey.
    Having fun.
    Love your Blog. Winter tonic kept all sniffles away last winter.
    It’s all about the Elder Berry…

  25. Billy July 13, 2017 at 7:24 pm #

    Is that the natural color of the elderberry after being fermented? That has to be one of the most beautiful yellow looking sodas i’ve ever seen. Maybe it is the addition of the lemon and the honey, but regardless – this looks so delicious! I definitely want to try making this at home. I’ve never found a use for elderflowers before, and now I have one!

  26. Glenda October 5, 2017 at 11:44 pm #

    Can I just double check the amount of whey needed, 1/4 cup or a couple tablespoons? Thanks

    • Ariana October 6, 2017 at 5:52 am #

      Hi Glenda,
      The amount you use won’t matter too much, since the bacteria will reproduce quickly. You would be perfectly fine with a couple of tablespoons.

  27. Pernille May 1, 2018 at 8:59 pm #

    I freeze the raw elderflowers in bags of 20 “flowers” and thau them when needed

    • Ruxandra May 25, 2018 at 8:37 pm #

      This is a very good tip! I will actually start using this

  28. Ruxandra May 25, 2018 at 8:36 pm #

    Hi, I do this every year, except I don’t use any whey. Just cold filtered water, lemon, sugar and the washed flowers. Combine them all in a glass jar and leave it in a warm place for 3-5 days and it’s all done. 5 liters of water, 500 grams of sugar, juice of one lemon and another lemon, finely sliced, 8 large flowers (more of they are small, the palm of my hand is a reference for large ones) and stir everyday. Wild yeast appears, and it may appear spoiled, but it’s not


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