Introduction: Honey & Strawberry-Rhubarb Fermented Soda

Picture of Honey & Strawberry-Rhubarb Fermented Soda

Stop! Don’t let the word “fermented” scare you.

What you should think when you hear that word is: “healthy” and “easy.”

Lacto-fermentation simply means that we will introduce some good bacteria into our honey-sweetened strawberry rhubarb juice. These good bacteria will eat up some of the honey and fruit sugars and in turn make lactic acid and the byproduct CO2, which is what will make our soda “fizz.”

Additionally, these bacteria will grow in population and when we drink our soda, we will get a good dose of health-promoting probiotics.

Sounds pretty cool, right?

Lacto-fermenting has taken place for centuries, and was once a very important part of food preservation. The reason is that an environment full of lactic acid is an environment that bad bacteria can’t live in. No bad bacteria eating up the goods = food preserved.

Honey is a great sugar to use for lacto-fermentation. The good bacteria love it just as much as we do! Honey and lacto-fermentation have been a great pair for thousands of years.

Step 1: Ingredients & Equipment

Picture of Ingredients & Equipment

4 cups sliced rhubarb
2 cups strawberries
8 cups clean water
¾-1 cup raw honey
2 Tbs liquid from a yogurt container

knife and cutting board
four-quart pot with lid
wire mesh strainer
glass jug with stopper (demijohn)
airlock or a balloon
rubber stopper bottles

Step 2: Extracting Flavor From the Fruit

Picture of Extracting Flavor From the Fruit

Fermentation is a fight between the good and bad bacteria.

We want the good to prevail and take over the ferment. Use only fresh, clean produce for fermenting. Anything moldy or starting to turn rotten or mushy can introduce the wrong type of bacteria and ruin your product.

To get the most beautiful pink color in your soda, try to select the stalks of rhubarb that have the most red on them. Cut them into ¼” to ½” slices, measure out four cups and place them into a large pot.

Add in two cups of strawberries (fresh or frozen, whole or sliced… anything is fine) and then pour in the eight cups of water.

*A note about the water. You will want to use water that is non-chlorinated (or at the most, very lightly chlorinated). Chlorine is put in water to kill bacteria. We don't want it to kill the good bacteria we are trying to grow!

Cover the pot with a good fitting lid (we don’t want to loose any water!) and simmer gently over low to medium heat for about 30 minutes. You will know when it is finished because the fruits will have become pale and the water will be blushing red.

Step 3: Adding the Honey and Cultures

Picture of Adding the Honey and Cultures

Allow the mixture to cool for 15-20 minutes and then use a mesh strainer to separate the mushy fruit from the liquid. Avoid “pressing” the fruit into the strainer to get the last bits of juice out, and instead just give it plenty of time to drain. Pressing the fruit will push particles into your liquid and make chunky soda.

“Chunky” isn’t really a word I want to describe my beverages… :)

While the mixture is still a little warm (but not hot!) stir in the honey until dissolved. Now, taste the mixture. The good bacteria will eat up some of the honey, so you want to start with a liquid that is overly sweet in order to finish with soda that is perfectly sweet.

Feel free to add more honey if you’d like yours sweeter. You will also have an opportunity to control the sweetness by monitoring how long you let the soda ferment.

Finally, stir in two tablespoons of liquid (whey) from a container of plain yogurt. I find that I get more whey from a yogurt container if I remove some of the yogurt (as in, I eat some...) and then let the container sit in the fridge for a couple hours. The whey collects in the cavity where I removed the yogurt from.

Step 4: Let the Fermentation Commence!

Picture of Let the Fermentation Commence!

Transfer your liquid into a very clean glass jug (a demijohn) with a tight fitting stopper and airlock. I like a clear glass jar so I can see what is going on inside. We want to let some of the gasses that will be produced escape, but not let any new air into the jug, which is what the airlock mechanism will allow.

You can get these things online, at health food stores, or wine and beer-making shops. They are very inexpensive and will last a long time! This jug and airlock cost $7 total.

If you don’t have an airlock, you can also try using a balloon. Take a regular birthday-type balloon and use a pin to poke a small hole in the top. Pour the soda liquid into a regular-mouth mason jar or into your demijohn and stretch the balloon over the top of the container.

Place your jug in a room-temperature to slightly warm location, and not in direct sunlight. Putting it in a closet or covering the jug with a towel will help keep the direct sun out.

The temperature at which your jug is stored will help determine the rate at which your soda ferments. The warmer it is, the faster the bacteria will multiply, the faster they will eat up the sugars, and the faster the soda will ferment. But a too hot environment (like in direct sun) can kill the bacteria.

A nice room-temperature is perfectly adequate.

I recommend tasting your soda in progress every day, or even twice a day to learn about how fast it ferments and how it is changing. It is really fascinating and educational!

Once your soda has become fizzy and tastes good (2.5-3 days seems to be the magic number for me), you’ll want to slow the fermentation process way down- which can be accomplished by bottling it and keeping it in the fridge.

Step 5: Bottling & Drinking

Picture of Bottling & Drinking

When your soda tastes perfect and delicious to you, you should immediately bottle it and get it into the refrigerator. It will be slightly sweet, slightly tart, and have a great mild fizz to it!

You can drink it at anytime now, and it should last for at least a week in the fridge, possibly two. It will very slowly continue to ferment as it sits, so it will slowly become less sweet and more sour as it ages.

A funnel is helpful for bottling, but if you don’t have one just use a cup or bowl with a pour spout (like a Pyrex measure cup) and a steady hand.

Rubber gasket stopper bottles are perfect for bottling your soda. The gasket keeps in the carbonation but doesn’t allow the bottle to explode. Plus, they’re just really cool!

Imagine popping open a cold refreshing bottle of your home-brewed healthy Strawberry-Rhubarb soda. It’s only three days away! What a great way to put your summer rhubarb crop and local, raw honey to use!


GeeB8 (author)2016-08-08

Ok, I'm trying to clear some things up and getting mixed information. I've seen many fermented soda recipes, and some say use an airlock while its fermenting for the 3 days and some say cover with a cloth/paper towel for 3 days. One keeps air out, one lets air in. Which one is needed, does it not matter? I know for wine making, you keep the air out because the air will turn it to vinegar(or rather the things in the air). Also wine will sit for months instead of 3 days. Also in this very recipe, an airlock is used for the fermenting days...however, it says to taste the soda every day...which would mean taking the airlock off (thereby letting air IN) to taste it. It seems like that means the airlock is not necessary. The recipes that say to use a cloth have you stir the mixture twice daily. I have also actually made some soda from some peach grape juice, using a ginger bug, and I only put the cloth on and stirred it and it came out quite nice and fizzy. Anybody have any insight to this? I'm trying to decide how much additional equipment I NEED to buy for homemade sodas. Thanks!

bulwynkl (author)2014-06-24

Just a heads up incase people don't know.

Rhubarb contains oxalic acid which is toxic. Not a lot, but enough. And mostly the leaves.

Cooking should decompose it. we all eat cooked rhubarb without issue.

Just don't be tempted to use uncooked rhubarb.

mailmam71 (author)bulwynkl2014-07-02

Growing up, as kids, we ate a lot of uncooked rhubarb. We'd grab a stalk and a container of sugar and go to town. We all lived to tell about it. I swear, in this information age there is always some 'nanny' who has to try and scare us about everything!

MarshaW16 (author)mailmam712016-05-28

Yep. Exactly. I ate it raw all the time especially when I was thirsty. I never used sugar because i love the sour taste!

aiden nicholls (author)mailmam712014-07-12

Thats exactly what i did xD

bulwynkl (author)mailmam712014-07-02


ser_pez (author)bulwynkl2014-07-03

The oxalic acid is mainly found in rhubarb leaves. Stalks are fine to eat as long as you aren't eating your weight in rhubarb stalks.

RockCandyOctopus (author)2014-08-01

I was thinking about making homemade sodas lately as we accumulate lots of glass bottles!

A great way to accumulate whey is to buy organic plain whole milk yogurt.(you want organic so it doesn't have emulsifiers like tapioca starch) Grab a deep bowl or a pot and a strainer. You will also need 2 clean linen cloths. Line the strainer with the cloth and place it into your bowl or pot, what have you. Dump your yogurt into the towel and cover it with the second clean towel. The you walk away for several hours, leaving the yogurt at room temperature so the milk solids can separate from the whey. If and when you notice the whey touching the bottom of your towel, it is time to tie the towel with the milk solids up so it can continue dripping. I use a wooden spoon and a rubber band to make this happen. I let my yogurt sit out over night. The beauty of this is that you not only collect 2 cups or more of whey, but the milk solids left behind in the cloth is what you and I know as cream cheese! It is much better than the store bought foil wrapped kind.

Make sure not to squeeze your cloth as your yogurt drains or else it will clog the fibers in your towel. The yogurt will do it thing on its own. Keep your whey in a glass jar in the fridge and it keeps for several weeks. If you want to eat your homemade cream cheese then store it in an airtight container in your fridge as well and it keeps for about 2 weeks or more if you are lucky.

aiden nicholls (author)2014-07-12

I assume the "2 Tbs liquid from a yogurt container" is for the bacteria...

can i use other things as a easier subsitute?

mailmam71 (author)aiden nicholls2014-07-12

I too want to know if there is a substitute as my yogurt isn't giving off much, nowhere near 2 tbsp. What happens if you don't have it?

clschmidt14 (author)mailmam712014-07-12

Yes, you can use juice from any lacto-fermented product... like juice from real sauerkraut or pickles (homemade or in the refrigerator section of grocery store... not shelf-stable canned). I get more liquid from the yogurt by agitating it. That is, I eat some of the yogurt, leaving a void in the container and it will fill with more liquid.

Also, try googling "ginger bug fermentation" for another cool option.

onemoroni1 (author)2014-06-25

I make homemade root beer using dry yeast. I don't let it "brew" before bottling it. I bottle it in sturdy old snap top beer bottles and after four days it is done. Have you tried dry yeast and initial bottling with this soda?

clschmidt14 (author)onemoroni12014-06-25

I haven't tried that, but I don't see why it wouldn't work the same way it would with root beer, as long as the sugar and yeast ratios are similar. I've always wanted to try homemade root beer too!

onemoroni1 (author)clschmidt142014-06-25

It is so easy. 2 cups sugar, 1tb extract, 1/4 dry yeast (I usually start it), and one gallon of warm water. Mix, fill, and cap bottles. Lots of stuff on the internet. Personal story. When we were small our mother took us around the small town in the desert to collect empty beer bottles (1950's). She bought a capper and blank bottle caps from Sears and made it 5 gallons at a time. We were so excited and impatient to wait the 3-4 days for it to ferment, but it was sooooooooooo good.

gizmology (author)onemoroni12014-07-02

Question: you give measurements for everything except the yeast. Maybe this is obvious, but I don't bake -- EVER -- so I know nothing about yeast. Is it 1/4 tsp? 1/4 Tbsp? 1/4 c.? i/4 gallon? 1/4 truckload? :p I'm guessing it's one of the first two, but which one?

shallnot (author)gizmology2014-07-06

30 seconds on your favourite search engine should solve the 1/4 dilemma. I am more concerned about the gallon. Would that be a 128 fluid ounce U.S. gallon or a 160 fluid ounce "Imperial" gallon?

onemoroni1 (author)shallnot2014-07-11

1/4 tsp dry yeast, I'm in the US so take the gallon issue from there. I whip this up in less than twenty minutes and bottle it in heavy snap top bottles. Don't use decorative bottles as they won't take the pressure. Had one pop on me. Bottles are available online. Have had a a couple batches that the yeast didn't fizz in the thirty years of making it, so for me it is almost fool proof. I've read all kinds of intricate advice, but my simple method is 99.999999% successful from my experience. Just made two gallons in Colorado over the 4th on vacation for my relatives. No alcohol produced, just fine Root Beer. I've used honey, added vanilla, and tried batches with more extract and sugar and pretty much stay with the first version posted. It's not complicated, keep it simple.

Bigglieboo (author)2014-06-24

Just out of curiosity, is this an adult beverage? Any idea what the alcohol content of this "soda" is? :) I imagine if you let it ferment for about two weeks with a nice cider yeast, you could have a fairly nice wine cooler. I'm thinking of altering the recipe slightly to include some wheat malt extract syrup (can be found at home brew stores) up to a 5 gallon batch to ferment. Great idea with the rhubarb and strawberries!

clschmidt14 (author)Bigglieboo2014-06-24

That sounds like a great idea! If you let it go long enough, yes, it will develop an alcohol content. :)

I ripped this from wikipedia:

-Many lactobacilli are unusual in that they operate using homofermentative metabolism (that is, they produce only lactic acid from sugars in contrast to heterofermentative lactobacilli which can produce either alcohol or lactic acid from sugars)-

I'm not sure which strains are in yougurt, but according to this, the likelyhood of this drink producing alcohol is low. Unless a wild yeast got in there!

If you make sodas with yeast and only let it ferment enough to produce carbonation you'll get around 0.5% alcohol. Yeast also works much faster and will propably produce much more CO2. Beware of bottle bombs if you use yeast!

I second the "Beware of bottle bombs if you use yeast." My brother tried to make some sparkling Burgundy when he was 18. I was almost 17, and we shared a bedroom. Anyway, one night at about 2:00 in the morning, there was a very loud explosion. It was immediately followed by a second, then a third. Of 24 bottles my brother had put into 2 cases, or cardboad 12 bottle boxes, all of them blew up but 3. Yeast gets pretty powerful, and that power needs to go somewhere. If there's too much yeast power and you've stopped the bottle with a flipits top with wire holding it shut, then the glass will eventually give way and there will be shrapnel. In my brother's case, he had wired the corks as you are advised to do, but he did not store the bottles corked side down. One explosion caused a chain reaction. Our parents did not let my brother attempt to make any more homebrewed alcoholic beverages.

Wow, it's a good thing nobody was hurt! I think there are types of swingtop bottles that the rubber gets displaced under high pressure to release some of the CO2, but I haven't tested that. I do know that bread yeast will produce excessive amounts of CO2 compaired to brewing yeast!

Bigglieboo (author)daddio532014-07-02

Letting it ferment for at least two weeks and up to a month before bottling will give it ample time to consume enough sugar to prevent the bottle bombs. The higher temperature you ferment at, the more active the yeast will be. Lower fermenting yeasts take longer to consume the sugars.

iburrow (author)2014-06-23

this does sound lovely. Does anyone know of a suitable dairy-free alternative to the whey?
Thanks for posting such a tasty ible!

50cal2daHead (author)iburrow2014-06-25

Water keffir would probably work if you can find it (but maybe better to use cane sugar (rapadura/panela is best, but expensive) than honey, especially if, like me, you are a beekeeper in New Zealand with kanuka or manuka honey, which are uniquely antimicrobial on top of having hydrogen peroxide activity (which all honeys have, and is also antibacterial) and likely to kill the bacteria).

clschmidt14 (author)iburrow2014-06-23

You can use raw sauerkraut juice (not juiced from canned/pasteurized kraut). The real, fermented stuff. Or, google something called "Ginger Bug" for making fermented soda. Lots of options!

ssorensen (author)2014-06-24

I think this is a very exciting idea,.. and, I have a proposal for you. Try doing it with kombucha? It ferments into a lovely carbonated drink without any milk product at all!

clschmidt14 (author)ssorensen2014-06-24

I bet that would turn out great too! Fermenting is so much fun, as there are lots of different techniques you can use.

vbanaszak (author)2014-06-24

How do you taste it without letting fresh air into the bottle?

clschmidt14 (author)vbanaszak2014-06-24

I gently removed the stopper just enough to allow a little bit to be poured out. This small amount of air leakage didn't seem to affect the outcome of my soda.

fixfireleo (author)2014-06-24

interesting. will this be alchoholic or will it be more like vinegar?

clschmidt14 (author)fixfireleo2014-06-24

After a few days it isn't vinegar-like or alcoholic. But if you let it go too long it can develop into alcohol.

theconstructor (author)2014-06-23

Instead of saying "chunky", maybe you could say "With pulp"?

Cool instructable!

BARKing (author)2014-06-22

Rhubarb Pineapple is also a great combination. Rhubarb Pineapple Strawberry. I think I will go and pick my neighbours rhubarb in the morning. ;)

seamster (author)2014-06-22

I grew up eating my mom's rhubarb-based concoctions, and it's one of those flavors that always just washes over me with memories. This looks excellent, and I'll have to make some. Thanks for posting this!

Triclaw (author)2014-06-22

this is on im gona have to try rhubarb is a underrated but is a most delicious veggie will be a awesome summer drink

Triclaw (author)2014-06-22

you can get chlorine out of water by letting it sit for a day

fozzy13 (author)2014-06-22

This sounds delicious! The way you wrote it was fun and well explained. Good job!

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