When I first started filling a pantry I stocked up on Tang. No offense to our astronauts but Tang isn’t really food. It certainly isn’t orange juice. Now water should be our drink of choice but I do like something tasty to drink; sometimes hot and sometimes cold. I also like the occasional drink with a kick. This week seems to have turned into the week of drinks. I have a lot put up, a lot more in process and still more planned for later this week.

I started with cider. I usually just freeze it. It’s by far the easiest way and the results are terrific. The down side is that cider fills up a freezer pretty fast. I decided to try canning my cider this year and I’m quite happy with the process and the results. I started by bringing quart jars and lids to a boil while I heated the cider to 160 degrees. I held the cider at that heat for 15 seconds to pasteurize it. The cider is then poured into the hot jars and sealed. I broke one jar open to taste it and found it a whole lot better than apple juice.

I put up some of the cider as hard cider. I’ve tried this before with mixed results. This year I decided to follow the directions. What a concept. I filled a one gallon container with cider then added a dissolved Campden tablet to kill of any wild yeast. The next day I added a packet of wine yeast and a 1/2 cup of sugar and put on an air lock. It’s bubbling like crazy today.

I found myself with about a quart of gorgeous beet juice after pickling my beets. Rather than tossing it, I treated it with a Campden tablet, some sugar and yeast and now have beet wine fermenting alongside the cherry and elderberry/grape wine I already had working.

Now for making water a bit more festive. I have a bunch of great herbs for making teas and flavored water. Lemon Balm, lemon verbena and all the mints make terrific flavored ice water. Chamomile and clover, sage and ginger root make better hot tea.

My last experiment has been with fermented soda culture. We aren’t usually soda drinkers but I do have a fondness for Maine Blueberry Soda and I wanted to recreate it. I found a recipe that calls for an easy culture. This is a long-term project, just so you know.

Fill a quart Mason jar 3/4 full of water (without chlorine). Add a tablespoon of grated ginger and 2 teaspoons of sugar. Cover it with cheesecloth and let it sit for 24 hours. Every day for the next week, add another teaspoon of grated ginger and another teaspoon sugar and give it a good stir. It will ferment and be ready to use in a week. If you don’t use it all right away you will need to refrigerate it now. To make soda add 6 cups blueberries to 1/2 gallon water and 1 1/2 cups sugar. You can use other fruit if you like. Bring it to a boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes. Now pour all of this into a gallon jar and add water almost to the top with cool water and top off with 1 cup of your strained culture. Cover this with cheesecloth and let it sit for 3-7 days, stirring it once or twice a day. Bottle it when it’s as fuzzy as you like it. I use bail top bottles when I have them. Now chill it and enjoy. Don’t leave the unopened bottles at room temperature because they could explode.

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