Create a refreshing, gut-healthy holiday drink packed full of nutrients and probiotics in this cranberry orange spice whey soda recipe. This lacto-fermented beverage is not only incredibly simple to make but is also a great way to provide kids with a serving of probiotics.
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Tis’ the season for holiday treats.
Cookies. Brownies. Fudge. Boxes of chocolates and candies. While I won’t deny that a sweet treat sure does satisfy one’s sweet tooth cravings, there are also a variety of Christmas delights to choose from that are both healthy and tasty.
On our homestead our holiday foods include sugar free apple pie, pumpkin pudding and kefir eggnog, to name a few. I like the idea of transforming traditional Christmas favorites into a nutritious dish that is both delicious and good for you. Now I’m not talking about serving a big bowl of leafy greens and tossing on some fresh cranberries, calling that a healthy Christmas meal. I prefer to turn a popular sugary dessert into a sugar free treat. Or replace the usual all-purpose flour, devoid of nutrition with freshly milled flour in a Christmas cookie recipe. Another way I like to pack nutrients into a holiday favorite is by adding in probiotics. Gut health is extremely important so I look for every avenue I can find to add good bacteria into a recipe.
This years festive holiday treat is cranberry orange spice whey soda. It includes 100% juice, warm cinnamon spice, filtered water, whey strained from milk kefir and a little sugar to sweeten the drink and feed the bacteria in the whey.
Gut healthy drink, check.
Holiday flavor, check.
Everything on my list appears to be in order.
Plus, this holiday drink recipe is unbelievably easy to make. In just a few moments of hands-on-time and a little patience while the whey does it’s thing, transforming the sugars into lactic acid, you can have a bubbly, carbonated drink that not only makes your belly happy but also your taste buds. This Christmas season, I hope you delve into the world of fermentation and pour yourself a tall glass of cranberry orange spice soda!
What is a Cultured Beverage?
A cultured beverage or fermented drink is a type of sweet liquid that has been allowed to sit out on the counter for a period of time to ferment, creating a living food packed full of beneficial bacteria. There are two types of fermented drinks. The first being a variety that includes adding a culture. The culture can be whey strained from a cultured dairy product or a mother such as from a fruit vinegar, kefir or kombucha. The second variation of a lacto-fermented beverage is a wild fermentation where you allow the bacteria on a piece of food, such as a peach to culture the drink. In this particular recipe for cranberry orange spice soda, we will be using the first type of lacto-fermentation by adding whey to culture the beverage. This version if much more beginner friendly and produces fairly consistent results.
Are Fermented Beverages Good for You?
Yes! Fermented drinks are chocked full of beneficial yeast, enzymes, bacteria and organic acids which help to support a healthy digestive system. Each type of fermented drink has different benefits depending on the diversity of bacteria. In addition, many drinks include fruits, veggies, herbs and spices that are also packed with valuable nutrients. During times when fresh foods and herbs are not readily available, such as the throughout the winter season, drinking a fermented beverage is an excellent way to get gut-healthy, living food into your body.
Do Fermented Drinks Contain Alcohol?
Some fermented drinks such as beer, wine or hard cider do include alcohol and are actually specifically brewed for their alcohol content. The alcohol content in drinks like whey soda, water kefir, kombucha or kvass depends on the amount of time you ferment the drink, the sugar that is added into the beverage recipe and whether the drink is exposed to oxygen or not.
Let’s use this cranberry orange drink recipe for example. When fermented for a short amount of time, approximately 2-6 days, the beverage makeup changes to allow the lactic acid to take over. This means that when the cranberry orange soda has finished fermenting it will contain only trace amounts of alcohol, approximately 0.5% – 1%, similar to what you might find in a glass of orange juice.
How to Strain Whey From Cultured Dairy
The easiest method to collect whey is to strain it from a cultured dairy product such as milk kefir or homemade yogurt. Place cheesecloth or a coffee filter into a mesh strainer. Set the strainer over a bowl and allow the whey to drip out for 12-24 hours. The remaining yellow liquid is called whey and can be used to create fermented beverages, jump start cultured vegetables, given to livestock and so much more.
Tools You May Need to Make a Fermented Beverage
- High-quality, thick glass bottle meant for brewing such as a Grolsch bottle
- A piece of cheesecloth or a coffee filter
- Airtight half gallon glass container, such as clear glass jug or mason jar
- Measuring cup
Healthy Holiday Drink Recipe
Cranberries, a splash of orange juice and warm cinnamon spice come together in this delightfully refreshing drink recipe. This carbonated beverage is subtly sweet with a twinkle of tartness and makes a perfect healthy drink to quench your thirst or to serve at holiday get-togethers.
Makes: 1 half gallon
Whey Soda Ingredients
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cranberry juice
1/2 cup orange
5 3/4 cups water
1/2 cup whey
1/4 tsp cinnamon
How to Make a Probiotic Drink
In a saucepan over medium heat, add 3 cups of water, sugar and cinnamon. Warm until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside and cool to room temperature (must be at or below 110° F) before adding the whey and juice. (Do not mix the hot water with the whey are this will kill all of the live bacteria in the whey.)
In a half gallon glass container, such as clear glass jug or mason jar, add the remaining 2 3/4 cups of water, cranberry juice, orange juice, whey and cooled sugar mixture. Seal the jar with a tight lid and allow to ferment for 2 to 6 days, depending on the temperature of the room.
When the soda has finished fermenting, it should be nice and fizzy. Either place the liquid directly into the fridge to chill or transfer the liquid to airtight bottles. Serve chilled or pour over ice. Consume within one to two weeks.
How to Successfully Ferment
Is your fermented soda lacking carbonation? Second ferment your whey soda by transferring the liquid to an airtight bottle and ferment for an additional 1-3 days.
Fresh whey is a must in this recipe. The older the whey is, the longer it will take to ferment your soda and the less likely it will create carbonation. When I create a homemade soda, I use kefir whey that is no more than a couple of days old. I find kefir whey to be the most vigorous and lively versus whey strained from yogurt.
Most ferments, at least the ones I have made, including yogurt, kefir and cultured vegetables all love warm temperatures. During the summer when I use the kefir whey to create a probiotic soda, I leave the bottles on the counter in our kitchen where it is regularly 75-80° F. When the weather turns cold in the fall and winter months, the temperature in our home is much cooler, approximately 65° F. The cooler temperature slows down the speed of fermentation quite a bit. Since this cranberry orange spice drink recipe is typically made during the holiday months when it is cooler in homes, I suggest placing the bottles in a warm place in your home such as in the kitchen or near a wood stove. On average whey soda takes 2-6 days to ferment. The cooler your home, the longer it will take the drink to become bubbly and delicious. In our home, during the winter, it takes around 6 days for the soda to finish fermenting. Occasionally I second ferment the soda to increase the carbonation when the soda appears to be a bit flat from lack of warmth in our home.
More Gut-Healthy Recipes
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cranberry juice
- 1/2 cup orange
- 5 3/4 cups water
- 1/2 cup whey
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- In a saucepan over medium heat, add 3 cups of water, sugar and cinnamon. Warm until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside and cool to room temperature (must be at or below 110° F) before adding the whey and juice. (Do not mix the hot water with the whey are this will kill all of the live bacteria in the whey.)
- In a half gallon glass container, such as clear glass jug or mason jar, add the remaining 2 3/4 cups of water, cranberry juice, orange juice, whey and cooled sugar mixture. Seal the jar with a tight lid and allow to ferment for 2 to 6 days, depending on the temperature of the room.
- When the soda has finished fermenting, it should be nice and fizzy. Either place the liquid directly into the fridge to chill or transfer the liquid to airtight bottles. Serve chilled or pour over ice. Consume within one to two weeks.