I have a slight obsession with Izzy's peach soda. Perhaps some of you share this obsession with me. It tastes, quite simply, like peaches — juicy midsummer peaches, but fizzy and sparkling! Staring at a mound of actual midsummer peaches at the farmers market this past week, I thought, "Doggonit! I'm going to make my own!" And that is exactly what I did.
While writing True Brews, I discovered how much fun and how surprisingly easy it is to make your own sodas at home. You can use almost any ripe fruit as a base, and peaches are no exception! The sweetened fruit juice base can be added to sparkling water for instant soda gratification, but I like using champagne yeast to make a super fizzy, naturally-sparkling soda (see the Recipe Note about where to find champagne yeast, below). I find the flavor of this yeast-fermented soda to be more complex and deeply fruity. It also has a softer mouthfeel — less prickly and more lush.
This soda tastes exactly how you want it to taste: like peach juice dribbling down your chin, like a fruity Fizzy-Lifting Drink from Willy Wonka's factory, like sunshine in a bottle. I played around with the number of peaches and the amount of sugar for this soda, and I eventually settled on 1 1/2 pounds of peaches (about 3 good-sized fruits) to a half cup of sugar. You can — and should! — adjust the recipe depending on the sweetness of your peaches and your own personal taste. Make the recipe as it is first, then taste it just before adding the yeast and add more sugar if you'd like.
If you decide make this soda with yeast, which I whole-heartedly recommend, it is very important to refrigerate the bottle as soon as it's carbonated. If left for too long unrefrigerated, the soda will over-carbonate, causing geysers upon opening and (eventually) the risk of a bursting bottle. It's easy to tell if the soda is carbonated if you use a plastic soda bottle — as soon as the bottle is rock-solid when you press the side, it's ready! For a prettier presentation, you can transfer the soda into glass bottles just before serving without losing too much carbonation.
Fresh Peach Soda
1 1/2 pound very ripe yellow peaches (about 3 large fruits)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup water, plus more to fill the bottle
1/2 cup sugar, plus more to taste
1/8 teaspoon champagne yeast or baker's yeast (See Recipe Note)
Food processor or blender
One clean 1-liter plastic soda bottle with screw-on cap (See Recipe Note)
Peel the peaches with a vegetable peeler (or blanch them for 30 seconds in boiling water and then slip off the skins). Slice the peaches in half, remove the pit, and roughly chop the fruit into a mixing bowl. Toss with the lemon juice and salt.
Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan on the stovetop or in the microwave. Remove from heat and add the sugar. Stir to dissolve to sugar. Once dissolved, pour the sugar water over the peaches and let this stand for 10 minutes to macerate the peaches.
Working in batches, puree the peaches with the sugar-water in the food processor or blender. Strain the puree through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, collecting as much juice as possible without forcing any solids through the strainer. You can also strain the juice through a flour sack towel or cheesecloth to make a soda with less sediment. You should end up with 2 to 2 1/2 cups concentrated fruit syrup. (Reserve the strained solids for topping yogurt or ice cream!)
→ At this point, you can stop, refrigerate the peach juice, and add a few tablespoons of it to a glass of sparkling water to make an easy, instant soda. To naturally carbonate the soda with yeast, proceed on!
Pour the juice into a clean 1-liter plastic soda bottle using a funnel. Top off the bottle with water, leaving about an inch and a half of head room. Give it a taste and add more lemon juice or sugar if desired. The extra sugar will dissolve on its own.
Add the yeast. Screw on the cap and shake the bottle to dissolve and distribute the yeast. Let the bottle sit at room temperature out of direct sunlight for 12 to 48 hours. Exact fermentation time will depend on the temperature in the room. Check the bottle periodically; when it feels rock-solid with very little give, it's ready.
Refrigerate overnight or for up to 2 weeks. Open very slowly over a sink to release the pressure gradually and avoid bubble-ups.
• Soda with Other Fruit: Feel free to substitute white or yellow nectarines or white peaches for the fruit in this recipe.
• Champagne vs. Baker's Yeast: I recommend using champagne yeast over baker's yeast whenever possible. It has a crisp and clean flavor that lets the fruit shine through, whereas baker's yeast tends to make sodas taste yeasty. Not a terrible thing, and fine in a soda-craving pinch, but get some champagne yeast if you can. It's sold at any homebrew supply store and online at places like Northern Brewer or Amazon.com.
• Bottling Sodas in Glass: Sodas can also be bottled in glass or swing-top bottles, but it’s more difficult to tell when the sodas have fully carbonated. To do this safely, fill one small plastic soda bottle to use as an indicator for when the sodas have finished carbonating and then bottle the rest of the batch in glass bottles. Refrigerate all of the bottles as soon as the plastic bottle is carbonated; never leave the glass bottles at room temperature once carbonated.
• Alcohol Content: A bit of alcohol is always produced when we are using yeast to ferment beverages. However, the quick fermentation time and small amount of yeast mean that the alcohol content of this soda is well under 1% by volume. It's natural for yeast-carbonated sodas to have a bit of a yeasty flavor; this is not an indication that it has become overly alcoholic.
(Images: Emma Christensen)