Slow drinks: Kvass, sima & watermelon whey soda, by Jenna Ba

Millie Milliken

Millie Milliken

07 May 2020

With more time than ever to experiment at home, we're launching a special series on slow drinks - recipes for those DIY tinctures, tipples and toddys that take time to create. This week it's the turn of Jenna Ba, new to world brands global brand ambassador for Diageo and avid experimenter

Why I'm fermenting

I’ve been a serial scoby (bacteria and yeast used in the production of kombucha) killer in the past, so being homebound seemed like the perfect occasion to get collaborating with microbial cultures again.

Bread, beer, whisk(e)y! Most food and drinks I like are made by these incredible bacteria called yeasts.

Through exploring ferments I can train my palate (tasting daily), keep a journal (of observations and recipes) and have lots of tasty cheap and salvaged probiotic drinks (water kefir, kombucha). Once you have cold ginger infused tepache (drink fermented from pineapples) ready in your fridge for the post morning workout delight, you know hedonism is multifaceted.

It’s fascinating to see how these communities of microorganisms are capable of creating flavour, booze and bubbles.

Furthermore, I simply love that it’s a low-tech way of working with flavours that focuses on transformation. On top, there’s this inherent democratic access to all as yeasts are a free natural resource globally available and you only need curiosity, clean water and nutrients (sucrose, fructose, glucose, maltose).

What I'm fermenting

One way we currently travel the world from the confines of our houses is through cuisine and drinks from around the world. Hence I am adapting some cultural ‘indigenous’ fermented drink recipes to the environment of my south London flat. Wild, wild fermentation.

I have done kvass (a traditional Slavic drink commonly made from rye bread), tepache, booza (a kind of Arabic ice-cream), sima (from Finland), am planning on making munkoyo (a Zambian fermented maize drink) and fermenting bouye (a Senegalese baobab fruit drink). 

I'm also taking advantage of what is seasonal and local, hence some pictures with the current batches of elderflower and spruce beer.

What my ferments can be used in

There’s a lot of scope for using ferments. I enjoy them instead of the beer in a boilermaker, especially with kvass: fermented from rye bread and raisins it matches Rye whiskey wonderfully.

They are perfect ingredients for highballs, especially fruit lacto-fermented beverages. You can freeze them into ice cubes or reduce them into cordials.  

Another favourite no fuss way to use bubbly ferments is in riffs on Champagne cocktails.

Fermented hibiscus tea with bitters and bourbon is a home bar take on a Seelbach cocktail. The recipe I use for the ferment is like a Jamaican Sorrel drink (hibiscus, sugar, tea, pimento seeds and white rice, you can add a bit of red wine in there as well for a different kick).

Recipes

Kvass (1.5l jar)

Bulleit whiskey, infused with dried figs, paired with kvass and bourbon caramelised popcorn
Bulleit whiskey, infused with dried figs, paired with kvass and bourbon caramelised popcorn

2 slices 70% rye bread, strongly toasted
800ml purified/filtered or distilled water
100g sugar
50ml honey
20 raisins

Method: Let ingredients ferment in a jar, covered with a muslin cloth, for two to three days. Filter and move into a ferment bottle (Grolsch beer cap) or plastic bottle. You can add more sugar (to get more CO2) and move into fridge. Leave a third of space in the bottle free. Check on advances and allow to breathe daily to avoid an eruption if CO2 accumulates. The more you let it ferment the more tangy it will be, keeps for about 10 days.

Sima (Finnish fermented lemonade)

Belsazar Riesling, grapefruit bitters, malic and citric acid, sima lemonade ice cube
Belsazar Riesling, grapefruit bitters, malic and citric acid, sima lemonade ice cube

600ml filtered water
100ml honey
100ml lemon juice
50ml ginger bug
(feed sugar, diced ginger and water like a sourdough starter for about five days in a sealed closed jar, I’ve added some turmeric as well, add more sugar and ginger daily to feed it, about 20g sugar and 30g ginger in total)

Method: Mix honey with the water and add lemon juice. Add ginger bug and leave to ferment for two to three days somewhere warm. Let breathe once a day. Move to the fridge and it's ready to play with. (Can be frozen into ice cubes too.)

Watermelon Whey Soda (1.5l jar)

Ketel One Vodka, watermelon whey syrup, Peychaud bitters, sparkling water, atomised lilac flavour
Ketel One Vodka, watermelon whey syrup, Peychaud bitters, sparkling water, atomised lilac flavour

400ml fresh watermelon juice (strained)
400ml distilled water
100ml fresh cheese whey
(you can use water kefir grains if you want a vegan take)
3 sprigs rosemary
200g caster sugar
(it’s wonderful with fresh sugar cane juice if you can get your hands on any)

Method: Ferment together on kitchen top for 48h to 78h. Strain and move into capped bottle in fridge, ready to serve. (You can add a base spirit to increase its shelf life).

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