I thought I didn’t like fermented drinks.
Water kefir made me sneeze. A lot. I can’t drink more than a few tablespoons, otherwise my nose and lips will start getting tingly followed by sneezing fits. I learned later that this may be due to some histamine-producing microbial strains in the water kefir.
Histamine is present in food and in our bodies. It is essential to our immune system–in fact, a histamine reaction means the body is releasing these chemicals to get rid of bothersome triggers such as allergens. Some other well known histamine reactions are rapid heartbeat, runny nose, hives, watery eyes, headache, low blood pressure, diarrhea, etc.
Unfortunately for me, there was histamine in the water kefir that my gut could not break down, leading to a mild intolerance. But some people are able to enjoy water kefir without any reaction. (The process of fermentation also helps break down histamine present in food.)
What about kombucha?
To be honest, the first time I tried kombucha it was so overpriced it brought tears to my eyes like a histamine reaction would. The second time it was root beer-flavored, but it was already too sour for my taste. Sour root beer flavor was not a flavor I liked (though some people might enjoy it), and it put me off trying kombucha again. (Thankfully I was later disabused of my bias towards kombucha by makers who brewed them well and made them affordable, and the flavor combinations were quite enjoyable [not sponsored].)
Which isn’t to say that you won’t be seeing recipes for water kefir and kombucha here–we’re three Starter Sisters after all. Karla brews kombucha regularly.
Another way to make fermented drinks
Rather this is to say that here’s simply another way to ferment probiotic drinks, which is the ginger bug way. Our pandan soda starter uses a small amount of ginger to kickstart the bug, and loads of pandan to help bring out the pandan flavor. There’s also yeast from the pandan leaves that help.
Making fermented drinks using the pandan bug is like water kefir in terms of the daily feeding but only for several days, and there are no kefir grains that increase in quantity with each day. It is also not like kombucha, which requires a scoby and at least 10 days to brew. The pandan bug is the happy middle ground that helps me make different probiotic sodas.
In this recipe, we use our pandan starter to make fermented soda out of a refreshing childhood favorite, talbos ng kamote tea. Remember how we used to enjoy adding calamansi juice and watching it turn pink from the acid in the citrus?
Well, we noticed that as the lactic acid bacteria builds in the kamote tops soda during its fermentation, the tea gradually turns pink! That was a pleasant surprise for us.
Let it ferment for two days if you want the kamote tops flavor, but longer if you want it pink, which also means it will become more sour. It’s up to you!
- 1 bunch talbos ng kamote (sweet potato tops)
- 4 cups water
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup pandan bug
- Wash the talbos ng kamote thoroughly.
- Boil the water in a pot over high heat. Reduce to medium heat, add the talbos ng kamote and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Turn off heat and let the leaves steep in the pot for 10 more minutes.
- Using a sieve, remove the leaves from the tea. Use a wooden spoon to squeeze out the tea from the leaves. Do not use your hands cause the leaves will be very hot.
- Add sugar to the tea, and stir to dissolve.
- Set aside the kamote tops tea until it comes to room temperature.
- Add the pandan bug and stir well with a wooden or non-reactive spoon. Again, make sure that the tea is at room temperature. We don’t want to kill our starter.
- Transfer to a bottle or jar with an airtight lid. Leave at least 2 inches of headroom.
- Add ¼ tsp of sugar per bottle of kamote tops soda and leave to ferment on the kitchen counter for 2 to 3 days, burping daily to avoid gas build up.