smreka

Using Juniper Berries to Make Smreka: A Delicious Fermented Beverage

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What is Smreka?

I’m always looking to experiment with new foods and learn new recipes made with foraged ingredients. I recently learned about smreka, a fermented beverage originating from the Balkans. It’s super easy to make, and it’s great for your gut health! 

The recipe comes from Sandor Katz’s classic (and must have) book The Art of Fermentation, which outlines how fermentation works and explains why it’s so beneficial for your gut health. Fermented foods are known to have a beneficial effect on your gut health, and thus, your overall health. In short, good bacteria found in fermented food assists in the digestion process.

juniper

To make naturally fermented smreka, all you need are juniper berries and water. With a little patience and time, the mixture will become slightly fizzy and bubbly. A lot of recipes on the internet call for adding lemon juice to your brew—but I think the flavor is good and already a bit tart without it. Try making your first batch with just juniper fruit and water; you can always add lemon later.

smreka

How Can Juniper Berries Ferment?

Juniper berries have a white bloom on them that some people think is yeast. Actually, the bloom is composed of wax secreted by the juniper’s fruit skin and indicates the presence of yeast. That yeast is what makes naturally fermented smreka possible.

Harvesting the Juniper Berries

The first thing you need to do to make your smreka fermented beverage is find some ripe juniper berries. Juniper berries tend to be easiest to pick in the winter months, when they’re ripe and blue-gray in color. As with any foraging, make sure you know what you’re looking for before going out in search of junipers.

The berries are ripe and ready for harvesting when they begin to wrinkle and turn a dark, purplish/almost black color.  If you pick them too early, they will not have the right taste and will not be enjoyable. Waiting until they are completely dark blue, or purple, makes them ready for harvest. The berries start out green and turn to blue before turning completely purple. When you pick juniper berries, be sure to pick them from areas of the plant that seem to be thriving. 

 I love foraging for the added benefit that it gives me a chance to get outside and enjoy nature while harvesting food and medicine.

smreka

Can I buy Juniper Berries?

If you don’t have access to local or homegrown herbs, I highly recommend purchasing them from Mountain Rose Herbs. They are  my favorite place to buy high-quality, organic dried herbs and herbal products. As a company they believe in people, plants, and planet over profit and only ever source their herbs ethically and sustainably. It is through this ethical, responsible sourcing, that they are able to offer one of the largest selections of certified organic herbs, spices, and botanicals in North America.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED TO MAKE SMREKA

Ingredients

Directions 

  1. Combine the juniper berries and water in a quart-sized jar with a tight-fitting lid.
  2. Label your jar with the date, so you remember when you started the ferment. I love my low-tech label maker for this. 
  3. Place the jar out of direct sun, but in a place where you won’t forget about it.
  4. Shake every day. As the smreka ferments, the water will turn yellowish, and most of the fruit will sink to the bottom of the jar.
  5. Strain into a separate quart jar after 30 days. I like to use a fine mesh strainer to strain, but a coffee filter or cheesecloth work just as well. Use what you have on hand (even a t-shirt works in a pinch).
  6. Add other ingredients to taste such as honey, agave, sugar, lemon etc.
  7. Bottle and label, preferably in your fanciest decanter.
  8. Share with friends and enjoy!

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