Hot Days and Fermented Lemonade with Plum Syrup

Summer is officially with us, hot hot days followed by breeze nights.  Here in Venice the accepted uniform is almost nude and powered by wheels.  Surfboards are everywhere. Sno-Cone stands run by neighborhood kids are illegally popping up all over the neighborhood (Make stands like these legal!).   Yes, the only drink for this season is Lemonade.

I find myself addicted to a new lemonade every year.  The lemonade of 2012 relies on fermentation by whey for its wonderful tart flavor and delicious fizz.  We add a touch of plum syrup to keep with the season but any stonefruit in abundance in your region would work.  Oh! But what is Whey?

Whey is a byproduct of milkcrafting, crafting milk into cheese and yogurt.  It is the liquid that separates from milk as it curdles.  Whey is high in protein, contains all the essential amino acids and many bioactive components the body needs to repair tissue, nerves and your immune system.   Whey can be drank straight as a health tonic or used to ferment condiments, vegetables and naturally effervescent drinks improving taste and nutrition along the way (ha!).  Basically, whey is pure magic and very good for you.  When we speak of whey for fermenting purposes we are only interested in sweet whey or live whey.  This whey is derived from milkcrafting utilizing rennet, not acid to curdle milk.  Acid based whey is not alive and will not ferment. Let’s get started.

Fermented Lemonade with Plum Syrup

Note: Lemonade will take 5 days to ferment properly.  Plum Syrup will keep for two weeks in the fridge.  Make Lemonade and Plum Syrup the same day, or make Plum Syrup the day Lemonade finishes fermenting.  

What you need for the Lemonade:

1 cup whey

2 cups lemon juice

1 cup sugar

1 wide mouth gallon container, filtered water to fill

What you need to do: Combine whey, lemon juice and sugar in gallon container.  Fill with filtered water, leaving 3-4 inches of head space.  Seal tightly, cover with a kitchen towel and leave at room temp on your counter to ferment for 5-7days.  It will develop effervescent within 2 days and should taste crisp and tangy when ready, the initial sugar will have been consumed by the lactobacillus in the whey.  You can enjoy it straight, adding more sugar or honey to taste, or combine with Plum Syrup for the ultimate drink of the season! Lemonade can be kept in production without the need for additional whey, for the second batch just use 2 cups of the last batch of lemonade in place of the 1 cup whey. Follow the same steps.

What you need for the Plum Syrup:

3 cups plums, pitted and chopped

2 cup water

2 cup sugar

What you need to do: In a small sauce pan combine sugar, water and plums.  Bring to a gentle simmer and cook 5 mins.  Pull from heat and allow to cool.  You can strain with a fine mesh or simply scoop the plum chunks out with a ladle.  The former will result in pure syrup while the latter will have some fruit pieces left in.  Pour into a glass bottle and store in the fridge for 2 weeks.  Combine Plum Syrup with Fermented Lemonade to taste (2-4 tablespoons to an 8oz glass works for us!).  You can also combine with sparkling water for a natural soda!

Enjoy!  No time to ferment but still need your thirst quenched?  Make this simple and outstanding Lemonade.  It won’t have the bubbles but it will refresh!

We hope you had an incredible 4th of July full of laughter, bravery and community.  We spent the night on the Beach watching the fireworks over head and belting out the Star Spangled Banner.  It’s a song about going through hell and coming out triumphant.  We must be free.  We must be brave.


Filed under Cottage Kitchen

14 responses to “Hot Days and Fermented Lemonade with Plum Syrup

  1. Is this an alcoholic beverage? I’m new to this; Not sure if everything fermented = alcohol!

    • Great Question! NOT everything fermented is alcoholic. However, many fermented things left for long enough will begin to develop varying levels of alcohol. This lemonade would need to be left to feremnt for months before that would happen. This crispy and tangy, or dry taste when it is fully feremnted often reminds people of a hard drink. Most people find this incredibly refreshing, but you can sweeten with honey, raw cane sugar or a fruit syrup. Happy fermenting!

  2. My fermenting lemonade, after 5 days in the gallon container, has medium size “amoeba” like white things floating in it. Is this normal or bad news? A pic at: (the illumination is from a flashlight, they are not glowing – yet)

    • This it totally normal. Whey is the excess liquid from cheese crafting, so it still contains cheese solids even when strained. The introduction of acid, here the lemon juice for lemonade, will cause those to curdle together…your white floating amoebas. Just strain out when it’s ready. Make sure you are keeping it covered from sunlight!

      It also looks like from the photo that you have overfilled your container. At max it should be 3/4ths full (or 4 inches head space) to allow for fermentation. In the current situation you could possibly have the container blow on you under the pressure it is building. No need to fear, just pour some out! Taste it add just a touch of sugar or lemon to compensate for the loss.

      Let me know. Enjoy!

  3. Ellen

    Hi! I started this three days ago and so far, my lemonade hasn’t developed any effervescence. Do you know what the problem might be?

    • Hello Ellen! I’m happy to help. A lot can depend on where you are keeping the lemonade and what the weather has been like where you are. Keep it in a warm place, sealed tightly away from direct sunlight (I throw a kitchen towel over everything in home production). If it is too hot the fermentation will not happen. If it’s been colder the fermentation will take longer.

      Take a closer look at your lemonade, often the effervescence is tiny and infrequent (especially in the early stage, it is meant to ferment a week). The human eye has difficulty catching it, but peer closer maybe give it a tiny shake and you should see something. There is also no harm in taking a sip now! I encourage you to try the ferment throughout the process, this will truly let you know what is going on. You will also develop a taste for what you like, perhaps a shorter or longer fermentation is right for you.

      Don’t give up! The beauty of fermentation is it is a process that happens naturally, so rest easy knowing its difficult to make it stop.

  4. e.

    johnny-come-lately has a question about whey, acid and dead whey… I made some ricotta the otehr day using lemon juice.

    It sounds like the byproduct whey is “dead” as I used citirc acid. I am quite obviously missing something becasue you’re using it to ferment lemonade. So 1. is it a specific acid that is whey killer or 2. is there a reaction in the addition of citric acid to scalded milk or 3. am I a noodge making this more complicated than it really is?

    I am guessing that number 3 but if had to bet an exacta, I’d say 3 and 1.

    • Acids in general a a killer to lactobacillus that is the living bacteria in whey. You have dead whey on your hands. Try making yogurt using a bacteria starter or a scoop from your favorite live culture yogurt, the whey extracted from this will be able to ferment many things vigorously.

  5. Sarah

    Super excited to give this a try over the next couple of weeks — any chance I could can the plum syrup?

    • You can certainly can the plum syrup. I would double or triple the recipe to make it worth the extra step. If you are familiar with water bath canning you can take that route or opt for the oven which is less messy. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Place jars and lids on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 mins. Fill with plum syrup leaving 1/4 inch headroom, seal lids till just fingertip tight, replace in oven and bake for 15 additional minutes. When jars are done remove to a cooling rack and allow to come to room temp undisturbed. You will hear pops as the lids seal, if any don’t simply move to the fridge and use first. Enjoy!

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  8. Rouba

    I am on day 5 of making this lemonade & I see mold growing on top… what did I do wrong?

  9. Jonathan WOod

    could you make this without the sugar and substitute honey instead? My partner and I are doing the specific carbohydrate diet and sugar is a no no.

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