Smreka is a probiotic juniper soda from the Balkans, and it’s incredibly easy to make at home. The ingredients are juniper berries, water, and a bit of patience…
I’m always looking for fun new ferments, not to mention tasty carbonated drinks that give you a quick bit of fizzy refreshment (but without all the funny ingredients in soda).
I came across this recipe in Sandor Kat’s Book, The Art of Fermentation.
It’s incredibly simple, and you’re basically using the wild yeast and probiotics on juniper berries to make a quick fizzy soda. The juniper berries themselves add a bit of flavor, as well as nutrition for the microbes, but the end result doesn’t taste anything like you might imagine.
Instead of a Gin like juniper flavor, it actually tastes more like a lightly herbal lemonade. It’s absolutely delicious!
What is Smreka?
Smreka is an effervescent, light-tasting drink made with juniper berries that has its roots in Eastern European culinary culture. Smreka is a fairly niche beverage, even in Bosnia where the recipe is thought to have originated, but is sometimes enjoyed in lieu of alcohol or just as a refreshing fizzy drink.
Smreka can be served cold or at room temperature, with or without the addition of sugar or lemon.
Ingredients for Smreka
The only ingredient you’ll need to make smreka is juniper berries, but it’s important to choose the right juniper berries for the job. Smreka is made by slowly fermenting these berries in water, so the variety you end up using will have undoubtedly have an impact on flavor.
There are several types of edible juniper berry, including J. communis, J. drupacea, J. oxycedrus, J. phoenicea, J. deppeana, and J. californica. In the United States, you’re most likely to find juniper berries belonging to the J. communis variety.
If you want to forage your own juniper berries, your search will yield the best results if you wait until fall and winter to do your gathering. You can also order juniper berries online from Mountain Rose Herb or any other best quality herbal stockist.
As with any home fermentation project, it’s important to use non-chlorinated water for best results.
Generally though, the juniper berries you can buy in the bulk section of your organic grocery will do, but failing that, a good online herbal supplier will do too.
How to Make Smreka
The process of making smreka is so simple it barely warrants a recipe, but I’ll walk you through the steps so you can see how the beverage comes together.
To make smreka, you’ll need 1 cup of dried, edible juniper berries and a glass, narrow-necked carafe, jug, or jar for the fermentation stage.
Add the juniper berries to the glass container and cover with non-chlorinated spring water (you can use bottled water if you’re unsure of your water’s chlorination status).
Fill the container almost to the top with water, leaving 1 to 2 inches of space near the top—aim for about 2 quarts of water altogether.
Gently drape the top of the container with a layer of cheesecloth, I just secure it with a loose knot.
Now all you have to do is let the developing smreka sit at room temperature for about 4 weeks.
Eventually, you’ll notice small bubbles forming near the top where the juniper berries are floating.
This means the fermentation stage is now underway.
If you notice any white tufts of mold growing on the exposed juniper berries simply give the container a swirl to submerge the berries. If you prefer, you can simply scoop out the moldy juniper berries.
To prevent the growth of mold entirely, you can invest in a fermentation container with an airlock (this is also ideal if you want to age your smreka for a longer period of time).
When is Smreka Done?
Smreka takes about one month before it’s ready, although if you make this during the summer or in a warm climate you might find it takes a little bit less time. Under the right conditions, smreka can be fermented for an even longer amount of time, growing more and more “pine-like” in flavor as it ages.
A good rule of thumb is that when all of the juniper berries have sunk to the bottom and the water has turned a pale shade of yellow-green the smreka is finished.
How to Serve Smreka
My family loves to drink smreka ice cold, straight from the fridge.
In my opinion, the taste is perfect on its own, without the addition of extra flavors.
However, many people enjoy adding sugar and lemon to their smreka (in which case, the sweetener is best incorporated when it’s in the form of a simple syrup).
Smreka can also be served at room temperature if preferred.
Easy Probiotic Beverages
Looking for other easy homemade ferments?
- Naturally Fermented Turmeric Soda
- Dandelion Soda
- How to Make Mead (Honey Wine)
- Small Batch Winemaking
- Finnish Fermented Lemonade (Sima)
- 1 cup dried juniper berries (J. communis or other edible variety)
- 2 quarts non-chlorinated spring or bottled water
- Sugar and/or lemon, for serving (optional)
- Add dried juniper berries to a narrow-necked glass jar, carafe, or jug.
- Cover the dried juniper berries with water.
- Wrap a layer of cheesecloth around the stop of the glass container. Secure with a loose knot.
- Let the juniper berries ferment for one month at room temperature, or until they eventually sink to the bottom of the container.
- Serve smreka cold or at room temperature, with or without the addition of sugar and/or lemon.
Looking for more summer recipes to beat the heat?
- Strawberry Elderflower Popsicles
- Elderflower Cordial