Beat the heat – and CO2 shortages – with tepache, the fermented natural soft drink from Mexico. It’s very easy to make, healthy and thirst-quenching. It’s great for gut health, too.
Europe, but especially the UK, is smack bang in the middle of a carbon dioxide (CO2) crisis. Breweries, soft drink manufacturers, farmers and food producers are all feeling the effects of an untimely scale back in production.
What the what?? Isn’t CO2 kind of like, you know, well, free?
Seems not. Carbon dioxide is a by-product of ammonia production in the fertiliser industry and bio-ethanol plants. And apparently these industries wind down in summer, after fertiliser needs have been met. The excess CO2 is stored and is usually enough to sustain the thirst needs of an average summer of fizzy sodas and beer. But, with a perfect storm of early, sustained summer heat and a World Cup year (ergo, huge demand for extra beer), Europe is running very low. In the UK we only have two plants that produce CO2, and they haven’t yet geared up to meet the extra demand.
Nearly every food producer, supermarket, soft drink manufacturer, brewery and abattoir is operating on a day-to-day basis, eking out their own supplies. Abattoirs also need CO2 to stun the chickens and pigs before slaughter; while CO2 is used to make dry ice, which keeps food cold when it is in transit. There is talk of short-term manufactured food and drink shortages.
Basically CO2 is the glue that keeps the food and beverage sector going and it is running out.
While no one is panicking, there is a real risk that the UK will run out of beer, soft drinks and meat, the latter of which needs dry ice.
The current CO2 crisis has prompted me to share a recipe that may satisfy your desire for something fizzy, but without the need for CO2. All you need is a pineapple, water, brown sugar and a few spices. And a little tiny bit of patience.
Allow me to introduce you to tepache.
I started making this traditional Mexican street drink when the temperatures were still cool, but my own production has ramped up of late in line with the soaring temperatures. We love, love, love this spice-infused, slightly (very slightly, max 0.5% ABV)) alcoholic soft drink, with its funky, tropical and gently earthy taste. You will be shocked how simple it is to turn a juicy, ripe pineapple into a heavenly, thirst-quenching soft drink.
To make a simplified, slightly inauthentic (but still delicious!) tepache, all you do is cut up a pineapple, add it to a jar with brown sugar, spices and top with filtered water. Give the ingredients a right good ol’ mix and muddle with a wooden spoon; cover lightly with a tea towel and leave it to do its fermenty thang for about three days. It will get a white froth – that is good, it means it is very active: you just scoop it out with a wooden or plastic spoon. Strain and chill before serving. Keep any extra juice in the refrigerator in a swing-lid top bottle if possible as it will still carry on fermenting, albeit very slowly. The fermented pineapple chunks are delicious and healthful in their own right so please eat them. You can use a variety of flavourings (listed below), but the traditional way is with cinnamon. This tepache recipe on Bon Appetit gives a more traditional recipe if you fancy being authentic.
Traditionally tepache was made with the scraps from cutting up pineapple – the core, the skin and leaves. But it’s fine to use the whole pineapple as you would otherwise want the scraps from several pineapples to make a batch. Do either. It is best to use an organic pineapple as it is the wild yeasts that live on the skin of the fruit that really enhances the ferment and makes it so incredibly good for gut health.
Nutrition notes: Pineapple is chock to the brim with vitamin C as well as manganese, copper and B vitamins. What it also contains in abundance is something called bromelain, a hugely anti-inflammatory enzyme. Webmed says that bromelain “seems to cause the body to produce substances that fight pain and swelling (inflammation)”… as well as also “contains chemicals that interfere with the growth of tumor cells and slow blood clotting.” Due to its natural fermentation, tepache is a probiotic drink, helping to normalise digestion and may help heal damaged gut lining. It’s flipping lovely, too.
Good for those on chemotherapy: I recommend pineapple a lot for people on chemo as the bromelain in it really seems to reduce the risk of getting painful chemo-induced mouth ulcers. Semi-frozen, pureed pineapple is a heavenly treat for perking up chemo-zapped tastebud, too.
How to flavour your tepache
Use just one, or a combination!
* Cinnamon sticks are traditional, but also cinnamon powder (the good stuff; not what’s been in your cupboard for years!).
* 1/2 teaspoon of cloves
* 2 whole star anise
* a “thin thumb” of gingeroot, chopped or grated (keep skin if organic)
* 3-4 cracked cardamom pods (my favourite)
* 1-2 split fresh red chillies
* beer or tequila! Add equal parts of beer to tepache, or one shot of tequila per glass of tepache.
* Fresh lime is great served with any tepache drinks
Are you melting in the heat? How are you keeping cool? Have you tried or made tepache? What flavours did you add? If you make this lovely drink, do let me know how you got on!
Beat the heat – and CO2 shortages – with tepache, the fermented natural soft drink from Mexico. It’s very easy to make, healthy and thirst-quenching. It’s great for gut health, too. Add a few cinnamon sticks to be traditional, or something like cloves, cardamom and ginger. Maybe even chilli, too xx
1 very ripe organic pineapple
75g brown sugar, jaggery or turbinado sugar (many recipes use lots more, but if the pineapple is very ripe I think it’s overkill)
Flavouring of choice (see below) – I used two whole star anise and one split chilli in this version
Enough filtered water* to fully cover the ingredients – 1.2 litres/6 cups
You will need: a large jar, a tea towel or piece of clean muslin cloth and a rubber band
Wash but don’t scrub the pineapple; cut it into chunks or slices – skin on please
Add the sugar to your jar and pour in filtered water. Swirl around until sugar is mostly dissolved. Add in the pineapple and your spices, pushing them down under the water as best you can.
Cover the filled jar with your material and secure with a rubber band. Leave to ferment for two-three days in a cool, dry place out of the sunlight. When it forms a white foam it is ready. Scoop off the foam (harmless, but not so appetising!) and refrigerate before drinking.
Serve over ice. The tepache will keep well in the refrigerator for a week. In theory 🙂
Flavour options per batch: 2 cinnamon sticks; 1/2 tsp cloves; 2 whole star anise; 1 small thumb of gingerroot, chopped; 1-2 split raw chillies; 3-4 cardamom pods, cracked
* the filtered (or bottled) water is important because some of the additives to tap water inhibit fermentation. See my previous Food To Glow post on the usefulness of filtered water.
**Remember to follow me on Pinterest and, if you make this funky soft drink, click on the pin below and leave a photo of your make with a comment telling me what you think, or any awesome changes that you made. Whether on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or of course here on the blog, I love to see what my lovely readers do with my recipes, and I welcome your comments, tweaks and suggestions.**
RIPE FOR PINNING!