Smreka!

A fermented juniper berry

drink from Bosnia

STEP ONE:

Combine 1 cup dried juniper berries with

2 quarts chlorine-free water

STEP TWO:

Watch.  When all the berries

have sunk to the bottom (one month or less in warm weather)

the Smreka is ready.

STEP THREE:

Keep chilled.  Bosnians enjoy it with a bit of sugar.

Will keep for a long time.

Posted in Beverages
6 comments on “Smreka!
  1. Steve says:

    Do you or have you done any ferments outdoors, partly drug in the ground or under leaves or certain plants (in this case, juniper) during the warmer months? I realize you couldn’t sell this type of ferment, but I’m wondering if you have done this and if you’ve noticed any improvement (on your kitchen perfection)? Thanks.

  2. Jonathan TE says:

    Does it matter what type of juniper berries you use? I’ve seen at the Plants for a Future database that berries from some varieties of juniper are considered toxic (albeit, when consumed in large quantity). For example, http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Juniperus%20communis. But some other types of juniper listed at PFAF do not include this caution.

    Also, must the berries be dried? Thanks!

  3. admin says:

    Thank you for pointing this out. I think we will make a note of this on the blog.

    The type of juniper berry is important, there are supposedly several types of edible juniper. In addition to J. communis, other edible species include Juniperus drupacea,[2] Juniperus oxycedrus,[3] Juniperus phoenicea,[4] Juniperus deppeana, and Juniperus californica.

    Juniperus communis is what we have been using here in the U.S., and that is what is commonly available at the store. We realized when we returned to the U.S. and started brewing our own Smreka that it had a (although delicious) slightly different flavor than the distinctly sour beverage we had in Sarajevo. We are trying to find out what the commonly used species of Juniper is in Bosnia and Herzegovina and we will let you know once we know.

    We think the berries can be used fresh or dried, but one should do their own research. One thing to note about using herbs in general is that more of a fresh herb is usually needed to get the same medicinal or flavor effects than when using dried herbs. From what we read online about Juniper, the opposite may be true. Also, our Smreka recipe is based in volume and not on weight. This is worth mentioning because fresh Juniper berries will weigh more than dried Juniper berries, which will effect the recipe. We have never seen fresh Juniper berries available for sale. If you are harvesting your own berries it is very important to know what species you are working with (as there are over 40 and only some are considered edible). Also, Juniper berries take years to ripen, so pay attention to that aspect as well.

    The jury seems to be out on whether Juniper toxicity must be considered. We are not experts, and certainly one should do there own research. My conclusion is that one should try it out and if you experience any discomfort stop consumption.

    Initially we did not say anything in this regard as our initial research regarding toxicity convinced us that it is not a concern. Nonetheless some say there is a risk to the kidneys. The following study shows that indeed there is no toxicity, yet some people do complain of discomfort so use your own judgment.

    “The nephrotoxicity of juniper oil … was evaluated in … rats after oral administration. Two … slightly different oil batches were tested for 28 days with 100, 333 or 1000 mg … resp. 100, 300 or 900 mg … juniper oil/kg. Additionally terpinene-4-ol … was tested in a dosage of 400 mg/kg. Neither of the tested substances induced changes in function or morphology of the kidneys at the tested doses, and they were revealed to be nontoxic.”
    Schilcher H, Leuschner F., The potential nephrotoxic effects of essential juniper oil., Arzneimittelforschung. 1997 Jul;47(7):855-8.

  4. admin says:

    If the Smreka is molding it’s because the juniper berries are exposed to the air on the top. Stir the ferment or swirl it around in it’s vessel to submerge the top layer of berries 1 or more times each day. Give it a little positive attention. And if it molds – just take of the moldy berries and go ahead and enjoy the rest of the beverage!
    Another idea is to put the berries in a cloth bag of sorts with a stone or other weight in it to hold it all below the liquid surface.

  5. su says:

    Here in Colorado, the Juniper trees (Rocky Mountain Juniper) make FANTASTIC Smreka that is suitable for longer fermentation times.
    I let mine ferment for about 6 months and then rack it with simple syrup for a second fermentation. The short time, as above, tastes the way stinky feet smell. With the longer fermentation, at around month 5, it will begin to clarify much like a beer and the whole house smells like a forest. I have added 2-3 fresh wintergreen leaves, and a few pine or spruce needles to Smreka and it has a flavor and smell similar to gin.
    Note: I would not recommend that anyone use Aztec Sweet herb to “flavor” or “sweeten” this drink. The taste wasn’t bad, but the smell was absolutely worse than dog excrement.

  6. admin says:

    Thank you for sharing! I would love to taste your Smreka some day, let us know if you ever make a trip out to California.

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  1. [...] others not so much. I made some great water kefirs last summer but let the grains die. I made smreka once successfully but every subsequent batch molded. I determined I had a gluten sensitivity just [...]

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