When we were young, one of our favorite sodas was Orange Crush. We liked the fact that it came in the heavy dark brown bottles — to prevent discoloration and protect the fruit flavor. It said so right there on the front of the bottle. And that thick glass bottle kept the soda ice-cold until the very last gulp. Best of all, it tasted like oranges. At least that’s how we remember it.
Today, we hardly ever drink soda. It tastes like syrup with some food coloring added. Ugh. Let’s scratch out a couple of tall cold ones, shall we?
We saw this recipe in The Artisan Soda Workshop, by Andrea Lynn, and, when oranges started coming in this year, we knew we had to try it. We will note that the original recipe called for a mix of blood oranges and navel oranges; however, blood oranges are difficult to find (but are oh, so good when you do), so we used only navels.
We happened to have citric acid in a cheese making kit and used it, but we wouldn’t suggest running out and buying citric acid just for this recipe. Please note that citric acid is NOT vitamin C (ascorbic acid). For the seltzer water, we made sure that ours contained only carbonated water. It seems as though nearly every brand has either sweeteners or flavorings added. We (and you) don’t need that. For the oranges, ideally use organic, since you’ll be using the zest, but, failing that, give those oranges the best washing they’ve ever had. We use dish detergent and hot water.
Procedure in detail:
Measure. We thought it easiest to measure out the sugar and citric acid first, but, of course, it doesn’t really matter. So, place the sugar and citric acid (if using) in a non-reactive (glass) container. We used a large Pyrex measuring cup with a spout because we knew we’d need to strain the liquid later.
Zest. This is the most difficult part of making the soda: zesting the four oranges. We use a microplane, which takes off just the zest. In the past, we’d use a sharp chef’s knife to cut off the zest; it’s more trouble, but it works. Add the zest to the sugar and citric acid.
Juice. Use whatever you have to juice the four zested (or de-zested?) oranges. We use one of those glass reamers; it works well, is super easy to clean, and probably cost a buck at a thrift store. If you don’t have one, you can just slice each orange in half and squeeze out the juice with your hands; using a fork as a reamer helps. Add the juice to the sugar, citric acid, and zest.
Steep. Give the mixture a stir to help dissolve the sugar, then cover and place in the refrigerator for the next 12 to 24 hours.
Strain. Since you don’t want to be drinking the zest, run the liquid through a fine mesh sieve and discard the solids. We use a small tea strainer because that’s what we have.
Mix. Fill a glass with ice, add a quarter cup of orange syrup, then top up with about eight ounces of seltzer water.
As you can see, it’s quite simple to create homemade sodas that are fresher and better for you than anything you can buy at the store. After all, per glass, this Real Orange Crush contains just a bit over a teaspoon of sugar, real fruit juice, and simple carbonated water. That’s a soda you can enjoy. So, how does it taste? Well, to be honest, it was quite bland in terms of the orange taste and a little bitter from the seltzer water. But, that might be partly due to our oranges, which weren’t the most flavorful. We might try this again when we get some great-tasting oranges. For now, three stars.