After a recent (severe) windstorm, the areas under our trees were littered with small broken branches. I picked up some straight branches to use for the poultry – they make good roosts for tractors and brooders – but had other ideas for the pine branches that fell: water kefir.
Windfall pine branches mean that I don’t have to feel guilty about going out and harvesting needles for wildcrafted beverages, like liqueurs or soda. Why simply let those luscious green needles dry out on the ground? Make something with them!
I typically make either pine-lime-ginger or just pine-lime flavored water kefir when I have needles available, but I decided to branch out and try something a little different with one of my favorite flavors, grapefruit. And why not grapefruit-pine?
It starts with finished water kefir first ferment (1F). This is the unflavored water kefir that remains after the grains are strained out of the sugar water about 48 hours after they’re placed in it. The 1F is typically a bit cloudy and already bubbly.
After selecting some clusters of pine needles, I rinsed them to remove unwanted debris. I then took my trusty muddler and smashed the needles to bruise them all over. This step is performed to maximize the release of the pine flavors into the infusion.
The bruised needle clusters are then placed into the water kefir 1F.
I then carefully removed the peel from half a fresh grapefruit. It’s important to remove only the peel, excluding any pith (which can impart a bitter flavor). I chopped the peel into small pieces and added it to the 1F.
The next step was to juice the grapefruit. I used a small manual reamer and ended up with about 1/2 cup of juice, which I poured into the 1F (in a half gallon jar).
After about 24 hours, I strained the solids out and bottled the liquid. It looks like pine-lime water kefir, with a pink tinge.
Are you thinking that grapefruit-pine water kefir sounds funky? Well, it’s not – in fact, the two have an unexpected synergy that actually accentuates the sweetness of the grapefruit and tones down the tang of the peel.
Winter wildcrafting can be a challenge if you live in an area that gets very cold during this season – the flowers are gone, as are most of the plants I’d forage – but it’s still possible. And pine needles can be tasty (and beneficial) as more than just pine needle tea!