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Fermented Juniper Berry Juice (Smreka, Kleka)

Aida
Smreka or kleka is juice made by fermenting juniper tree berries. Refreshing and tangy, it's a lemonade-like beverage you'll love making.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 mins
Fermenting time 15 d
Total Time 15 d 5 mins
Course Beverage
Cuisine Bosnian

Equipment

  • 1 glass jar with lid volume of 1-gallon volume (or a 3 liter jar if using metric volumes)

Ingredients
 
 

  • 2-3 lemons OR juice of 2-3 lemons, OR 3 tsps sour salt (citric acid or lemon salt)
  • 12-14 ounces juniper berries just harvested or dry berries both work
  • filtered or boiled water enough to fill the jar with berries
  • (Optional) a handful or two of blackthorn berries (sloe) used to give a reddish hue

Instructions
 

  • In a clean glass jar add juniper berries and sliced lemons (or lemon salt or juice). If adding sloe add it now also. Fill the jar to the top with filtered or boiled water. Stir very lightly, and tightly close the lid.
  • Place the jar in your fermentation spot (look below). Leave for 10-15 days. Every couple of days open the jar and stir the contents. You can taste it at this point too, and see if it's to your liking.
  • During the fermentation process, some juniper berries will sink to the bottom, or even travel up and down in the jar. As the days go by the liquid will eventually take on a minty-yellow hue. (If you put in blackthorn berries/ sloe, this hue will be reddish.) Try the juice and if it's tangy and on the sour side, it is done.
  • Strain the juice into a glass bottle(s). (Keep the berries, and set them aside.) Cork or cap the bottles and transfer them to the fridge. Keep the juice in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
  • When getting ready to consume the juice, taste to decide if the sourness level is to your liking. The drink is healthiest as is, but if you find it too strong, you can dilute with water. Alternatively use mineral water, but this will add a little more carbonation to the juice. If you prefer it sweeter, you can add a teaspoon of sugar, or honey.

Making a second or third batch with the same juniper berries

  • Take the berries you set aside after straining the juice. (Discard any remaining lemon pieces.) Wash the berries and clean the jar. Return the berries to the jar, and add new lemon pieces (or lemon salt or juice), and filtered water. Stir and screw the lid on again, and repeat the fermentation process.
  • The second and third time around the berries will fall to the bottom more quickly. When most of them stay on the bottom, and the juice is no longer flavorful, berries are ready to be discarded. This is usually after the second time using the same batch, although sometimes you can get away with using the same batch of berries three times.

Notes

Kahm yeast: You may see white stuff on top of the juice. This is usually kahm yeast. It looks like a layer of a white scrum. It's not dangerous. Simply remove it with a spoon and seal the lid again. (Read more about this in the article.) 
Fermentation spot: Find a relatively warm spot. Terraces and balconies work well. As do tops of cabinets, or warm spots in the kitchen or home. The only requirement is that the spot is relatively warm. (Smreka doesn't have to be exposed to sunlight.)
As the duration of fermenting depends on this spot, you may have to experiment until you find it. And it may not be the same place year-round, as it'll depend on the climate you live in. 
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!