Sunday, November 2, 2008

Anyone for a nice glass of soapberry wine?

[Please pardon the not-quite-on-topic post: I only have the one blog, but I’ve posted several comments on other people’s sites about soapberries, and it seemed only fair to give them a chance to reciprocate. -G-]

My hiking partner saw them first, though I was looking: soapberries. The Western Soapberry, Sapindus drummondi, is a local relative of the increasingly written-about soapnut, and can be used the same way (though if your recipe calls for shell-halves instead of weights or volumes, you’ll have to do some adjusting). Fair’s fair—Tamryn helped me harvest, I gave her a bottle of soapberry liquid soap and some directions for storage and use.

A smallish bottle, since I only make the stuff in small batches. The dried fruit lasts pretty much forever; the liquid is more convenient to use, at least for me. But it’s perishable...

Tamyrn lives in a multi-generational household, and I suppose someone just decided that the liquid soap belonged with all the other cleansers, in a cabinet someplace, rather than in the fridge or by the washing machine where it would be used quickly. So it sat, forgotten, an unpasteurized fruit juice. And it did as fruit juices so often do.

The bottle’s back in my hands now, or rather, in my cabinet. “You play with it,” she said. “You didn’t tell me it could ferment!”

“I did say it might spoil.”

“It fizzed!”

Quite vigorously, too. Maybe more of a cider than a wine. Probably an even better insecticide now, it still good for washing? Dunno yet, and there doesn’t seem to be much research about the topic out there (you can bet I looked!). Fermented soapberry liquid wouldn’t be nearly so perishable, and it would be very cool. And, while not the ideal holiday gift for most of my friends and family, I know at least a couple of people who might appreciate it. Rather more than gifts of berry-bits in bags. Always assuming it was usable for its intended purpose, that is.

There are references to people fermenting their soapnuts, whole, prior to use, but at periods of only a few days, and mostly apocrophyal at that. Some people’s washing-machine soapnuts begin to smell of vinegar, which doesn’t affect the washing, so maybe...


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