Italian Soda

No, I did not give up pressure cooking!  I used an easy and little-known technique for extracting juice in the pressure cooker to make a blackberry extract.

Don’t let the name fool you. Italian Soda was not invented in Italy but San Francisco (my home in America for almost 25 years) in their local Italian American neighborhood – North Beach! In Italy, fruit syrups are used for desserts, to add to water, shaved ice or granita.  The idea of adding a fruit syrup to sparkling water is a uniquely American innovation and gives this recipe the “creds” to be called Soda.

My family foraging for blackberries used in this recipe (and many other delicious desserts) from our secret spot in the middle of our local urban jungle outside of Rome, Italy.

Making Extracts with Your Pressure Cooker

The advantage of extracting juice using your pressure cooker, as opposed to a centrifugal press, is that the end product is already sterilized and can last longer. In addition to a pressure cooker, you will also need a trivet, heat-proof container (or un-perforated insert), and steamer basket.

You can either use the ones supplied or sold by your pressure cooker manufacturer:

Or make one yourself from suitable substitutes (see the Pressure Cooker Accessories Page for details):

You can make extracts from fruits, herbs even flowers (make sure the flowers are edible, grown without pesticides and can be extracted using steam distillation). Some fruits can be used whole (as in berries), while others just need to be cut in half or roughly sliced (no more peeling or coring!!)

To make extracts, add a cup or two of water in the base of the pressure cooker, then the trivet, heat-proof container and on top of that the steamer basket.  Place the fruit in the steamer basket, pressure cook, and the cells of the fruit will burst open and dribble their little juice in the container, below.  The fruit will remain plump, because the steam will have taken the place of the juice but most of the flavor will have been lost and dribbled down into the container below. This is also what happens when you pressure cook something for more than the recommended pressure cooking time – that’s why over-pressure cooked food is so tasteless – all of the juice has left the food and gone into the bottom of the pressure cooker. The trick here, is to catch the flavor without having to do too much work to get it out of the fruit (like peeling, coring, squeezing, filtering, etc.).

The resulting extract can then be mixed with sugar, as in this recipe, to make a syrup to be drizzled on desserts or mixed with water or cocktails, used as a base for making a jelly or used in cooking to add that extra zing of flavor.

Juice Extraction Pressure Cooking Times:

High Pr. (2)
Berries
strawberries, rasberries, etc.
12 min.
Vegetables 15 min.
Fruits with Pits
cherries, plums, peaches, etc.
18 min.
Fruits with Cores
apples, pears, etc.
25 min.

pressure cooker fruit extraction

Pressure Cooker Accessories Pr. Cook Time Pr. Level Open
5 L or larger trivet, steamer, heat-proof bowl 12 min. High (2) Natural

4.8 from 4 reviews
Pressure Cooked Blackberry Italian Soda?!?! Making Fruit Extracts or Steam Juicing Under Pressure
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Drinks
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
This recipe yields about 4oz, 150ml, or ½ of a cup of Blackberry extract and 8oz, 250ml or one cup of Blackberry Syrup - which is enough for about 16 Italian Sodas (1/2 oz. of syrup per 6 oz. of sparkling water). Note that each fruit will have a different yield according to how much you can fit in an even layer in the steamer basket.
INGREDIENTS
  • 14 oz (350g) of Blackberries washed and air-dried.
  • about 1 cup of White sugar (see instructions)
  • 1 bottle Sparkling Water
  • 1 lemon cut into coins
INSTRUCTIONS
To extract juice:
  1. Prepare your pressure cooker by adding one cup of water (or the minimum amount required), the trivet, an empty heat-proof container, and steamer basket filled with the berries in an even layer (see photos). You may want to reserve a few fresh berries to use as a garnish.
  2. Close and lock the lid. Turn the heat to high until the pan reaches pressure, then begin counting 12 minutes cooking time at HIGH pressure.
  3. When time is up, open the pressure cooker using the Natural Release method - move the cooker to a cold burner and don't do anything (about 10 minutes).
  4. The berries will still appear plump, but don't be fooled - their precious juice has leaked out into the container, below, and they are filled with water now.
  5. Pull out the steamer basket (you can make a lightly flavored fruit compote with the left-over fruit).
  6. Next, carefully lift out the heat-proof container and pour the contents into a measuring cup.
To make syrup:
  1. Pour the extract in a heavy-bottom saucepan (if you have a pressure cooker set, you can use the smaller pan from the set).
Add twice the amount of sugar. For example, if the extract was ½ cup, add one cup of sugar. If the extract was ⅔ add 1⅓ cups, etc.
  1. On medium heat, stir the mixture constantly until all of the sugar has dissolved completely and you no longer feel any grit with the spoon at the bottom of the pan (about 5 min.)
  2. Store in the refrigerator for 1-2 months.
To make Italian soda:
  1. Add one spoon of syrup per glass - you might want to try it to see if the strength is right for you. Then, pour on the carbonated water. Serve with a stirrer, or garnished skewer for stirring, and a lemon coin.
  2. Squeeze the lemon coin in the "soda" before drinking.
    Yeilds about 1 cup syrup.

fissler vitavit pressure cooker step-by-step

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85 Comments

  1. Oh my gosh, I love this! I’ve got blueberries in season now, peaches any minute, and apples not far behind! Oh, oh, and concord grapes!

  2. omg.. this is so amazing..! now where is my pressure cooker! Thanks for posting ! i know what i am doing on the weekend now!

    Richa @Hobby And More Vegan Food Blog
    Hobby And More on Facebook

  3. Is doing this right now! thank you, I was really looking for a better option for my children and this is perfect! :)

  4. Kris, let me know how you like it!

    Richa, come back to tell us your results!

    Jen, what fruit did you use? How did it go with the family? If you don’t add sugar (I saw on your blog that you are going sugar-free) it’s best not to dilute it extract too much with water.

    Ciao,

    L

  5. THAT looks interesting!

  6. I extracted juice from elderberries last night using your pressure cooker method – fantastic!! Works like a dream.

    Just made jelly, and with some leftover juice, made the syrup as you recommended. It is divine! I can’t wait to get some sparkling water to try it for the soda. If we get lucky enough and pick more fruit in a week or two, I’m going to extract some for cordial!

    Now, do you recommend doing in batches (as I did, since it’s so much work to get the berries), or do you think the juice would still drip down if I layered it in the steamer pretty thickly?

    Elderberries are a lot of work, but they are so delicious. And beautiful! Such a pretty color of juice.

    Thank you for the info!

    Photos:
    http://www.facebook.com/medi/set/?set=a.2135919810083.111289.1608724059

  7. Ciao Sara,

    I would do an even layer… to make sure you get the most juice out of the fruit. Doing a thick layer might leave some of the precious juice stuck between the fruits!

    Ciao,

    L

  8. I just used this method to juice organic frozen mixed berries (so as not to waste premium fresh berries, if unsuccessful). UNBELIEVABLE!!! I got just over 2 cups of juice that smells wonderful. Thanks for giving us another way to be creative in the kitchen! I cannot wait to use this method with herbs and flowers!

  9. I’m so excited to set a technique loose, and hear what everyone else is doing with it! The left-over fruit is not very flavorful but I like to mix it with lots of sugar and whipped cream and eat it!

    Ciao,

    L

  10. Laura, what a wonderful looking site. I love using my pressure cooker and it is great to see someone who has devoted all their musings to it!

    Keep it up

    Matt

  11. Welcome Matt, I look forward to seeing you run away and doing something delicious with these techniques!

    Ciao,

    L

  12. I just tried with jasmine flowers for the recommended 10mins. Big fail! The scent was totally destroyed. Either too hot or too long or a combo of both.

    Has anyone actually tried with flowers? Any successes?

    I’m keen to make a jasmine sugar syrup for summer drinks. Any other methods / tips appreciated.

  13. Angel, Flower extraction is tricky and can only be used on select flowers. First, you should know what kind of extraction is best for the flower your are using. If the flower requires alacohol distillation or any other kind of extraction other than steam they are not appropriate for this method. Also, keep in mind that some “flower extracts” actually come from the leaves, stems, seeds or even root of the plant and not the flower itself.

    Jasmine flowers, for example, require alcohol distillation and are not appropriate for this method, while Roses, instead, can have their scent extracted by steam distillaton and they are appropriate for this method.

    This is by no means an exhaustive list, and a little google searching could yeild more results but I recommend you try extracting juice using this method with roses, lavander flowers leaves and stems, rosemary flowers “leaves” and stems, Orange and other citrus Flowers, Chamomile Flowers, Geranium Flowers & Leaves (especially the scented varieties), Hyssop, Violets stems & leaves and Sage flowers stems and leaves.

    Have fun and I look forward to hearing back from you along with any other tips that my readers would like to share!

    Ciao,

    L

    1. What about mint?

  14. Laura,
    This technique is brilliant! And very timely since there is a bumper crop of blackberries here in the Pacific Northwest.
    I’m loving your blog and the way you stretch the traditional boundaries. I grew up with pressure cooked soups and vegetables and had no idea there were so many other wonderful things to be made.
    Keep up the great work.
    Meg

  15. Thank you for your encouragement and support Meg!

    Angel, I think I have a solution for your Jasmine Syrup. My three-year-old daughter gave me the idea while picking jasmine flowers this morning from the neighbor’s hedge and saying they smelled like sugar.

    It is not a pressure cooker solution, but putting jasmine blossoms in a jar with sugar and leving it to infuse a week or two should give you jasmine-flavored sugar which you could then use to make your simple syrup to add to drinks. When making your syrup add the blossoms, too, and then strain it all when finished.

    Ciao,

    L

  16. I was just about to spend big bucks on a 3 piece juicing setup but will give this a try first since I already have a pressure cooker…wish I had stumbled across this before I harvested this fall’s elderberry crop. Has anyone tried it with mixed veggies? I’m thinking of something like V8 juice…

  17. I’m interested to hear if anyone has tried doing this with veggies, too! Let me know how it works out.

    Ciao,

    L

  18. Hi Laura

    Any suggestions for ginger? I usually pressure cook small pieces in 1 cup water and then strain it and make syrup from it. Would this method work better for ginger as well?

  19. I did this last night with pomegranate. Then I used the resulting juice to make a pomegranate limeade. Different than the soda, but my family loved it! Thanks for the idea!

  20. Lovely idea to make a pomegralimeade! ; )

    L

  21. Laura, What a wonderful idea. Going to try immediately. However, my only concern from a health perspective is what the pressure cooking process does to the nutritional content of the fruit. Love it as a way to get away from traditional sodas. Not sure about using it as a substitute for “health-conscious” juicing. Do you, or any one reading this, have any information on what pressure cooking fruit does to its nutritional content? Thanks for a neat soda treat! -John

    1. John, all great questions. The affects to fruits would likely not be much different than steaming them NOT under pressure. Some vitamins are sensitive to the LENGTH of cooking, pressure cooking them for a few minutes versus steaming for an hour is probably a good thing.

      Certainly, there may be an affect on vitamin contents between raw and cooked fruits but I haven’t done enough research on that to be able to comment on it.

      Ciao,

      L

    2. Laura, Here are a couple of links I’ve found about pressure cooking and nutritional content. Not saying they are authoritative, but they were helpful to me. Let the reader judge.

      http://missvickie.com/library/benefits.html
      selected quote: “Pressure cooking under steam is one of the best methods because it minimizes time and requires little water.”

      http://www.eatingwell.com/healthy_cooking/healthy_cooking_101_basics_techniques/what_is_the_effect_of_pressure_cooking_on_nutr
      selected quote: “With vegetables and fruits, the heat-sensitive nutrients (e.g., vitamin C, folate and bioactive phytonutrients) are generally most susceptible to degradation during pressure cooking.”

      If I understand the process for pressure cooking fruit syrups correctly, pressure cooking under steam is a good description. The time and exposure to water would be minimized which would maximize the nutritional content compared to other cooked methods.

  22. can you do this with pommegranates?
    Do you clean the arils out first or quarter the fruit?

    1. I have done it with pomegranate. I split it in quarters and teased the seeds into the steamer basket. However, 12 minutes did not extract a lot of juice – and then I ran out of pomegranates to do my tests, so I say you try one at 15-20 minutes at high pressure.

      Let me know how it goes! I just planted a pomegranate tree (but it’s still in shock). So next year, I hope to have lots of answers for you!!!

      Ciao,

      L

  23. I’d love to try this with apples. Do I slice, peel, core, quarter, etc. before putting the apples in the steamer?

    1. Marilyn, I wouldn’t peel if the apples are organic. Just run each one through an apple slicer (which automatically cores) before tossing in the basket. I’m a little concerned about the apples turning into mush and dribbling through the steamer basket holes.

      It’s worth a shot!

      Let me know how it turns out.

      Ciao,

      L

  24. I wonder if you could make orgeat (almond syrup) more effectively and with less steps using a pressure cooker. What do you think?

    http://www.artofdrink.com/ingredients/syrups/orgeat-syrup/

    1. Most of the recipes I found used room-temperature or in water that is 50C. The pressure cooker reaches temperatures of 120C – so I wonder if cooking the almonds (even if for a flash) would alter their flavor.

      If you want to try it, I would say to just bring them up to pressure, and let the cooker open with natural release.

      Ciao,

      L

  25. I tried this with one cup of water in my electric pressure cooker for 20 minutes with some plums. I didn’t get a ton of juice and the fruit was still very, very flavorful. I’m wondering if I should add more water or cook for longer or both?

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