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. Can you tell me a little bit more about how you did this? Did you leave the fruit whole? Was it in the steamer basket in an even layer?

    Ciao,

    L

  2. The fruit was whole, in an even layer in the steamer basket. The plums are quite small.

    1. AHA! That explains it.

      Only berries should be pressure cooked whole. Try again by slicing the plums in half or quarters (depending on size – if really small I would do half) and putting them face down in the steamer basket – no need to remove the seeds.

      Have fun!

      Ciao,

      L

  3. I did this with my blackberries and it totally worked!!

    I looked at the berries and said, “they just *have* to have something left,” but when I tried them, they tasted only like skin and seeds, with just a hint of blackberry flavor.

    WOW! I am now going through my freezer and repacking the blackberries as juice!

    1. Sounds great! Be sure to take a photo to post here for others to see.

      Ciao,

      L

  4. Hi Laura
    Thanks for the recipe! I made greengages syrup (a sort of sweet green plum) (left) and raspberry syrup (right). They both taste amazing! Only problem is they are both a bit gloopy and solidify when put in the fridge. The plum one doesn’t mix that well in cold soda water even when at the syrup is at room temperature and there are little syrupy pearls in the bottom of the glass. Any advice? And must they be kept in the fridge? Thanks M.

  5. Question: I’m looking to make cranberry jelly (my family was raised on the purple log, and we have to avoid HFCS due to DD’s allergies), so I was wondering if I could use this technique for cranberries.

    Last year I extracted the juice by cooking and then running (pressing, shoving, begging, really) the cranberries through a sieve.

    I’d like to extract the juice without the bother. How long should I pressure cook the berries?

    1. Well, to be honest I haven’t tried it. But cranberries can be “steam juiced” so I don’t see why they can’t be “pressure steam juiced”!

      The steam juicing time charts I’ve seen say the cranberries need slightly more time than other berries, so to be on the safe side try this for 15 minutes at pressure instead of 12.

      I’m really excited to see how this will turn out. Be sure to come back and post pics!!!

      Ciao,

      L

      P.S. Amen to avoiding HFCS! I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia when I lived in the US and always had to bring snacks with me wherever I went to prevent sugar crashes. Three months after I moved to Europe: no more hypoglycemia. I realized it after I was carrying around the same back-up snack for weeks and never needed it. I just never crash anymore, ever. The difference? There is no High Fructose Corn Syrup in Europe!

      Keep up the good work with making genuine home-made foods for your family, it really makes a difference to their health!

      Ciao,

      L

  6. Hi Laura!
    thanks for sharing your wonderful life experiences with PCooker. I have a question! I tried to get some insights on the internet but I could not find any answers.
    1) what is the main difference between the PC and the Juice Steamer?
    2) which tecniques gives the best results in taste?
    3) Nutricional wise, which process is best?

    Thanks so much Laura, and much success in your proyects.
    Luis

    1. Steam juicing under pressure is much faster than conventional steam juicing because the steam pressure breaks the fruit in a matter of minutes.

      I haven’t seen any literature that states that one system is better than the other – however steaming juicing under pressure is definately faster!

      Ciao,

      L

  7. Our rose hopes are almost ripe. I will try to extract using this technique. Do you suggest crushing the hips or just halving them?
    Vitamin C does not like heat so I am hoping that faster will be better.
    I’ll report on the consistency and uses r7hf the elixir.

    1. I’ve never extracted from rosehips, but I think they’re quite hard so I would halve or quarter them so that the steam can get in there and do its work!

      Ciao,

      L

  8. Do you think this would work with frozen fruit? If so, would you start with frozen or thaw the fruit first. I am thinking about a peach syrup, but the season is over.

    Thank you!

    1. Yes, it will work with frozen fruit. De-frost it in the refrigerator first.

      Ciao,

      L

  9. Will this work with dried berries, such as dried elderberries for elderberry syrup?

    1. No. This will not work with dried fruit, there is no juice left to express in dried fruit. You could try boiling it in the pressure cooker base with just enough water to cover – but my experience has been that this just re-hydrates the fruit it doesn’t really make any juice.

      Ciao,

      L

  10. Can frozen blackberries be used?

    1. OOPS. Just read the post above mine! Sorry for the repetition!
      Ciao!

  11. Hi Laura, did you get around to experimenting with pomegranates? Any tips for us?

  12. You talk about it being possible to do this with herbs. I’d like to make mint Italian sodas. Any tips?

    1. I have not done this with mint myself, but it is possible to get “mint essence” with non-pressure steam juicers (which take an hour). From what I read don’t pack mint too tightly in the steamer basket and I would try for 10 minutes and see what happens.

      Ciao,

      L

  13. I love this idea and tried it out. I put 1 cup of blackberries (frozen) in tin foil pouch on top of a steamer basket (didn’t have a small pan that would fit). I pressure cooked it for 7 minutes. I got about 3 tablespoons of juice. I then made the syrup with Truvia (4 1/2 teaspoons). I liked 2 tablespoons in my glass over mineral water because I like it sweeter.

    Trying to make something a little better for my son and I (he loves soda).

    Gonna try the other sweeteners I have like Swerve. The full sugar will be gifts.

    I have a Casa Essentials 5 quart aluminum pressure cooker.

    1. Corene, thanks for sharing your experience. I think that if you want to do more of this you should work on getting a steamer basket and rack. ; )

      That’s wonderful that you’re trying to wean your son off of soda – at least in your home you can choose not to have any. Get him hooked on your home-made fruit syrups and you can always add less, and less syrup to the water. ; )

      Ciao,

      L

  14. Would this work with citrus? If so, how do you recommend preparing the fruit?

  15. Hi, are the above cooking times for extracting juice for a stove top cooker at 15 psi or the Smart Pot (which I’m thinking of purchasing)? Thanks DJ

    1. DJ, these should work with the Instant Pot – I have not had a chance to try them myself. With most fruits, even a small amount of pressure should burst open the cells to release their juice. With our next big blackberry haul at the end of this summer I will test this in the Instant Pot and also using different pressures.

      Ciao,

      L

      1. I just made blackberry jelly in my new instant pot, and it is clear, rich, set and BITTER! The fruit was sweet and juicy. Should I start again, but avoid the pressure cooking, as that must bring out the seed bitterness more than just boiling it in an open pan. Blackcurrant jelly was a real success, but of course, no bitter seeds………….

        1. I’ve made lots of blackberry jam in the pressure cooker and this flavor change has not happened to me, yet. However, I am very careful to keep suspect and obviously not ripe blackberries out of the batch. Could there have been some unripe berries in there?

          Ciao,

          L

  16. I did my rosehips last year in an Instant Pot and the extract was heaven. Just rough chopped the berries and dumped everything in. Used around 20 minutes, as I remember. I expected bitterness from so many seeds but tart and tasty. We added a shot to kefir smoothies. It mixes well with tequila and a dash of simple syrup.
    The mash left was tasteless as other fruits. It seems that all the goodness was in the juice.
    We are waiting for our local blueberry and hascap crops to ramp up the juicing this year.
    DJ, you will love your Instant Pot. A whole world of time and energy efficient cooking opens up.
    Happy P Cooking!
    PoP

    1. Wow, that rosehip juice is inviting – what a great way to use it, too! Thanks for sharing the photo and mixing ideas.

      Ciao,

      L

  17. Thank you for the help. This is a wonderful site.

    I have several stove top cookers including one of the pressure fryers. I had a lovely Kuhn Ricon Duromatic that bit the dust when my husband decided to use it to roast peanuts. He forgot about it and literally melted the bottom of the base which separated from the rest of the cooker. Sigh! And, yes, we are still married.

    Which is why I was thinking I’d replace it with the Smart Pot.

    1. Without “helpful” husbands companies would sell a lot less pressure cookers. Join the club! : )

      Ciao,

      L

  18. I don’t know about the blackberries, but doing this with grapes it helps to refrigerate the jiuce for a week. This allows the tannins in the peels to precipitate out, which are then filtered out. This improves the flavor.

  19. I am wondering where you got your non-perforated basket, as my pressure cooker only came with the steamer one.

  20. I use a stainless steel bowl that fits just right. It looks like the pix for this recipe does the same.

    I’m starting the make water kefir which can have some sweetness and naturally “carbonates” Adding these wonderful extracts to this soda should make great liquid treats for the grandkids (if there is any left by the time they get here)

  21. Thanks for this post! I was just thinking I’d love to extract scent from my rosemary for shampoo and soaps. Definitely plan to try this. If it works, then sage and lavender are next.

    1. Noreen, how did it turn out? I think rosemary, sage and lavender need to be distilled – unfortunately.

      Ciao,

      L

  22. This looks fantastic! I just threw in some “past their prime” strawberries and a handful of frozen marionberries into my InstantPot. Hoping to use to make a shrub (with pineapple vinegar and mint). Thank you for sharing!

    1. Wow, how did that turn out? I wonder if the “hot sauce” technique on this website might be a little better (strawberries also 1 minute). Though I say this from reading the ingredients, I don’t really know what a “shrub” is!

      http://www.hippressurecooking.com/pressure-cooker-hot-sauce/

      Ciao,

      L

      1. This turned out great! I mixed in some vanilla simple syrup that we had made previously, and then added some pineapple vinegar. Fruit shrubs are also known a as “drinking vinegar.” Can add to sparkling water/soda, or cocktails. We used in a gin & tonic. Here is a recipe from The Kitchn – http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-a-fruit-shrub-syrup-174072

  23. Can we do this with citrus?

    1. You can just squeeze the orange juice out without a pressure cooker – but if you’re looking to get flavor from the peels try this technique, instead:
      http://www.hippressurecooking.com/candied-lemon-peels-new-pressure-cooker-technique/

      Ciao,

      L

  24. How about cranberries?

    1. Haven’t tried. You might want to pierce them so that little air pocket can easily come out and the pressure can easily go in.

      Ciao,

      L

  25. Hi Laura, thanks for sharing this recipe. I used frozen mixed berries and it came out beautifully delicious. The syrup is to die for and with the remaining berries I just added a bit of honey and wow what a delicious compote. My love of cooking has returned since I bought your book and discovered your website. My family also thanks you.
    Keep up the great work and for sharing your recipes.

    Take care
    Mil

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