Smreka! A Simple Fermentation Recipe

by Mason Hutchison

Looking for a new fermentation recipe? Look no further than the tasty Bosnian beverage, smreka! Smreka is a Bosnian word that translates to juniper berry, and could not be easier to make as it only has two ingredients (three if you count the wild yeast on the berries). The only difficult part is waiting the month that it takes to reach peak fermentation.

I first heard about smreka from Sandor Katz’s book (where else?) The Art of Fermentation. The recipe I use is identical to the one found in his book, except I quartered everything.

Here’s the ingredients:

½ cup of juniper berries

Quart of water

Here’s the supplies:

Quart Mason jar with lid

Sprouting screen (or any liquid straining device)

Cheesecloth (optional)

1/2 cup of juniper berries

1/2 cup of juniper berries

Here’s what to do:

Pour the ½ cup of juniper berries into the jar and then fill it with water. You have a couple of options for capping it. For a more carbonated beverage, cap it tightly, but be sure to release the pressure every few days. Alternatively, place cheesecloth on top, or cap loosely with a lid for ease of pressure release. Either way will work. I chose to cap tightly and release the pressure every few days for the carbonation effect. You’re going to need to stir or shake the smreka every day or so. Allow it to ferment for approximately one month. By then, most or all of the juniper berries should have sunk to the bottom of the jar. This is when your smreka is ready to be imbibed. 

Here's the smreka after one month. Notice all of the berries have sunk to the bottom of the jar. Capped with a band and a sprouting screen.

Strain that fermented goodness. Try not to spill!

The last step is to strain the fermented beverage into a drinking vessel. The way I do it is super simple: I screw a sprout screen onto the mason jar with a regular lid-band. I then tip the drink over and strain all of the contents into a separate mason jar. Then I’ll cap the strained smreka and compost the remaining juniper berries. 

A note on what juniper berries to use:

Sandor says that smreka can be made with fresh or dried juniper berries. However, if you make them with fresh, you need to be certain that the juniper berries are edible, as some of the species are toxic. I buy mine from Mountain Rose Herbs as I know the ones they sell are the edible species. However, if you know your junipers, making smreka with your own wildcrafted berries would be outstanding!


The smreka is quite tasty.

The smreka is quite tasty.

Juniper berries from  Mountain Rose Herbs

Juniper berries from Mountain Rose Herbs

Mason is the creator of HerbRally and the Event and Outreach Coordinator for Mountain Rose Herbs. He studied herbalism, wildcrafting and botany at the Columbines School of Botanical Studies in Eugene, OR.

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