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Last Chance Foods

Last Chance Foods: Stay Cool, Drink Real Food

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It’s the high season for cool, slushy drinks. Nina Planck, author of several Real Food cookbooks, says her fermented watermelon basil cooler illustrates one of her key principles: when she processes food, she does it in ways that enhance nutrition, flavor, and shelf life. 

Nina Planck / photo by  Katherine Wolkoff

Nina's recipe for fermented watermelon basil cooler (Makes two quarts)


  • 8–10 lb watermelon
  • 8–10 Meyer lemons
  • small bunch of Genovese basil
  • 1/4 c organic whole cane sugar
  • 1/4 c fresh whey
  • 1 T unrefined sea salt
  • 3 c water
  1. Make 3 cups of watermelon juice in a blender or food processor. Don’t strain the pulp.
  2. Squeeze 1 cup of lemon juice.
  3. Take 1/2 cup of basil leaves and gently bruise them using a mortar and pestle to release the oil.
  4. Put all the ingredients in a 2-quart glass jar, cover with water, and close the lid tightly.
  5. Stir and leave out at room temperature for 3 days. Allow a little carbonation to escape when necessary and replace the cap firmly. Chill and serve. Keeps up to 2 weeks in the fridge.