Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Recipe: Homemade Cream Soda from Scratch -Batch 2

My wife recently requested I make her a soda that she'd actually like. Knowing that she loves cream soda, I made a batch-and it turned out tasting really good. The last batch I made was too much cinnamon, and ended up with a weird off-taste that most batches with cinnamon tend to develop.
I excluded the cinnamon from this recipe and added something else for a little bit of complexity beyond the vanilla alone.

2x 6 inch vanilla beans(cut into many pieces with kitchen shears)
1 pinch of raisins(about 6)-each cut in half by kitchen scissors
1 pinch of dried cranberries(about 6)-each cut in half by kitchen scissors
1 tbsp. honey
2 cups sugar
1 gallon of water
1 dash of ale yeast

Fill a stock pot with 2 quarts of water, place vanilla beans, raisins and dried cranberries into the stock pot. Bring to a simmer on medium-high heat. Let simmer 20 minutes, stirring on occasion.
Add 1 quart of cold water to the brew, letting steep about 10 minutes.
Stir in 1 tbsp of honey, add last quart of water and remove from heat. Let steep another 15 minutes. While steeping for 15 minutes, get your bottles and caps ready. Fill sink with cold water and ice. Not too full, as you'll be placing your stockpot in there to cool the brew.
After the brew has cooled to about 90 degrees Fahrenheit, scoop some into a coffee cup and add the yeast.
Strain the brew into your bottling bucket(or another stock pot). Stir in your yeast and bottle!
I got about ten 12 oz. bottles.
The sample taste I tried before bottling reminded me alot of Thomas Kemper's. It was double-vanilla strength with slight fruitiness. It had a beautiful golden-yellow color-much like honey or ginger ale.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Working on root beer and planning out my clone...

Making a second batch of root beer using the leftover ingredients from the first batch. Once Sassafras has dried out, it can be re-used. This batch promises to be a bit better, as I recently discovered that I used enough sassafras to make a 3.5-4 gallon batch! That explains the too-strong sassafras flavor I was getting with the last batch, so I dried it out and am  in the process of making a second batch that is 2 gallons.
I also made a better caramel color to be added to this batch-it's 1 cup of water and 1 3/4 cups of brown sugar. Brought the mix to a boil and let it go until it started to smell burnt, then reduced heat, constantly stirring to prevent the sugar from baking on to the sauce pan.
Anyways, I've been thinking about what I need to do to make my clone, and think I've got it worked out pretty well. What mass market root beer am I planning on cloning, you ask? The best of the best(in my opinion)-Virgil's. I will also be reviewing Virgil's Root Beer very soon.
Expect that review and the Sarsaparilla recipe shortly-the clone brew will come after I polish off this batch of root beer and the sarsaparilla.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Homemade Old Fashioned Root Beer from Scratch Follow Up

This has been one of my best brews yet. It carbonated within 24 hours, provided a tasty, refreshing beverage with an excellent head, and it has gone rather quickly.
I will say that the amount of Sassafras is a little excessive-imparted a bit too much of that for the first day of drinking. It's improved with age, but I imagine cutting down the 7 tbsp. to 4 will be more then sufficient. The 7 tbsp. was about 3 oz. I believe, and most "old fashion" recipes only call for an ounce per gallon. Oh well, I wanted a strong sassafras flavor and got it.
In addition to the sassafras, however, I also detect hints of molasses, cinnamon and a slight bit of black licorice. It has a bit of a bite to it-much like Barq's.
Another excellent side effect of this homemade root beer from scratch? The wort left over has made quite the nice potpourri. The mixing cup full of the strained wort still sits in our window sill, and every breeze sends subtle hints of root beer tones floating through our nostrils.
Next up-Sarsaparilla and my attempt to clone an excellent store-bought Root Beer.
Click here for the recipe to this homemade root beer...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Recipe: Homemade Old Fashioned Root Beer From Scratch

After one root beer experiment, I decided I needed to try to make an old-fashioned style Root Beer. It doesn't use some of the more traditional ingredients(like burdock, or dandelion root, or hops), but it is made with sassafras for that distinct root beer flavor that everyone associates specifically with root beer.
Here goes.

7 tbsp. Sassafras root(chopped and dried)
1 tbsp. wintergreen leaves
1 tbsp. anise seed(crushed)
1 tsp licorice root
1 3 in. Cinnamon stick
1 6 in. vanilla bean
2 cups of cane sugar
1 cup of brown sugar
1.5 gallons of water
1/4 tsp. ale yeast

Fill a stock pot with 1 gallon of water, and a jar(or bottle) with 1/2 gallon of water. Place the 1/2 gallon of water in the refrigerator, and combine all the herbs and spices above in the stock pot. Bring to a simmer, and after about 25 minutes(10 minutes of getting up to heat, 15 minutes to steep). Stir in both sugars, add cold water from the refrigerator, and let cool to under 100 degrees Fahrenheit.(I allowed mine to go to about 85).
Scoop a cup full of brew into a small container, add 1/4 tsp. of yeast, and allow it to work for 5-10 minutes. Strain the brew into another container(brew bucket), then mix in the yeast water. It's ready to bottle.
It's only been about 24 hours since I've made my brew and it's already carbonated-this could be due to the larger amount of yeast or the warmer weather, but fair caution, this might carb up a little more quickly then the other batches have.
There will be a follow up soon enough.

Recipe: Cardamom Cream Soda

I first tried Cardamom a few years ago in the form of cardamom ice cream, made locally at an ice cream shop in downtown Bellingham, Washington known as "Mallards". It's a rich, aromatic spice that lends itself well to many dishes-meat, stews, sweets and treats. It's also most widely recognized as one of the components in chai tea.
I decided I wanted to try a cardamom-flavored soda, but I think I may have been overly ambitious with the large amount of ingredients. It produced a very good flavor, but I may have let the yeast work a little too long and ended up with a less then sweet, spicy concoction. Flavorful, to be sure, but not at all what it should have been.

20 cardamom seed pods
1/4 cup of raisins(coarsely chopped)
1 6 inch vanilla bean(cut)
1 sliver of nutmeg(probably too much nutmeg)
1 3 inch cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
2 cups of brown sugar
1 gallon of water
1/8 tsp. yeast

Combine all ingredients besides the cream of tartar and sugar(and yeast) in a large stock pot, and let it steep as it comes to a simmer. Let simmer on heat for 10-15 minutes, then remove from heat, stir in sugar and cream of tartar, and let steep for 20 minutes.  Add 1/2 gallon of cold water(I've found that making the water cold helps quicken the cooling time), strain the mixture into bottling bucket(or strain into a different large stock pot), and let cool to about 90 degrees.
Meanwhile, activate yeast in a cup of brew that is also around 90 degrees, let sit for 5 minutes, and then stir into brew.
Bottle and let sit for 2-3 days until carbonated.
My first and only tester bottle came open after about 2.5 days, and was sufficiently carbonated-it didn't fizz over the top, and had a nice amount of carbonation to go with the flavor. I detected far too much nutmeg in the initial brew, and it kind of overpowers the rest of the flavors besides the cardamom and raisins.
The flavor is very akin to a hard apple cider without the apples or alcohol. It's very crisp, but spicy at the same time. The raisins added a bit of a fruity tang to the mix, but I think less nutmeg would have done the brew well to help bring out the subtle notes of vanilla that were on the lips afterwards.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Homemade Cinnamon-Cherry Fizz Follow Up the Second.

After a few days in the fridge I can give an honest assessment of my latest odd experiment. It's very cinnamony. It's really delicious, but it feels like it's missing something. It's completely absent of cherry flavor-I was a little surprised by this as it was quite strong in the initial brew before bottling, but it faded after the yeast took hold. Which is a bit odd, because usually aging helps bring out all the flavors of the ingredients.
Next time around I will need to use cherry juice. Failing that I'll be using a lot more almond extract, and I think some raisins and citric acid will add a nice touch to final product.
There is one thing I believe this soda will excel in, however, and that's when it's mixed with a scoop or two of ice cream-vanilla might be best, but I'm sure it would give a nice flavor with chocolate for all of you chocolate lovers out there.
The fun thing about experimenting with your own homemade soda is learning about new flavor possibilities you would have otherwise never discovered. I was hoping for a very sweet and spicy soda here, and what I got ended up tasting much like cinnamon toast. It's good, mind you, but it's not what I expected. Maybe I should go back and label this as "Cinnamon Fizz", but I think in the interest of consistency I should just leave well enough alone and revisit the idea with the added ingredients.
I have another couple of projects lined up, and look forward to making them this weekend. I should have plenty of time as the fam-damily is heading out on a camping trip sans me.
Click here for the recipe behind this drink
Click here for the first part of the follow up.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Memory Lane- Planting the seeds.

It's 1992, summertime. I'm eight years old, on break from school, and thirsty. I'd been running around outside with the other neighborhood kids, playing sports and climbing trees. My father, on the other hand, had been at the grocery store, picking up some refreshing treats-popsicles, ice cream bars-and something new.
What's this? A dark brown glass bottle with a green label? That's weird. Pappy's Old Fashioned Sassafras Tea? Huh. Interesting. I'd never heard of sassafras tea before. I'd heard the weird sassafras before-it was something to call smart-mouthed kids, maybe even something from Looney Toons...but I'd never heard of it being a tea (the following is a rough approximation of how it went down).
"What's this dad?"
"Well, you love root beer, so I thought I'd get you some tea made from sassafras-sassafras is what Root Beer was originally made from.
Sounded tasty to me. We poured some in a glass, filled it with water and ice and I took a sip...interesting. It tasted mostly like root beer...but different. Of course, the difference was mainly due to the lack of carbonation, but at 8, I didn't think of such things. I added more tea concentrate. It definitely satisfied my sweet tooth a lot better-so sweet in fact that it made my mouth pucker.
Anyways, I did eventually find the right mix of tea concentrate and water, and it was a very enjoyable substitute for regular ol' root beer.
It also inspired me to start trying to create my own sodas for the first time. I didn't know anything about home carbonation or yeast or anything like that. I don't remember my specific recipes, but I do recall the process was taking an empty 2-liter bottle, rinsing out the leftover soda, and combining all kinds of thins from around the house-any kind of liquid(besides milk) that I could find was combined with other things. Most of the time it was hot water, sugar, and some kind of juice-but I do recall one batch had a cap full of Scope mouthwash poured into it. I would then walk around the house trying to convince people to try my homemade "soda."  This worked pretty well for a little while-my parents or aunts/uncles would try my concoctions-usually grimacing from all of the sugar or the weird combination of apple juice, sunny delight and vinegar. However, once the bottle with mouthwash in it was sampled, word spread around and people started refusing to try my mixtures. I understand why, of course, but that discouraged me and quickly lead to me discontinuing my soda experiments. At least for a little while...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Homemade Cinnamon-Cherry Fizz Follow Up The First

After 4 days I've finally gotten a bit of carbonation out of the batch of Cinnamon-Cherry Fizz I made.
The first two tester bottles I opened(the first after 48 hours, the second after 72) had no fizz and slight fizz(respectively), and excellent cinnamon flavor-but no cherry flavor that I could detect. That might come out in the refrigeration though, so we'll see.
This morning, however, I checked a third bottle and was greeted with a slight bubble-rush to hint towards the slight bit of carbonation that was already present. Last time this happened I waited 12 hours and popped the bottles in the fridge to be met with a perfect amount of fizz upon letting it stand.
This will be another two part follow-up, as I will definitely revisit, review and add my thoughts about improving the batch if necessary. However, this batch has given me some new information. I have previously made mention of fiberglass-flavors in sodas. I always thought the culprit was too much cinnamon, or it's chemical reaction with the yeast, however, I'm now thinking it is almost exclusively the fault of the yeast.
I made my cream soda from scratch and ended up with that funky fiberglass taste, although in smaller doses then my first attempt. I also used my champagne yeast for that. Lo and behold, I made a quickie batch of cream soda from extract for my wife(whom didn't care for my homemade root beer at all), and used the rest of the champagne yeast. It never carbonated. Which leads me to believe that the fiberglass flavor in my homemade sodas of the past has come from "spoiled" yeast. If it's at the end of it's shelf life, it may produce some weird flavors in combination with it's ingredients. Considering I used the same exact yeast a mere week after the previous batch(which carbonated just fine, but with weird off-flavors), I'm thinking the yeast was at the end of it's viability-it may have been expired(I cut the expiration date off opening the package).
The first cause of off-tasting beverage is generally spoilage brought on by bacteria from improperly sanitized bottles/equipment. However, I did a thorough job of that on my cream soda, and had on the 3 previous batches I had made that I recalled getting the off-flavor with.
Long story short-make sure your yeast is fresh and used within a month of opening it.
Considering I had no off-flavors with this batch(which consists mainly of cinnamon-and lots of it), I can safely say that cinnamon is not the culprit-and thank goodness for that-cinnamon is tasty.

Recipe: Homemade Cinnamon-Cherry Fizz

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Recipe: Homemade Cinnamon-Cherry Fizz

I got the idea for this soda when trying to figure out a use for the Almond extract I originally picked up with the intention of using it in my cream soda. I never used it for my cream soda, but alas, I found another ingredient I thought would pair well with it-cinnamon. The spiciness of the cinnamon paired with the sweetness of the almond extract sounded quite delightful to me. Anyone who has ever used almond extract for any reason, however, knows that almond extract smells much like maraschino cherries. This is understandable, as almond trees belong to the prunus species-which includes peaches, prunes, plums, and cherries. Fun fact-almonds are not actually nuts-they are seeds. They're an edible cousin to the notorious peach pit. Another fun fact-Coca Cola company uses almond extract to flavor their Cherry Coke.
Anyways, I decided I wanted to make a cinnamon-cherry soda, but I didn't have any cherry juice available to me(maybe next time), so I proceeded with cinnamon sticks and almond extract.
The important thing to keep in mind about extracts is that they will lose their potency if put in too hot of water, so you will not be using the extract during the brewing process-it'll come later. On to the recipe...

4 x 3 inch Cinnamon Sticks
1/2 tsp. Almond extract
2 cups Sugar
1 gallon water
1/8 tsp. Ale yeast

Fill a stock pot with about 2 quarts of water and the cinnamon sticks. Put the water on med-high heat, bring to a simmer and let simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
Remove from heat, stir in the sugar, cover and let steep for another 20 minutes.
Pour in the other 2 quarts of water, mix in and check the temperature. If it's around 100 degrees fahrenheit, stir in your almond extract 1/4 tsp. at a time.
Put 1/8 tsp. of yeast in a coffee cup(or measuring cup you used for sugar) with 2 oz. warm water, stir and let sit for 5 minutes.
Ideally, you'll want your brew water to be between 80-90 degrees. Stir in your yeast water and bottle.
This ended up being my first batch of homemade soda that a gallon batch actually filled 11 12 oz. bottles-and 8 oz. leftover to sample the brew. Usually I get about 10 12 oz. bottles with an 8 oz. tester bottle leftover. I think dividing the water in half in the brew process helps retain more of the water as not as much gets lost due to evaporation.
The tester glass tasted amazing-it was sweet, slightly tart and a but spicy. It reminded me of a cherry crisp. I'm anticipating popping open a bottle in 2 days to check out how it's coming along. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

New Supplies and Ingredients!

Sorry for the lack of updates the last few days. My wife just brought me home some fresh ingredients and more bottle caps, so expect a couple of recipes over the next week. Yeah, my wife is awesome.