Friday, November 27, 2009

Ginger Ale #3

2 1/4 oz. young ginger
6 cardamom pods, broken
2 Tbsp juniper berries
1 tsp white pine bark
1/4 cup yarrow flowers
1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon zest
1/2 tsp citric acid
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 gal water
1 2/3 cups sugar
1/4 tsp yeast

We're on to something here. I took several bottles of this just finished batch to Thanksgiving dinner (fermented in a lighted oven to be sure it would be fizzy on time.) Perfectly floral, ever-so-slightly ginny, tangy and refreshing. It's definitely gingery, but without so much ginger heat. Juniper berries are at exactly the right amount--they would be lost with less, but startling with more. A bit more yarrow, being subtler, probably wouldn't hurt, but isn't needed. It isn't markedly lemony, but is satisfyingly citrusy. The cardamom seems lost--maybe a couple more pods to see next time. The pine, too, doesn't seem to be adding much, but perhaps that's as it should be.

The more gingery recipe certainly deserves to be called "Carribean." What we have here might be more of a "mainland" version.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ginger Ale #2

A couple weeks ago, I visited the new pizzeria in my neighborhood, Pi Bar. I spied in their cooler a tiny bottle of Fentiman's Ginger Beer, and asked for a bottle on the way out. I'd intended to savor it at home, but the bartender opened it for me. It was 125ml of delight, sharply gingery, but with strong herbal fragrances. The label keeps nothing secret: it lists ginger, speedwell, juniper, and yarrow extracts, rather than the usual, coy 'natural flavors.' Although it contains carbonated water, this British company seems to actually brew with yeast at some step of their production. So I promptly went to Rainbow and bought juniper berries and yarrow flowers. (They didn't have 'speedwell.') These, I hoped, would add a better complexity to the ginger-sugar combination than the fruit juice of my last batch.

3 oz young ginger (no skinning needed)
4 cardamom pods, broken
2 Tbsp yarrow flowers
1 Tbsp dry juniper berries
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp citric acid
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 2/3 cups sugar
1/8 tsp ale yeast
1 gal water

I opened a bottle after six cool days, and it was drinkably fizzy, though I'll give it another day before chilling. It's very satisfying, with a hint of herbal scent. I think the cream of tartar gives it a smooth mouth-feel. It definitely can use a good bit more of the juniper and especially the yarrow, which smells lovely raw. It might, at some point, be worth trying to extract the essence with alcohol, rather than just boiling, though that opens up a whole new line of experimentation...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Root beer #4

So, this batch was so finicky, and ended up taking so long, that I have misplaced the ingredient list. It might be lying around somewhere, but I do remember that I increased the burdock and yellow dock, as I suggested to myself after the last batch, and, along with the new, blue bottles, I ordered wintergreen and ale yeast, so it's got that too.

After a week of fermentation, I put the bottles in the fridge and took some to work to share. The bottle I shared with Rachel gushed, and shot all over her office and out the door into the library, but then three other bottles were only slightly carbonated. I gave the remaining four a few more days, and cracking the bail tops only released a little gas. Finally, when I bottled the hard cider I was making (with champagne yeast) I put a little of the dregs in the root beer. The bottle I'm drinking now is really tingly and some of the sweetness has gone boozy. The flavor might not satisfy a 10-year-old either, but I like it.

It's perhaps a bit more bitter than the last batch, and there seems to be more going on. I can't distinctly make out the wintergreen, which, made into a tea, was rather mild, nothing like a wintergreen Lifesaver. Maybe there is some coolness to the aftertaste, though. Mmmm.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ginger Ale #0

The ginger beer I posted about a couple weeks ago seemed a little simple to me, compared to the super-simple Trader Joe's based concoction I'd done before, so I decided to make that again as a base-line to compare to. I still highly recommend that anyone interested in trying to make their own soda throw some yeast in a bottle of lemon-ginger-echinacea juice and let it sit till it's fizzy, but I wasn't as enamored of the result this time. It lacked the really sharp, carribean-style bite you get from fresh ginger, and it was, well, rather juicy. I think I can do better: a project for this evening.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

"Cream soda" #2

This tweaking of my first cream soda batch is a little bit improved. It has gotten good reviews from the friends who've tried it, though I wouldn't say I'm in love with it. I upped the vanilla, though it doesn't seem as much stronger as I expected. Eileen thinks more raisin, like the first batch, would be good. I'm fine with the raisin flavor being more subtle. For some reason the increased cinnamon still isn't noticeable, perhaps it's masked by the vanilla. It took a full week to carbonate in our cool apartment.

1 3/4 cups light brown sugar
2 vanilla beans
5 inches chinese cinnamon
scant 1/4 cup raisins
4 quarts water
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp ale yeast.

EDIT: I just came across an article that mentions that unsplit vanilla bean doesn't provide enough flavor. I didn't split them to avoid the little seeds getting out. Mystery solved.