Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Home Brew Part 2

Inspired by my foray into ginger ale brewing and this summer’s foraging in Central Park this past weekend I finally got around to making my own root beer. Something about making soda (or maraschino cherries) feels more like mad scientist work than cooking or baking and leaves me feeling like some sort of magical god of the kitchen so it should come as no surprise that brewing root beer required me to dive into the world of the occult. Most of the root beer recipes on the internet involve “root beer extract” but I felt this would be tantamount to cheating – I mean anyone can mix extract with sugar and water but I’m a mad scientist! In order to make root beer truly from scratch I had to find a source for licorice root, cherry bark and sarsaparilla root and after an unsuccessful hunt through the Chinatown herbalist shops I turned to my trusty friend the internet. I soon found out that majority of people shopping for such items have aspiration far beyond soda pop. The only websites carrying these ingredients were named things like AllHailSatan.com and Witches R Us and also sold spell books and velvet cloaks and please don’t beat me up talismans. Undeterred by the questionable mailing lists that I would end up on I placed an order with Archangel Artifacts (Watch while I gloss over the fact that my 13 year old self totally wished for access to a store that sold Don’t Beat Me Up Talismans and that even my current self would kill for a Love Me Now Spell).

I devoted many CPU cycles over at Google to trying to find a root beer recipe that I felt comfortable with but eventually ended up putting together a super Brianna only recipe that is the amalgamation of 2 or 3 less cool widely available internet recipes. The result was spicier than your standard issue A&W but probably not as good as any of the more premium options on the market.

Kick In The Ass Root Beer

1 oz sarsparilla root
1 4 inch long piece of sassafrass root pulled up from the bowls of Central Park
1 oz cherry bark
1/2 oz licorice root
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 cinnamon stick
2 to 4 oz raisins (you can add more if you like their flavor)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup molasses
1 lb white sugar
1 lb brown sugar

Boil the above with 4 quarts of water for 1.5 hours (which should give your home a spicy fall like smell) then strain (I used a paper towel lined mesh strainer) and add

1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp wintergreen extract

I know that wintergreen extract is hard to fine (though they sell it on Amazon) but do not be tempted to go without – the difference in flavor between the extract free syrup and the wintergreen-y post straining concentrate is monumental.

To turn this concoction into soda either mix with 3 parts carbonated water (if you’re not a mad scientist) or mix with 3 parts still water and half a tsp of yeast and leave in a warm place for 24 hours. I find that the yeast method gives frothier bubbles than the carbonated water method but I might be making that up. I'm also tempted to make some root beer popsicles since I have an Ikea popsicle mold taunting me from my tupperware cupboard and November is the perfect time for popsicles!

Last night I served the root beer straight up and in float form to my house guests while we bashed the latest round of wannabee models. The soda was well received but I probably over did it on the molasses.

Cherish: Like having homemade pie as opposed to Sara Lee frozen pie!

Amy: I liked it much better with ice cream (shocking!). Straight up it was too molasses-y but it totally smelled and tasted like root beer – Good job!

Amy and I made numerous attempts to photograph the root beer floats all to no avail so you’ll just have to trust me that they looked and tasted delicious.

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