October 7, 2014

Book Signing: Barnes & Noble Wilkes-King's in Wilkes-Barre, PA 10/11/14

The Barnes and Noble at Wilkes University/King's College in Wilkes-Barre, PA has graciously invited me for a book signing where I will be signing books, serving samples, hosting a demo and answering questions about my book.

For anyone attending, here's what I have planned out:
-Demonstration showing how to make the Jamaica (Hibiscus) Soda on page 80

-Samples of Strawberry (p. 61), Ginger Ale (p. 88), Lemon Mint (p. 91), and Caramel Apple (p. 121) as syrups to be mixed with carbonated water.

-Samples of Harvest Apple (p. 109) on tap from a keg.

Feel free to stop by and chat, buy a book, drink a soda, or just hang out!

When: Saturday Oct. 11, 2014,  2:00pm to 4:00pm
Where: Barnes & Noble Wilkes-King's, 7 South Main Street, Wilkes-Barre, PA

August 29, 2014

Recipe 35 - Mockter Pepper, From the Pages of Making Soda at Home

I know that my Mountain Dew Clone continues to be far and away my most popular post on this blog, garnering thousands of pageviews and dozens of comments.

That said, I knew there had to be people out there looking for other matches, so I thought I would bring something more to the table, though surprisingly, Homemade Coke didn't seem to have the same allure.  Maybe there's enough out there on the web that people are getting their fix, or Coke drinkers didn't want to relive the possible New Coke fiasco at home.

There's another beverage out there who's recipe is as secretive as Coca-Cola, yet it's hinted at in their advertising as to it's complexity.  Dr. Pepper touts a whopping 23 flavors that make up their magical concoction and there are a number of lists floating around on speculation as to what those 23 flavors might be.  Taking those into consideration, I made up my own:

As a preview to My Book, I bring you Mockter Pepper; or homemade Dr Pepper. Quarry's SPOON Blog posted the recipe, so you'll find the complete excerpt there.

For anyone interested in how I ended up with it, I will say this one was a bit of a challenge.   My goal was focused more on attaining something suitable rather than nailing all 23 mystery flavors, you have a better chance of winning the lottery trying to match 5 numbers and a powerball in my opinion.  It's important to remember that flavors found in nature are a cocktail of various organic volatiles, and it's the blend that is usually unique to a flavor rather then the components.  For example, benzaldehyde is a key component of almond flavor, but it's also a key component of cherry flavor and typically found in most drupe fruits to some degree.  So if Dr Pepper's 23 flavor formula consists of any of the drupe fruits (plum, cherry, black cherry, apricot, peach, etc.) it likely doesn't matter from what I derive my benzaldehyde in my recipe.  Dr Pepper has denied the claim that they use prune juice in their flavoring, but I find it's a suitable base in mine.  So I don't worry so much about hitting all 23 or even having 23, especially considering the fact that no one without direct knowledge can confirm what 23 they actually are.  

In my recipe, I started with a pepsi type cola recipe as a base (I have read that some people outside the US will take an almond extract and add it to Pepsi and they swear it tastes like Dr Pepper), I had read that gentian root, a component of angustora bitters is also touted by some as being a key flavoring component of both Dr Pepper and Pepsi, so I added that to the cola recipe.  As I mentioned, for the drupe fruit base, I used dried plums.  I also used raspberries for a more complex fruit flavor.  I added cloves since that seemed to show up on a lot of "23 flavors" lists floating around and some wild cherry bark for a more complex bittering.  I'm not a Pepper drinker, so I can't say that it's an exact match, but it's close enough for me to call it what it is.  As you can see here and in the cola and Dew recipes, I'm not much of a caffeine drinker, so I left that out as well.

I'd love to hear comments for anyone that is a Pepper fan and how this recipe stacks up.  Now you can make enough to have at 10, 2, and 4 and everywhere in between.

August 16, 2014

SodaStream Genesis Kit

So I'm not a huge fan of the SodaStream.  I have a keg, so I don't need to be.  But I do recognize a deal when I see one.

Groupon is running a deal right now for a SodaStream Genesis Kit which includes the Genesis, two bottles, a mini carbonator (3oz - I'm guessing that will carbonate 12-15 L of soda), 4 syrups, and a $20 mail in rebate. You pay 79.99 up front, but you essentially get the whole thing for 59.99 because of the rebate offer. That seems pretty reasonable to me, considering what you get with it.

You pay 79.99 up front, but you essentially get the whole thing for 59.99 because of the rebate offer. That seems pretty reasonable to me, considering what you get with it.

The $20 mail in rebate is pretty ubiquitous, though.  I've seen them on store shelves with the same rebate attached.  If you purchased on recently and didn't get the rebate, you might be able to still pick up that $20 if you still have your receipt, just visit the link below:
SodaStream (Soda-Club) USA

And once you run out of the four flavor mixes included in the kit, there's always more recipes here, or I came across a super why-didn't-I-think-of-that easy way to make your own with Crystal Light packets and still use the same ratio of syrup in your SodaStream bottle.  See the instructable for all the details.

July 18, 2014

Pinterest Recipe Challenge: Blue Bubblegum Soda

I need to make a confession. I'm a dude, and I use Pinterest.

In my defense, the place is getting a lot more dude friendly, so I know I'm not the only male using the site. When it first came out, I didn't understand what all the rage was about, and when it was referred to as a social media site, I was confused. At first glance I couldn't see that it was anything more than a bookmarking site and I thought it was appalling that our social communication had digressed from well scripted eloquent letters to sloppy, hasty emails, to the limited canvas of SMS messages and Twitter to the "let me show you because it's easier to explain it if I take a picture" of instagram, to being so lazy that we have to steal someone else's picture and say "This!" In order to make our point. Yeah, we can't even take our own pictures, now? Wow.

But I've come to see it as what it really is. A collection of things we wish we could do that someone else with a nicer camera has already done.

I have a board that I've chalked up as "recipe challenge" with the express purpose of attempting to make the sodas that others with nicer cameras have already made to see how they stack up. First up is kind of two fold. This is a recipe from Cherry Tea Cakes for blue bubble gum soda.
Blue bubble gum soda from Cherry Tea Cakes, clearly taken with a better camera.
Now, it's not specifically stated, but with a name like blue bubble gum soda, why would you not mention Jones? Bubble gum in my childhood was usually pink, so 'fess up. Tell it like it is. You're trying to do a Jones knock-off.

Basically the recipe is equal parts (by volume) gumballs and water, boiled to extract the flavor and sugar, then mixed with carbonated water to taste. Make sure you read the caveat about not letting the gum stick to the pan, it's important.

One thing that is interesting about this recipe is that at first glance it may seem like it's a natural thing; not using some artificial extract, but pulling the flavor straight from the source. But really? Where do the gumballs get it? Think about that for a minute. Why not just get a bubble gum flavor and some food coloring? It's the same thing, and without the mess. But oh well, every now and again we need to do things the hard way. I have a bubble gum flavor in my book using fruits and juices that mostly avoids extracts, if you want something more natural.

So here's the two fold part: how does the recipe turn out, and how does it compare to Jones? Here's my experience.

My attempt at blue bubble gum soda, taking on the competition.
The flavor is a bit flat. It pulls out enough from the gum without much problem, but the sweetness is lacking a bit. If I were a fan of bubble gum, and I'm not, and I were going to make this again I would definitely add some more sugar. Adding 1/4 cup of sugar per cup of gum seemed to do the trick, other than that, you'll probably subconsciously attempt to blow bubbles with this, because it tastes like bubble gum.

How does it compare with Jones? Jones has a bit more fruity flavor from the citric acid which makes it a more pleasant drink than I remember. In a taste test, I'd pick Jones every time. Which is not to say that you can't add in some citric acid to the homemade, that's easy enough, even if just in the form of lemon juice, it would perk it up.

So the takeaway? If you want to make your own, get your hands on some bubble gum flavor from somewhere like LorAnne's and skip the gooey mess. If you want something natural, use fruits. Or if you want a Jones, buy a Jones.

July 16, 2014

Recipe 34 - Peanut Butter Soda

Continuing on with the celebration of my book's release, I bring you a second recipe this week. Considering that new recipes have been a bit sparse lately, I think you, the reader, deserve it as the least I can do.

Anyone who's familiar with Rocket Fizz will know that this isn't a novel idea. I'm pretty sure I've seen (but never tasted) both a peanut butter soda and a pb&j soda from them, though the reviews weren't all that great. If I remember right, the complaints stemmed from the fact that they tried to give theirs some sort of creamy, thick mouthfeel. I think this should be something that you don't need to drink with a spoon, so I went the powdered peanut butter path. I've heard of homebrewers using this for their peanut butter porters because it has a low oil content and mixed well with water.

Basically it's ground nuts that most of the oil has been pressed out of, so if this gives you the impression that you're mixing up some artificial "just add water" stuff, then you are gravely mistaken. This is all natural "just add water" stuff. And if you had a blender, and an efficient way to press 85% of the oil out, you could probably make your own.

Anyway, when I saw this on the shelf at the local Wal-Mart and discovered that I wouldn't have to order from Amazon, I knew that peanut butter soda was in my future.

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 gallon carbonated water

Bring the water to a boil and add the peanut butter powder and remove from heat. Stir and allow to cool. Strain out the larger peanut granules using a fine mesh strainer. Add the sugar and heat to dissolve. Mix the resulting syrup with 1 gal carbonated water or to taste.

It worked out well, I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't too oily or gritty. There's enough fine powder to get a nice smooth syrup with minimal filtering. It could use some jelly flavor, or possibly an addition of chocolate flavor. 

Now, there are likely easier ways to do something similar. Watkins makes an artificial peanut flavor extract which would probably get you the same effect. But that's kind of cheating, unless you happen to be allergic to peanuts, and then it's probably a good idea.

Book Release Party: Lemon Basil Soda

So today is the official release for my book, Making Soda at Home. I should probably be celebrating with friends and family, making all kinds of beverages and hors d'oeuvres to celebrate the occasion.

But I'm not. I'm spending my week in Kansas learning about baking breads for my "real job".

I thought about going to the local Barnes and Noble to see if they have it in stock yet, but apparently Manhattan, KS doesn't have one. Being a college town, they seem to only have need of campus bookstores filled with textbooks, and used book stores. Oh well. I guess I'll celebrate properly some other time. For now, I'll make myself a soda, and share it with the internet. Lucky you, internet. Enjoy!:

I keep seeing a lot of drink recipes with basil lately. I first came across this combo in Andrea Lynn's Artisan Soda Workshop. At first it disturbed me. Having spent some significant time in Italy, experience tells me that the only liquid that should have basil flavor in it is olive oil. I don't think an olive oil soda would work out so well. However, Lynn did an excellent job of pairing basil with pineapple, and I enjoyed that.

So, with its prevalence and pairing with numerous fruits, I'll give my own a shot. I figured citrus was a safe place to start and chose lemon as basil's dance partner for this party.

1 cup sugar
2 chips water
6 large fresh basil leaves, plus one our two more for garnish. (My garnish looks like canned spinach because it accidentally got frozen)
1/4 cup lemon juice
2-4 liters carbonated water, to taste

Heat the water to boiling and add the basil to steep. After about 20 min, remove the leaves and add the sugar, stirring to dissolve. After it has cooled somewhat, add the lemon juice. To this syrup, add 2 to 4 liters of carbonated water to taste.

Frequent visitors will notice that this recipe is quite different from what I normally post. It was designed to be less intense in both sweetness and flavor than some of my usual recipes. Why? Because it's summer, and the flavors lend themselves well to subtlety for a more refreshing, cooling, thirst quenching beverage closer to an infused sparkling water than a soda. I was quite surprised that the basil was a nice addition to citrus. In fact I was pleased enough with the flavor that it almost didn't need citrus at all, it would drink well with just the basil straight up.

June 9, 2014

Book Preview and Book Plates!

Ok everyone, at about one month out there is some exciting things happening for the book.  There's been a couple of sneak peaks at the Quarry Spoon Blog for the Butterbeer recipe and the Limonata recipe.  Special thanks to Paul and Deanna Sobota for awesome photography and styling.  And for anyone wondering, those are the actual sodas, not just colored water stand-ins.  (We actually drank some of the soda with lunch on one of the photo shoot days.)

I received an advance copy last week and everything is looking great!  It's so amazing to watch something go from scratches on a notebook to photographed, printed, and bound and ready to be cracked open and read in one of the easy chairs at Barnes and Noble.
Yes, I skipped cleaning the house that night in favor of a little light reading.
If you haven't pre-ordered the book yet, now is definitely as good a time as any.  The first 100 people to email me their proof of purchase will receive a personally inscribed book plate to adhere inside the book.  Which will look a little something like this:
Cheesy Inscription with Autograph: check!
This gives anyone anywhere the opportunity to make their book a special, limited edition, autographed copy.

So here's all you have to do:
1. Pre-order the book from anywhere.  Links are below, but the giveaway is not limited to those retailers.
2. Email me (1) your receipt or proof of purchase and (2) the address to which you'd like the book plate sent.  Feel free to include anyone special you'd like me to inscribe it for. Mail to homemadesodaexpert(at)gmail.com.
3. Wait patiently for your book plate and book to arrive.  They likely won't arrive at the same time, don't worry, that's normal.

Pre-Order from any Online Retailer:
QbookshopIndieBoundIndigoBarnes & Noble iconAmazon , Powell'sWalmart iconBooksAMillionBookish,

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