November 28, 2014

Holiday Guide 2014

I don't know about where you are, but here, it's snowing.  Again.  It probably won't let up for another six months, so the only thing left to do is embrace it.  Luckily, with it comes the Holidays.  And even though Holiday shopping can be a stress, trust me, there are worse things you could be doing in the snow.  There's no reason to fret for the soda maker on your list. I've got you covered.

For The Nostalgic
You know the type, always wishing it was the 1950's again.  He's always wishing he could pop a nickle in the vending machine and get an ice cold glass bottle of CocaCola, wondering what happened to the fountain in the corner drugstore.

-Vintage Diner Stools
 
Nothing says nostalgia like a an old style soda shop or 1950's diner.  If you're making soda in your home and especially if you have a home bar space, serve your soda to your guests in style with this Retro 3-Piece Chrome Bar Stools and Table Set.

 -Vintage Bottle Cappers
Why buy a new plastic bottle capper when you can buy something that has stood the test of time.  I bought a brand new bench capper and while I'm pretty happy with it, I shortly thereafter realized that there are some nice sturdy vintage cappers to be found and put to good use.  Ebay always has a  
Selection of Vintage Bottle Cappers at various prices.

-Soda Pop! Book
 
For the book shelf.  As a sodamaker, it always helps to know your roots.  Soda Pop!: From Miracle Medicine to Pop Culture is an interesting read that looks at the history of soda pop in general as well as the history of a few specific flavors and brands.  

For The Copycat
So what do you pickup for someone that's like a chameleon?  Someone who is always copying what other people do.  Mimicking the classics down to the last detail.  Give her something to copy.

-Root Beer of the Month Club
One thing that a copycat needs is something to work from.  Some inspiration can be found in the selection of many root beers available.  Signing up for a Root Beer of the Month Club is one way to bring fresh inspiration on a regular basis. The Root Beer Store based in Washington State has a monthly subscription that can be cancelled anytime.  Beverages Direct offers a 3 month subscription for either root beer or gourmet soda, and they also offer various sampler packs.

-Copycat Recipe Books
 
My own Making Soda at Home has some copycat recipes for Mt. Dew, Dr Pepper, Cola and a few others.  Another book that's been around a while that has a handful of soda recipes among other drink recipes is Top Secret Recipes--Sodas, Smoothies, Spirits, and Shakes.

For The Fermenter
For someone who doesn't mind blurring the lines between soda making and homebrewing, there are a number of options.  Usually the homebrew store has a plethora of options, though some homebrew stores don't cater much to soda makers, and some places simply don't have homebrew stores.  Here are some sure bets.

-Ginger Beer Kit

There are a few different fermentation soda kits out there.  This year Williams-Sonoma has jumped on the band wagon with kits for Ginger Beer, Root Beer, and Hibiscus Lime.

-PET Bottles and Caps


Mr. Beer has been around for a number of years and they have various beer kits and at least one root beer kit.  For fermenting soda, all you need is the bottles.  If you don't want to reuse commercial soda bottles, Mr. Beer offers different sets of new PET bottles including some  740 mL PET Bottles iconand additional sets of Plastic Caps iconfor fermenting safely.


For The Health Nut
The health nut jumped into home soda making for obvious reasons.  You control what you put into it.  You can sweeten with natural sweeteners, or you can put in no sweeteners.

-Stevia Sweetener
Stevia extract is a great way to sweeten without sugar, and it's considered all natural.  This Stevia Liquid Extract is easier to work with than the powders, using only a few drops per cup.  If using for larger amounts of soda, the powders work fine as long as you measure them precisely.

-Water Filter

While there's usually nothing wrong with your usual tap water.  It does typically have residual chlorine.  I don't often notice it in plain tap water, but I can taste it in carbonated water for some reason.  Though it's more of a flavor choice than a health choice, an activated carbon filter is sure to get rid of any off flavors that might be in your tap water.  A filtering pitcher is fine, but a Whole House Water Filtration System is surprisingly inexpensive, especially considering the capacity of how much it can filter.




November 12, 2014

Book Signing: Barnes & Noble at Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA

Once again I'm hitting B&N with a book signing.
The Barnes and Noble at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, 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.



Click to add to your calendar:
 

For everyone attending, here is what I have planned: I will be presenting a demonstration showing how to make the Jamaica (Hibiscus) Soda on page 80.  I will also be serving up some bottled samples of flavors including Ginger Ale (p. 88), Caramel Apple (p. 121).

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

When: Saturday Nov. 15, 2014,  2:00pm to 5:00pm
Where: Barnes & Noble at Bucknell University 400 Market St. Lewisburg, PA


November 9, 2014

Mauna Loa Luau Chili

Fall seems to be the season for chili cook-offs.  I entered this one twice, making it initially sort of on the fly, and it ended up placing both times.



Let me preface this by reminding everyone that Mauna Loa is a volcano, so yes, it's hot.  (Even though Mauna Loa hasn't erupted for quite some time, I am told it is still active.)

Putting this recipe together, the theme was exotic ingredients.  While pineapple isn't exactly the most exotic thing you can throw in a recipe, it's not very common in chili, so I built it from there.

I've never been to an actual Luau, but I imagine the things that might be served there would include pork, something spicy, and there would be lots of fire and grilling.

Here's what you'll need -

To be grilled:
1 lb of pork chops, boneless is best
1 can pineapple in heavy syrup
1/4 medium red onion diced
2 cloves garlic
1 or 2 small habeneros (depending on how deathly hot you want it and the strength of your habeneros)

For the chili:
1 can black beans
1 can pinto beans
flake red pepper
1/4 c soy sauce
1 Tbsp corn starch
dash black pepper
dash garlic powder
1 1/2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
1 c water

It seems like a long list, but it's easier than it looks.

Start by straining the pineapple, saving the syrup in a saucepan.  Throw them on on the grill with the garlic and onion in a grill basket or sheet of foil.  If you're using a gas grill, get some smoke pellets for flavor.

 Get them nice and toasty before you start grilling anything else.  The pineapple is very moist, so it takes the longest to start to brown.

While the fruits and veggies are grilling, go back to your saucepan.  Mix the syrup with the soy sauce, corn starch, black pepper, garlic powder, brown sugar, and red pepper.  Bring it to a boil as you whisk until it thickens, then add the water.


Back on the grill, throw on the pork chops and the habenero(s).  You want some black on the peppers and the pork to be cooked thoroughly.


 You don't have to grill the habeneros on the pork, it just looks really good that way.


 After grilling, dice up the pork, and the peppers.  I like to really mince the pepper so they blend well with the rest of the chili.  Add the diced meat, peppers, beans, and your pineapple/onion blend to the saucepan.  Let that simmer for about five minutes so everything is nice and hot (temperatue and seasoning).

Dish it up and serve.  And remember it tastes like a volcano.


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.


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