June 19, 2015

More recipes in the works… somewhere… eventually…

So there haven’t been a lot of posts from me lately.  I know I don’t have a huge readership, but I feel bad leaving everybody hanging. 
Just to let everyone know, I’m no longer in grape country.  I’ve taken a new job closer to family and made a move from Pennsylvania to Utah.  So I traded views like this…

For this views like this…

So what does this have to do with sodamaking?  Well, a lot actually as I’ve discovered.  There aren’t many beer or winemaking stores very close nearby, so getting my hands on caps and some different ingredients isn’t going to be as easy. 

Additionally I’ve discovered that I can’t fit my bottle washer on any of my sinks in my new home.  Not a huge issue, I just need to take a trip to the hardware store to figure things out, but it does put a damper on things. 

Instead of having my vintage fridge in a dedicated space in the basement where it sits somewhat out of the way, it’s now in the garage, typically with a minivan in front of it, not allowing me to open it up.  And there’s no way it’s going in the basement either.  Getting it out of where it was I thought we were going to smash someone.   

The cost of CO2 tank refills is going to be a challenge.  The two places I’ve called are around $18 per fill versus the $10 per fill in Erie.  Unfortunately, at the same time, funding is down.  While I took a better paying job, the cost of moving across the country, a longer commute, cost of living changes, and a few other things has shaken up my finances a bit, so it will probably take a while to sort things out.  In conjunction with that, I’ve put my ebay sales on hold (which usually finance my hobbies) with moving, and since I don’t seem to have a post office nearby which is a new experience for me, that will probably stay on hold until I can figure out a way to make it a bit more convenient.

Moving to a new place obviously means leaving good folks behind.  We had a lot of good friends back in Erie, and it hurt to make the move in a lot of ways.  It seemed like there were lots of get-togethers that warranted lots of tasty, bubbly beverage.  Being in a new area doesn’t seem to come with as many gatherings right off the bat.  And no one here is expecting me to provide a keg yet, so I haven’t had many requests.  Sure we have family close by, and our summer schedule is quickly filling up, but it seems a lot of family members are dieting, including myself.  (Which is definitely commendable, don’t get me wrong). 

So, although the summer is a perfect time to make and enjoy a cold homemade soda for family picnics or holiday BBQs, my soda projects are on hold for the moment, or at least toned down.  I have some great recipes planned to post, but they will unfortunately have to wait.  They are coming, so stay tuned.  I haven’t left the sodamaking hobby behind.

I will gladly accept guest posts for the time being, and I would love to hear from fellow sodamakers and their challenges that they've seen.

March 7, 2015

Lessons Learned from a Homebrew Competition, Episode 2 (with 3 Recipes)

Once again I attended the Brewerie’s Annual Homebrew Fest, the Brewer's Cup. And once again I had an interesting experience serving soda at a beer event.  Even though I did this two years ago I feel I've come out with a few more lessons to learn for any homebrew event.

1. Serving from real faucets makes things so much easier.
This past year I picked up some fabulous Stainless Steel Perlick faucets for serving from my kegerator.  I had them mounted on some wooden slats that clipped to the beverage tub so I didn't need a drip tray.  These are by far the best thing I have done for dispensing soda.  The picnic taps I used two years ago got sticky, they were difficult to keep in place, and didn't adequately show what I had available to taste.  The Perlicks kept things cleaner, more organized, and the oversize bottle cap tap handles let people know what's on tap.  Though, people who see them and are familiar with draft dispensing equipment are always amazed I would spend that much "just for serving soda".  I think a lot of people don't realize the big difference there is between serving beer and serving soda.  Soda is lower pH (more acidic) and thus would eat through chrome plated brass faucets much more quickly.  So stainless steel is a must.  Soda is also higher in sugar content and stickier, so having a forward sealing design with less space for residual liquid to accumulate seemed like a better idea.  I've never let beverage sit in my faucets very long, so I don't know how long it would take for the standard faucets to gunk up, but since the stainless Perlicks were only marginally more expensive than standard stainless faucets, the choice was simple, really. 

2. If you're selling something, have a clearly marked price.
I took some copies of my book to sell in case anyone was interested in further recipes.  I didn't mind people asking how much I would sell for, and I did sell more than I expected, but I might have sold them all had I clearly marked them as for sale.  I also left my gold sharpie for autographing at home accidentally, so that didn't help.

3. When there's 60+ beers available for tasting, people will get pretty drunk.
I don't know if it was because this year was an evening event and last time was an afternoon event, but people seemed to imbibe a little more liberally than I remember last time.  I had a couple that were shouting at each other at my table and she was telling me not to give him any thing more to drink.  I was a bit perplexed since mine had no alcohol, so I didn't really heed her advice.  I served him some cherry pie soda and she started throwing popcorn into his glass and they started shouting obscenities at each other.  They had a friend there with them, that squeezed in between them to hand me his glass and was either oblivious to their raucous behavior or trying to deter it.  As he held out his glass he asked for one of my flavors and said quite matter of factly, "I'm not with them."  I'd seen him with them the first (more sober) time they came around to my table, so I knew better, but I give him a lot of props for being able to deal with it.  One girl had taken off her jacket and was in a tank top, despite the sub-freezing temperatures outside (granted there were a lot of people there and we were inside, but I still thought it was a bit chilly). I saw her swaying a bit with glazed eyes talking to a guy there, I thought she was going to fall over onto him.  Some people that came to my table near the end of the night I had a hard time understanding their slurred speech. One person saw the tall green bottles and excitedly asked if I was serving wine, I don't think she quite understood what I was saying when I explained what it really was.  I don't often hang out with heavy drinkers, so this was not normal for me.

4. Don't assume the inebriated to reason as well as the sober.
So this is a lesson that is a combination of #2 and #3.  Because I had my books out and not clearly priced, a couple of copies walked off when I wasn't looking.  Ouch, there goes $40.  I saw a girl carrying them out the door, but couldn't catch her in time and wouldn't know what to say exactly if I could.  It was more or less my own fault by not clearly labeling them as "for sale" instead of as freebies.  I saw a couple of people walking around with copies of Zymurgy magazine, and I figured probably someone was giving those away.  My books were apparently mistaken for the same.  I also had business cards out, so if you've come to this blog from my card and happened to pick up a couple of "free" copies of my book, I'd be more than happy to autograph them for you for the small price of $20 each. (That's $5 off the list price, so you know you're getting a deal!)  You've (hopefully) got my card, so you know how to contact me.

5. Keep it simple
Having learned from last time not to make too much, I planned accordingly this time.  One keg of Cherry Pie, one keg of Sarsaparilla, and one keg worth of Orange Creamsicle in bottles.  It was a lot easier to lug all of that in this time around rather than last time when I brought double that amount.  I still only went through a portion of that, but I have a lot less left over than last time.  I also paid better attention to the note on the entry information that said ice was provided, so I didn't have that to lug in this time either.  Simply cutting back on what I brought made it a lot less stressful and easier to handle.  I'm also glad that even though I was serving from faucets, I didn't need to lug around a draft box like I had wished I had had last time.  The event wasn't long enough for the kegs to get too warm and they served pretty cold without a problem.

As promised to the attendees, here are the recipes that I served at the event:

Cherry Pie Soda
Nearly identical to the Blueberry Pie Soda Recipe I posted last year, this recipe uses cherry juice, caramel malt, butter flavor, and vanilla extract to make you think you're eating a real cherry pie.
For a 4 gallon batch, I used:
32oz R.W. Knudsen Just Tart Cherry juice
1 cup Caramunich III caramel malt
7 cups sugar
4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp butter flavor
top up to 4 gallons with water

Crush and steep the malt in about 2 cups of water. Strain and set aside. Heat the sugar with 1/2 cup or so of water to dissolve or invert if you wish. Combine the sugar, liquid from the malt, juice and flavorings for your syrup. There's a pretty heavy volume of water, so it is a thin syrup. This recipe works well to add the water and then carbonate in a keg for the best carbonation, but it does still work as a syrup + seltzer version as well.

Sarsaparilla root is not as strong as sassafras, but it is a common ingredient for root beer.  The flavor of this one lands somewhere between a root beer and a cream soda.  I yeast carbonated this on in the keg to showcase something more akin to homebrew for this event.
For a 4 gallon batch, I used:
1/2 oz Sarsaparilla Root
1/2 oz Wintergreen Leaves
4 lbs light brown sugar  (dark brown sugar can also be used for a fuller flavor)
1/2 tsp Red Star Pasteur Champagne Yeast
4 grams Fermaid K Yeast Nutrient
4 gallons water

Begin with as much water as is practical to strain, add the sarsaparilla and wintergreen and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and allow to steep for about an hour. Strain the liquid through a coffee filter to remove as many of the solids as possible.  Add that to the keg.  Heat the brown sugar in a small amount of water to dissolve, then add to the keg.  Allow to cool below 100°F before adding yeast.  Hydrate the yeast in a small amount of room temperature water (with a bit of sugar added) and add to the keg when cooled.  Top up to 4 gallons and add the yeast nutrient.  Close up the keg (pressurize with enough CO2 to ensure a seal if necessary).  Allow to ferment at about 80° for 24-36 hours or to appropriate carbonation level.  My OG was 1.044 and I ended with 1.040.  Refrigerate immediately and serve when chilled

Orange Creamsicle
Orange juice and vanilla combine to make a classic creamy orange flavor.
For a 5 gallon batch, I used:
10 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups orange juice concentrate
5 tsp pure vanilla extract
5 drops Natural Orange Oil Flavoring
1 Tbsp lemon juice
top up to 5 gallons with carbonated water

Invert the sugar by combine with the lemon juice and 4 cups of water and heat to 240°F.  Remove from heat and add 2 additional cups of water to cool the mixture, then add the orange juice concentrate, vanilla and orange oil.  Stir until thoroughly combined and use as a syrup to add to carbonated water.  If adding to a keg, fill to 5 gallons and carbonate.  If mixing in smaller amounts, syrup to water ratio is between 1:5 and 1:6 depending on what suites your taste.

December 30, 2014

Year in Review - Top 5 Homemade Soda Recipes of 2014

Another year has come to a close and it's been a decent enough one.  The biggest thing to happen this year is that my book hit store shelves and is now available to the masses.   I didn't dream up as many recipes as I have in past years, but I was somewhat focused on book marketing and other things, so I don't feel too disappointed, especially considering that they've been pretty good quality.  There's still time to whip up something tasty for New Year's Eve, so here's the top five in case you missed them:

#5 - Blueberry Pie Soda

This was a little something I made as a special treat for some friends as a fun way to announce the gender of our next child.  I figured boy=blue, so blue...berry pie would be perfect.  It seemed appropriate for the approaching summer and was quite a hit among friends, even though it wasn't all that blue.

#4 - Blue Bubble Gum Soda

This was my take on both Jones' Blue Bubble Gum and as a checkmark off my Recipe Challenge pinterest board.  The recipe is not mine, but comes from Cherry Tea Cakes.  It turned out fine, though not an exact match to Jones.  I think I prefer the fruitier version that I put into my book, even though it's not blue.

#3 - Psych Roasted Pineapple Soda

 Every bit worthy of a fist bump, this was a tribute to the final season of USA network's Psych.  The only show where there is a pineapple in every episode.  A smoky version of the tasty fruit, this recipe incorporates smoked malt for the grilled notes for a more in depth flavor.  I love that the pineapple juice adds a little bit of head at the top.

#2 - Grape Lime Rickey Soda

This was meant to be a match to the Arizona Beverage Co.'s Grape Lime Rickey and tastes very refreshing for a summer afternoon.  This was a very popular recipe this year and even got served at my sister-in-law's wedding.  

#1 - Mockter Pepper

 With the release of my book this year, I had the opportunity to do some radio interviews and participate in a few giveaways.  It was quite a blast to enjoy the 15 minutes of fame.  As part of the marketing and probably the best revealed recipe of the book has been the recipe for homemade Dr Pepper.  It's not meant to pull out every nuance of the 23 mysterious flavors or topple the beverage giants, but this is a pretty good representation of a classic Dr Pepper for your homebrew keg or sodastream.  There are even instructions for fermenting it to get the carbonation.  Plus, gorgeous photography.

So there you have the top recipes of 2014!  I hope you have a Happy New Year and enjoy some tasty homemade soda along the way!  There are many more recipes to come, so stay tuned.  I'm excited to see what 2015 will bring.

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

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