February 25, 2011

Recipe 4 - Banana Cream

I keep forgetting to post this, even though it was something I made quite some time ago. Similar to the chocolate, it was less than perfect, though decent if you adore true banana flavor. I don't have any pictures at the moment, it wasn't much to look at.

1 Banana
2 cups of sugar
1 tsp vanilla flavor
add to:
1 gallon carbonated water

The recipe is basic. Mash the banana, add some of the sugar and some water and start to simmer. I strained the pulpy mash through a sieve. If I hadn't been so impatient, I would have pureed it beforehand, simmered it and then strained it through a coffee filter. But instead I had little floaties in my syrup. Consequently, there were little floaties in my finished soda, too.

It tasted like freshly mashed banana, of all things. Imagine that. I wanted it to taste like banana cream pie, hence the vanilla. I found myself missing the cream and the pie portion.

Again this is another one that could use more development and feedback.

February 23, 2011

Bottle Sources

I've been looking into fancy glass bottles to use. Just for fun, I'd like to get some bottles and either pad print or etch my own logo onto them. Then craft a matching wooden crate to store them in, also emblazoned with a custom logo. First, I need a custom logo.
Until then, I'm left to digging up pieces of nostalgia that would bring back my parents' childhood memories or seeking out current production glass bottles with pop off crown caps.

Most of my bottles are the blue Nittany Ale bottles seen in posts from last year. While these are great quality, thick, beautiful bottles, they hide the colorful brew inside. I like to use them for root beers, butterscotch, and other such recipes that aren't much to look at. But it's hard for me to justify hiding that lovely coconut lime when I mix it up.

My clear 12 oz. longneck bottles are actually Corona bottles that I cleaned up and scoured the labels off. While these are the most common clear bottles I've found with pop-off caps, they're thin and I'm worried that they're more prone to breakage. Scouring labels can get old, and since I don't drink beer and they're an import, they're hard to come by. Coronita bottles also work, they're 7 oz.

Most sodas come in quality bottles, a lot come in clear, but most are twist off. I've been reusing Crush bottles, but twist offs don't cap well. They get stuck in the capper and I don't think they seal as well. Rumor has it the threads can wear out and break, leaving you with glass shards and an unusable bottle.

My favorite is 187mL champagne bottles. You can buy them new, they're nice and thick, and if you didn't know they were champagne bottles, you'd think they were old time soda bottles. They're very close in size and shape to the old 7 oz. 7up bottles.

Speaking of old 7up bottles. I picked up a few of these and I do love them. Old bottles can be fun to collect, not to mention rewarding. If you happen to find an amber 7up bottle, they can be worth quite a bit to collectors. They do need a good cleaning, though. Some have been left in garages, barns or attics for years, so you do want to select and clean them carefully. With everyone crying about going green, I'm surprised the returnable bottle hasn't made a comeback. I understand why from a logistics point of view, but I'd expect to get over it. GlassBottleSoda.org has a listing of places that still do returnables, but they're still fading.

If you want the look of old time bottles with the peace of mind of newer bottles, Mexican sodas often have pop off crown caps. Mexican Coke is particularly popular right now due to misguided fear of HFCS. Some say it also tastes better without the corn syrup, I'm skeptical, but I don't drink much Coke, either. I'm not sure how I feel about the Fanta bottles though. They look classic, but their still not that aesthetic.

There are a number of "boutique" beverages that are difficult to find that use pop off caps. Usually bottles from other countries use them. I've found San Pellegrino Aranciata, Limonata and Chinotto in 7 oz. bottles that use pop offs, I've even found 2 or 4 oz. bitters from the same brand, though I'm not sure of the practicality of that. Q brand Tonic water has an interesting bottle as well. I've seen that in a couple of places. Fever Tree has Club Soda and Ginger Ale in 6 oz longneck bottles. You do find a few here and there, but I've never justified buying them, due to the fact that I have nearly 100 perfectly good bottles. Yet somehow, I just want more. I must be addicted.

Pictured here for comparison from left to right are Mexican Fanta, Nittany Ale, Crush, Corona, vintage Sprite, vintage 7up (12 oz and 7oz), 187mL champagne, and Martinelli's Sparkling Cider.

Feel free to comment if you find some fabulous sodas with pop off caps so as to create an ongoing list of useful reusable bottles.

February 18, 2011

Recipe 3 - Chocolate Soda

Ok, this sounds really delicious, even though it looks awful. But by posting it I don't intend for anyone to think that it's finished.
In practice it was just kind of... alright. I'm open to feedback.

The exercise here was to try and come up with something that didn't just use a chocolate flavor, I wanted to use actual cocoa, but without having it settle out. I'd hate to advise the consumer to shake well before opening. That's generally discouraged. I also wanted something that didn't taste like a Tootsie Roll. It should be creamy, so I wanted to know the implications of putting dairy into a soda. The jury's still out on that one since I used very little.

Here's what I used:
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 Tbsp nonfat dry milk
3 cups sugar
desired flavors

Coffee Filters, Funnel, Sauce Pan,
Step 1. Steep the cocoa - Boil 4 cups of water, remove from heat, add cocoa powder, let sit 1 hour.
To avoid the cocoa settling out, I decided to steep the cocoa powder and strain out the particulates.
Step 2. Strain the cocoa water - Pour the mixture through a coffee filter placed in a funnel.
In the beginning this worked great, but as I began to strain more and more, it got slower and slower and slower. I think I went through about 5 filters.
Step 3. Sweeten - Blend the sugar and nonfat dry milk and add it to the strained liquid. Bring to a boil again.
Just like any other syrup.
Step 4. Flavor - Add small amounts of any flavor you'd like to compliment your soda.
Vanilla for a creamy flavory, Orange will taste like those whack and unwrap chocolate oranges at christmas time, Peppermint is good too. I also tried Rum for a truffle flavor, it didn't work too well.
Step 5. Carbonate - For this amount of syrup, I used about a 1.5 gallons of carbonated water from the keg.
This turned out to be 2 ozs. syrup per 12 oz bottle.

It turned out that the chocolate flavor faded and got lost in the fizz after a couple of days. Also, I'm a little concerned about what the pH might be on this, so I'd keep it in the fridge if you make a large batch.

Let me know what you think, pictures to come soon.

February 3, 2011

Christmas Spoils

This past Christmas, my wife decided to spoil me with a keg setup from Midwest Supplies. It's exactly what I wanted to carbonate my water and stop dealing with club soda or dry ice (which seems to be strangely lacking in any of the supermarkets where I live).
It's extremely easy to use, though a bit more difficult to clean. I'm not so worried about the cleaning part unless I'm actually carbonating a beverage in it instead of just water.

There are some other pros and cons worth mentioning.
Ease of use.
Volume - It's very handy to have 5 gallons of carbonated water to bottle some beverages with, much better than that silly SodaStream contraption being peddled lately. 20 times more volume for 1.5 times the cost. I'd say that's value. I'm not sure how many gallons I'll get out of a 5lb CO2 tank, so far I've done 3 and still holding strong.

It does take some time to carbonate, though I'd imagine not nearly as long as would natural carbonation from yeast. Overnight seems to do the trick just fine, but I've also read a day for every 10psi.
If you do actually put a beverage in it other than water, you get lots of foam coming out (which is very bad for bottling, and difficult to serve in cups), and you're o-rings tend to soak up the flavor. You can switch sets, but each additional set is around $10.
Don't let the kids knock over the CO2 tank and damage the regulator, that could be dangerous.
Difficult to chill 5 gallons of water.

So over the month that I've played with it, it's been a lot of fun, but still not quite getting the carbonation in my bottles that I'm looking for. I've been close and I'll share my progress and recipes as I can. For all the cons, the pros definitely win out. Now I just need to get more ingredients.

Which is where the next little bit comes in: Monin syrups! They have an excellent array of flavors and you can order directly off their website. My wife picked up the Green Apple, and at the right concentration, it tastes just like Jones Soda's Green Apple. Though unfortunately not any more economical. One bottle of Monin will make a little over a gallon of soda at that concentration, which is about 11 bottles. You can easily get the same amount of Jones for the same price.
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