July 12, 2013

Book Review: True Brews by Emma Christensen

from Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House
Available from Amazon , (also on Kindle , Barnes and Noble, (also on Nook)

Another homemade soda book has recently hit the shelves.  True Brews from Emma Christensen, recipe editor at The Kitchn, focuses on teaching the basic how to for just about all things fermented.  Although only one of the eight chapters is about soda, it's a helpful starting place for anyone looking for fermented recipes.

True Brews ends up being a bit pricier than some of the other books I've reviewed, but it's solid hardcover book that will hold up as a reference for batch after batch.  One thing that sets True Brews apart from other homebrew books is that Christensen's goal is to make homebrew accessible to everyone, even those in small apartments.  As such, she outlines equipment that is required and what isn't.  Then she starts with a master recipe and the other recipes are detailed variations on the master.  Each chapter starts with a brief interview with an expert to give tips and inspiration to aspiring homebrewers.

With each chapter devoted to a different beverage, there's little space to devote to a lot of variation.  So on first glance it may seem like each page is nearly a copy and paste of the previous.  In total there are 8 different soda recipes, most of them fruit based, which makes it the most recipe-heavy chapter in the book even if it's not the largest by page count (soda recipes are very simple compared to the other beverages).  I had to remind myself that the recipes are meant as a template to get a beginner started, and not really for something fancy and advanced.

Though the recipes are simple, that by no means makes them any less tasty.  I only had the resources to try one so far, and since Christensen recommended the Watermelon Mint, that's where I started.  It ended up much better than one of my earlier blogged recipes, WatermeLemon.  Probably because it used more watermelon for a smaller recipe.  I had never thought of combining watermelon with mint, but they do complement each other quite well.  The recipe ferments quickly in warm weather.  Be careful not to ferment too far because with the sediment it gushes quite easily.

Overall, True Brews is a great introduction to homebrewing.  Other homebrew books are a bit more on the technical side, whereas it's obvious from the full color pictures in this book make it more artisan friendly.  So if a homebrew book has scared you off in the past, this may be your invitation back to the hobby.  With that in mind, however, the book is a little light on advanced troubleshooting tips, so prepare to go back for something more technical once you have a few batches under your belt.  It may not be a must have book for the homemade soda maker's library, but it's a welcome addition for anyone who wants to get well start in on fermenting recipes.

July 8, 2013

Andrew Schloss's Homemade Soda Book on Kindle only 2.99!

UPDATE: NOVEMBER 16, 2013 - The price has dropped back down again, but not quite as low.  The Kindle edition can now be had for 3.49.

UPDATE: OCTOBER 18, 2013 - The price on this has gone back to 9.99 as noticed by an anonymous commenter.  I hope you picked up your copy when it was available at the lower price.  It's still a great book, but for that price, I'd go for even a used hard copy rather than digital.  That's just personal preference, I suppose.

One of the best homemade soda books of all time is Andrew Schloss's Homemade Soda: 200 Recipes for Making & Using Fruit Sodas & Fizzy Juices, Sparkling Waters, Root Beers & Cola Brews, Herbal & Healing Waters, Sparkling ... & Floats, & Other Carbonated Concoctions.  Wow, I never really realized how long that subtitle is.

Anyway, I was browsing some other things on Amazon and came across the Kindle Edition of this for the super low price of $2.99, so I thought I'd share that with you here.

I don't own a Kindle, so I'm not sure how this looks on it, but you can't beat that price for the tasty recipes in this book.  A lot of them are for soda by the glass, but there are some good ones that are designed for soda siphons or fermented batches.  My personal favorite is the Honey Lemonade Soda, which I've mentioned before on the blog, but it's a really good substitute for a San Pellegrino Limonata.

July 5, 2013

Recipe 27 - Jones Soda Crushed Melon Clone

Back in the day, before Jones Soda was available at major retailers and their really fun and innovative flavors weren't reserved for short run limited editions, Jones had a number of flavors that were legendary. If not for their flavor, their rarity.  My two favorites were Pink and Crushed Melon.  Pink was later "renamed" Strawberry & Cream, but it never tasted the same after that and shortly thereafter it was retired.  Along with some other black sheep flavors such as BugJuice.com, Pink in it's original form has been officially forgotten by Jones Soda.

Crushed Melon, however, has not suffered such an ill fate.  It is at least still listed on their Retired Products page.  That tells me it was likely more popular and more profitable.  Though the real reason I made a clone recipe is to get me a little closer to Pink as they had a similar aftertaste.  (And it was easier to nail down the flavor.)  So without further ado, here's my version of Jones Soda's Crushed Melon

1 lb diced canteloupe (1/4 average sized melon)
1 lb diced honeydew (1/4 average sized melon)
1 lb diced watermelon (1/8 average sized melon)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 lb sugar (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup water

Combine the sugar, water and lemon juice in a saucepan and bring to a boil, let it simmer on medium to medium high heat for 15 minutes.  If the color starts to dark, remove from heat immediately and add in a bit of cold water.
Pour the syrup over the diced melon and use a potato masher to crush it up with the syrup.
Once the melon is crushed up and the syrup is pulpy, run it through a fine-mesh strainer and add the vanilla.
Top the resulting syrup up to 1 gallon with carbonated water.

This syrup turns out a little on the thin side and it does contain a fair amount of pulp.  Mine yielded about 4 cups of syrup which makes the mix ratio about 3:1 carbonated water to syrup.  The pulp makes it fizz up rather easily when you mix it, so keep that in mind when you add this into your Sodastream.
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