homemade root beer version version two

Time for a second version to test out and see how it is.  This one is lighter on the roots and includes more herbs for flavors.

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 tablespoon sarsaparilla root bark
  • 1 tablespoon sassafras root bark
  • 1 tablespoon birch bark
  • 3 star anise pods
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed ginger
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried spearmint
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/8 teaspoon yeast
Herby goodness.  I am glad there is a local company that has all of these.
Herby goodness. I am glad there is a local company that has all of these.

what to do:

  1. Combine water, sassafras, sarsaparilla, birch, mint, star anise, ginger, and vanilla in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer for 10 minutes. The remove pot from heat, cover, and let steep for 2 hours.
  2. Strain the root beer tea through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth into large pot. Add the brown sugar and molasses. Stir until mixture is integrated, then cover.
  3. Let cool to 75°F, then stir in yeast and let it sit for 15 minutes. If you don’t let it cool you can kill the yeast when you add it to the root beer.  Fill up some cleaned and sterilized plastic bottles with mixture, leaving 2 inches of space at top. Screw on caps. Keep bottles at room temperature for 36 hours, then open a bottle slowly and carefully to see if it is carbonated (or squeeze to see how firm the bottle is).
  4. Place bottles in the refrigerator for 2 days before drinking. This will allow the yeast to drop to the bottom of the bottle.

rating for this batch:

  • Color: Nice dark color,  just a little lighter then commercial root beer
  • Aroma: Smells great, not as rooty as batch one i tried
  • Flavor: Delicious, I should have made a bigger batch
  • Rating: This is the best so far.  5/5

This is going to be a keeper recipe.  Staci thought it was good and she only tried it while it was still warm and not carbonated.  Next will need to be a big batch, bottle them to carbonate, and then heat pasteurize so they don’t blow up on me. My 7 year old might even like this one.

homemade root beer version 1

Since making root beer using extract, which was entirely imitation flavored, I have wanted to try my hand at making real root beer with actual roots. After searching a bit for recipes I found this one for a root beer called old prospectors root beer.  It had the least amount of ingredients in it for the brew. The original amount it made was for a 5 gallon batch so I reduced it for a one gallon batch. If it wasn’t to my liking I didn’t want to be stuck with a huge amount to dump down the drain.

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. dried sarsaparilla root
  • .5 oz. dried burdock root
  • .5 oz. dried yellow dock root
  • .5 oz.dried spikenard root
  • .25 oz. (28 g) hops (your choice)
  • 1.5 cups dark brown sugar
  • yeast to carbonate (or you can force carbonate if you have the equipment)

Step by Step
Simmer herbs in water for 30 minutes.  Then add your sugar and stir until dissolved and let sit and cool. When cool, pour into clean, sterilized two liter soda bottles.  Add in your yeast (1/4 tsp) and let sit at room temperature until the bottle is hard like you would get in a store-bought soda.  This normally only takes a couple of days, but it can be faster I have had ginger ale carbonate in less than a day before.  I just used bread yeast to carbonate this batch.  But in the future if I find the perfect mix I like I will use a beer yeast to carbonate.  Bread yeast will give an off flavor if left too long in the bottle.

After to bottle has carbonated you have to refrigerate it to slow down the yeast.  If you leave it out they keep fermenting the sugars and you will have a bottle bomb and sticky mess everywhere.

rating for this batch:

  • Color: nice dark color just like root beer should look
  • Aroma: Smells a little bit like root beer, but with a lot of burdock smell to it.
  • Flavor:  Root beerish with heavy on the root.  Staci called it earthy in flavor (that throws me off because I use earthy to describe mushroom flavor)
  • Rating: Overall it is not bad I am going to give it a 3 of 5.  The burdock overwhelms the flavor of the sarsaparilla and makes it more of a burdock flavor.  Which is not bad but I think I will keep looking for my ultimate rooty recipe

McKenzie Cider and Craft Beer Festival

Over the weekend we went to the second annual McKenzie Cider and Craft Beer festival in Springfield, Oregon.  This was a great opportunity to sample several of the local varieties of cider and beer.  Considering how often I have been adding beer to a lot of my cheeses it was nice to be able to see and sample some of the other beers that these micro-brew companies offer.  Over 50 different companies participated in the second annual McKenzie Cider and Craft Beer Festival. As an added bonus to brew festival 10% of all the proceeds went to local kids charity called Belly-full.  Somehow when I wasn’t paying attention the local news company captured me and several others enjoying a sample or two. If you have an opportunity to go to the festival next year very much recommend it.  I am hoping that the selections for cider continue to expand and that there are more vendors next time.  There were still over a dozen different cider companies represented at the festival.  One of my favorite ciders at the festival was from Schilling which had an oak barrel aged cider that imparted some tannin to the cider and made it more like a traditional English cider.  I really should add some oak chips to my cider batches to enhance the flavor.  I believe the next festival we will go to is the Newport Seafood and wine festival.  That is always one of my favorite ones because it is rare you don’t have cheese companies at a wine festival.

2nd annual festival
2nd annual festival
People out tasting and enjoying all the brews
People out tasting and enjoying all the brews
Erin preparing to be interviewed with KEZI
Erin preparing to be interviewed with KEZI

Cider testing project batch #2

Batch number two of my apple cider experiments.  I am going to add a little tannin to this batch as well as some yeast nutrient.  From what I have read the difference between american ciders and English ciders is the tannin that is in the English ciders.  I have always liked the dry English ciders that I have tried so this hopefully will taste close to one of them.  I really should use the exact same yeast for all of these experiments.  But I have several in the fridge that are getting close to end of life so I need to use them up. Also adding a smidgen of pectic enzyme to help clarify it out.  I forgot to add any to the previous 2 batches I made (5 gallon farm apples and 1 gallon store-bought)

Stronger cider then last bottle I got.  Going to be strong when it is completed
Stronger cider then last bottle I got. Going to be strong when it is completed

Hard cider ingredients:

  • apple mix: organic unfiltered Cider.  (same as I used for batch 1)
  • yeast: Montrachet
  • pectic enzyme
  • yeast nutrient

Measurements:

  • Original Gravity (OG): 1.060
  • Final Gravity (FG): pending
  • estimated alcohol amount at FG of 1.0=8.2%

Now to let it bubble for a month or so.  Go Cider go

Cider testing project batch #1

As I watched my first batch of cider for the year bubble away I realized that I would have issues repeating any delicious cider.  Most of this is due to the fact I have to use whatever random varieties of apples that I find that are ripe.  The flavors of the different varieties mixed together make for delicious drinking.  Just not a consistent flavor.  So to do some experimenting I am getting multiple bottles of a local organic cider that has no preservatives in it.  This will make for more consistency as I try different amounts of sugar, or honey, or brown sugar,  and experiment with different yeasts. And the nice thing is that the cider I am getting is in 1 gallon glass bottles so all I have to do is add the yeast and an air lock.

gallon of cider to ferment
gallon of cider to ferment

This first batch will be a simple batch with no added sugars or clarifiers

Hard cider ingredients:

  • apple mix: organic unfiltered Cider.  (my first time use of pasteurized cider)
  • yeast: Champagne

Measurements:

  • Original Gravity (OG): 1.058
  • Final Gravity (FG): pending
  • estimated alcohol amount at FG of 1.0=8.0%

This is the sweetest cider I have seen with no added sugar.  Normally I have to add a lot of sugar to get to that high of reading.

I labeled the bottle with a sharpie so I don't get them mixed up as I start up more batches
I labeled the bottle with a sharpie so I don’t get them mixed up as I start-up more batches

I realized as I added the picture that I forgot a zero on the reading……It will still be good.  The cider is sweet but has a great flavor.  I think I will like this better than the batches that I made last year.  Sour apples make for a very sour cider.  Which is good for those that like sour apple vodka.  I prefer a nice dry smooth cider though.

Hard cider making 2013

Wonder cider maker Katy dooby doo
Wonder cider maker Katy dooby doo

It is that time of year to crush up some apples and make cider.  unfortunately it was not a very good year to get lots of apples for me to make multiple batches of different ciders.  The bad thing about mix and matching apples is that there is almost no way for me to duplicate a great hard cider from one year to the next.  About the only thing I can do is be consistent with the variety of yeast that I use.  Last year I used Champagne and Nottingham for all my batches of hard cider, which were all very good, but since I used a heavy waxen mix for every type of hard cider I made they were all very tart.  This years apples are a bunch of different variety that were about the only ones we could find. They

Hard cider ingredients:

  • apple mix: Northern spy, sweet seedling of some kind, waxen (no more than half a gallon of the five), Spitzenburg
  • yeast: White labs English cider yeast WLP775 (i wanted the strain from rogue brewery called pacman but they were sold out)
  • 5 campdon pellets to kill all the wild yeast
  • 1 tsp yeast nutrient per gallon of cider

Measurements:

  • Original Gravity (OG): 1.050
  • Final Gravity (FG): pending 🙂
  • estimated alcohol amount at FG of 1.0=6.56%
This years yeast of choice
This years yeast of choice

This came out with a higher sugar content than any of the ones i did last year.  Last years cider was also just the early fall varieties and these are all winter apples except for the small amount of waxen’s we added as a filler.  The sugar content is close to a one gallon batch of red June apples that I used by them selves.  That was a good cider I back sweetened it and heat pasteurized it after it self carbonated.  It was gone in less than two weeks.

  • Cider started: 10/15/2013
  • Yeast started dropping out of suspension: 10/25/2013

Stout washed gouda experiment

I wanted something different to try with a Gouda.  I have done a hard cider washed gouda, and a blue cheese gouda (still aging),  On the hard cider gouda the flavor of the cheese overwhelmed that of the hard cider.  No one that tasted it could even taste a hint of the cider.  Even with out the apple taste the whole 4 lb round disappeared in less than a week.  I have decided that I know a lot of people who are addicted to my cheeses.  It is a good thing that I make a lot of it.  This is going to be made with my standard Gouda recipe except at the second hot water addition I am going to add a hot stout beer to it.  Hopefully it will give it a marbled look after pressing and aging.

Curds washing in the heated beer.
Curds washing in the heated beer.

Slight color change to the curds at press time.  More of a tan color then the normal white of gouda curds.  Smells great as it goes in the press.  Fresh curd smell with an after smell of the stout mixed in. If this works I may try washing the curds with a stout at both heatings to see if it intensifies the flavor of the stout any.  The great thing about this area is that there are so many breweries close by that I can get a unique stout from to test with.  I think i will use a nice Nikaski brew next time. I saw a Bacon gouda in the store I might try to make. I will update at cutting time for the stout gouda experiment.

Bottling hard Cider

After you have your delicious brew ready to bottle there are only a few steps left before you are ready to age and bottle up your Hard cider.  The first step is to sterilize all of your bottles and equipment.  This is a step you do not want to skip.  Just a little contamination will ruin all of your hard work that you put in to getting and making your cider.  The hardest part I have had in bottling up my cider is estimating how many bottles you need for your batch.  The standard you will see on an internet search is two cases of bottles per five gallon batch.  I have found that this is a little under what you will actually need.  All of my batches are for a carbonated cider so i use one liter soda bottles for my extra cider over the two cases.  The bonus of doing this is you can tell when your cider has carbonated to the point you want to drink.

If you are going to bottle your Hard cider flat (also called still cider) you can skip over this part and go straight to the bottling section.  To make a sparkling cider you will need to add a sugar primer to your brew .  As long as it is fermentable sugar you can use any kind you have available.  Each type  will add to the distinctive taste of your bottled cider.  I have used white sugar, brown sugar and honey in my batches.  All of them are good so it is mostly a matter of preference.  If you have used a specific type of sugar to boost the alcohol content I would recommend using that same type as your primer.  For a five gallon batch add 3/4 cup of sugar  dissolved in 4 cups of warm water to it.  Adding more than this can cause you to make a bottle bomb if it over carbonates and explodes.

On to the bottling stage! Raise your full carboy up higher than the tops of where you bottles will be.  I use the convenient kitchen table and have my bottles on the floor.  Then insert your siphon hose and start filling bottles.  Having two people at this stage makes it much faster but it is easily done solo.  Fill the bottles to about one inch from the top and move on to the next bottle.  If you are lucky enough to have a 2nd person helping you one person can fill and the second can cap the bottles.  A good capper will press down the edges of your caps and seal the bottles tightly.  You cannot reseal screw off lids.  As a rule they do not completely seal and can ruin your batch.  Once capped let your bottles set at least two weeks to carbonate.  The one you filled in a soda bottle is a great gauge on how much bubbles you have in there.  Finally chill and enjoy the fruits of your laber.

Quick and easy Ginger ale

I have had a few requests asking for a DIY on making ginger ale at home. This is a simple and delicious recipe for those of us who like the crisp bubbly taste of Ginger ale

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz fresh ginger root
  • 2 cleaned two liter soda bottle with lids
  • 1 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp bakers yeast

First take the ginger root and dice it up. Then add it to one gallon of water and simmer on the stove top for 30 minutes. You are making a very strong ginger tea at this point. After the tea is sufficiently strong for you add the sugar and stir until the sugar is completely mixed in. Let the tea cool and strain out the pieces of ginger. Split the tea between the two soda bottles then add enough room temp water to the bottle to fill it one inch from the top. Now add in 1/4 tsp of bakers yeast to each bottle, screw on the cap and shake until the yeast is dissolved. After that just sit it on a counter for a couple of days until the bottle becomes as firm as normal bottle of soda would feel. At this point you can refrigerate at drink at your leisure. The amount of sugar can be increased to taste. I prefer mine with only a hint of sweetness. Do not leave on the counter long after the bottle has firmed up. The pressure will continue to grow if you do. This recipe can be adapted to make other soda’s also. I have used vanilla and root beer extract to make great soda’s also.

Hard Apple Cider part 1

Image

Hard apple cider is one of the easiest alcoholic drinks that a home brewer can make. And my personal favorite to drink on a cool evening. As with anything that you make always use the best ingredients that you can get. I am lucky enough to have access to an apple orchard on our family property and can press my own mix of apples. Mmmmmm fresh cider out of the apple press is the best part of fall. Now for the basics of making hard cider.

Ingredients:

  • 5 gallons of apple cider (fresh or store bought)
  • wine/ale yeast of choice. (I use Nottingham ale yeast for the majority of my batches. But it is a matter of taste preference)
  • 5 campden tablets (only needed if you use unpasteurized cider)
  • 6 gallon glass carboy and airlock

If you have never brewed any type of beer or wine before you will need to remember the first rule. STERILIZE everything that will be touching the cider. Any brew store will have something you can use to sterilize the carboy and many bottles. I use unscented bleach for my sterilizing. One cap full per gallon of water is all that is needed. Add and let sit for 20 minutes to make sure that all the little critters that might be in it are dead.

Pour the cider into the carboy and add the crushed campden tablets. Cover the top of the carboy with a cloth and rubber band it around the top (you don’t want fruit flies to get in and contaminate it) Let sit for 24 hrs for the campden to kill the native yeast. After the wait time add in your yeast following the instructions on the package for how to re hydrate it add it into the must (yes it is called a must after you add in the yeast). Last but not least add the air lock to your carboy. After a couple of days it should start bubbling and your cider is on its way to making a wonderful beverage. Let bubble and ferment for 2-4 weeks or until all the sugars are converted to alcohol. With no added sugar to your batch you will end up with a hard cider that is 4%-7% alcohol depending on the varieties of apples that you use. At this point you can either decide to make it crisp and bubbly or kill off the yeast and make a flat cider.  I prefer it with a little carbonation over a flat batch.  Stay tuned for part 2 on how to bottle and prime your batch of hard cider

How to Bottle your cider