Monday, November 14, 2011

Raspberry Lime Soda

     After several experiments with homemade soda Tammy requested 'something pink.' She loves all things pink and sweet, so naturally a pink soda would follow. We're hoping to serve a variety of our soda creations at our wedding next fall, or maybe winter, or perhaps spring...?, and some sort of pink beverage will definitely be required.
     Browsing the fruit and vegetable aisles at our local market I settled on raspberries as a good natural pink coloring agent, and also a very tasty fruit. I read up on a couple of raspberry lime rickey recipes and settled on the following ingredients (again, very simple and requires very little prep time):
     -one cup fresh raspberries (intend to try frozen to compare results);
     -one cup sugar;
     -1/2 cup water;
     -juice of 1/2 lime per serving (recipe makes three servings);
     -seltzer or drinking water with which to mix or carbonate.

     The berries, sugar and 1/2 cup water went into our trusty stainless saucepan. I mashed the berries with a wooden spoon and heated while stirring over medium heat until the sugar dissolved then brought to simmer.

     The mixture smelled great and made the kitchen smell like raspberries. I simmered the mixture for 8 minutes to reduce the syrup, then removed from heat and strained through a fine mesh strainer. This yielded one cup of syrup.
     For one serving of soda, mix 1/3 cup of syrup with 1 1/3 cup cold seltzer or water and add the juice of 1/2 lime in your favorite glass, add ice if you wish, and enjoy!

     The result was a dark pink soda that smelled great and had a very clean fruity taste. The scent of the raspberries came through in the final product, and the lime juice added a pleasant tartness that complemented the sweetness of the raspberries. It was a very refreshing and tasty soda ... success! Try at home, and please let us know if you find ways to improve upon this simple soda.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sparkling Lavender Tea

     Tammy invited me to sample some of the herbs in her herb garden, so I decided to experiment with a lavender-tea concoction. I love tea, and I don't see any reason not to carbonate it. I'm planning a couple of other combinations, including a green tea pineapple mint mixture, but for now...lavender and black tea.
     I set out with a pair of pruning shears and cut a couple of sprigs off of the lavender plant in Tammy's garden (with her permission, I swear). Here are the ingredients for this simple beverage:

     -one sprig of lavender (I actually used the one pictured);
     -four tea bags (I used Twinings English Breakfast Tea, decaf);
     -one cup sugar;
     -one cup water.

     I rinsed the lavender, then picked the leaves and placed them in a glass measuring cup. The leaves were then bruised with a wooden spoon (I lack the thingy actually designed for that purpose...Christmas is coming) to release their oils and left to steep in the cup of water overnight in the fridge. day: the lavender water smelled like...yeah, lavender. Bring to simmer with the one cup of sugar (just like simple syrup, but lavendery) then add your tea bags sans tags and strings. I simmered it for five minutes, then strained through a tea strainer (coffee filter would also of the tea bags burst).
     Here's the syrup, which was very dark, and smelled awesome (it made me sleepy):

     The recipe made slightly more than one cup of syrup. I decided to carbonate this batch in our ISI soda siphon. I cooled the water in the fridge for two hours, then added the syrup to the siphon and topped off with cold water and carbonated. I left the siphon in the fridge overnight to allow the CO2 to saturate the liquid.

     I waited very patiently until the next day to try this. On pouring the soda came out with a very thick a quarter inch of tea and four inches of foam. That was a little discouraging...not sure what happened there. But, after letting the foam settle out the tea looked, smelled and tasted great.

     A bit of a warning with this recipe: the lavender taste is very pronounced, so some may want to tone it down a little, but I really enjoyed it. The combination of the lavender, tea, sugar and carbonation was calming and exciting all at the same time. All of the flavors came through clean, and were well balanced. I will definitely be making this again, though in future I think I'll just mix the syrup with seltzer. 
     And now, for no apparent reason whatsoever, here is a picture of our dog Sissy eating cheese sauce out of a can:

     Check back soon....raspberry soda and a reckless experiment with pumpkin soda are coming!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Simple Lemon-Lime Soda

     We had my two girls, Maggie and Lucie, over this weekend and Tammy and I decided to get them involved in making a simple lemon-lime soda. We didn't really have a recipe for this one, so we decided to 'wing it.' After a short trip to the grocery store (we were short on lemons) we gathered the ingredients. They're seen here on Tammy's most recent table-scape:

     This recipe yields four servings (1/4 cup syrup per serving):
     -two medium sized lemons;
     -two limes;
     -1 cup sugar;
     -about 1/2 cup water.

     Start by juicing your lemons and limes. We still haven't invested in a juicer (but Christmas is coming!!!) so we pressed the girls into service squeezing the fruit. Don't worry, they washed their hands, and the syrup's going to be well-boiled.

     The girls (Maggie on left, Lucie on right) really enjoyed getting into squeezing the lemons and limes. The yield was 1/2 cup of combined lemon and lime juice, which we strained through a fine mesh strainer. We then added 1/2 cup water to make one cup of base. That was added to the one cup of sugar in a stainless steel saucepan and brought to simmer / light boil for 14 minutes and reduced to one cup of finished syrup.
     We let the syrup cool to room temperature and mixed 1/4 cup syrup with 1 1/3 cup cold seltzer water for a nice treat after dinner. The girls declared it to be much better than store-bought lemon-lime soda. I agree!
     The syrup had a light golden color, and the mixed soda has a nice gold tint, slighly less than a store-bought ginger ale. The citrus balance came down slightly in favor of the lime, which added a nice citrus bite (but not too much). The taste was excellent, and this will make a nice base for adding in other fruit flavors, maybe raspberry, mango....who knows. Try your own, and enjoy!


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Halloween Review: Red Rock Golden Ginger Ale

     We're posting this one a bit late...actually about a week late. We've been having some trouble with our lackluster internet service, soooo...I'm posting our Halloween review of Red Rock Golden Ginger Ale while Tammy is busy decorating the house for fall / Thanksgiving.
     We spent Halloween evening at our local church's Trunk or Treat event, where people dress up and hand out candy to the community kiddos. It's safe for the kids and fun for everyone. This was our second year together at the event. Last year we dressed as Robin Hood and Maid Marian (I was almost universally mistaken for Shrek). This year we decided to dress as a 20's gangster and flapper (one disturbingly well educated little girl actually asked if I was a 'pimp'):

     We had a great time decorating the back of Tammy's Liberty for the event. We found a CD of Charelston big band music at Hastings to top it off and really enjoyed handing candy out to about 300 kids.
     Okay, now on to the soda!
     In addition to experimenting with making our own sodas we're also enjoying picking up unique small-batch sodas and trying them. A couple weeks back we stopped in at The Candy Co. in Oklahoma City's Bricktown. They sell gelato, candy and a good variety of bottled sodas. We picked out seven (they were running a pick six, get one free deal) and brought them home to enjoy.

    Our first try, Red Rock Golden Ginger Ale, is made under license by Clayton Distributing Co. in Anstell, Ga. A quick review of the label shows pure cane sugar and natural flavors, but also sodium benzoate and artificial colors (red 40 and yellow 6). A 12 oz bottle netted 160 calories.
     The color of this soda is a nice, deep golden color (thanks to those artificial colors). On pouring the soda gives off a pleasant, slightly sweet ginger smell.
     Red Rock advertises this ginger soda as having 'Just the Right Bite!' This may very well be the case for folks who taunt the waiters at their favorite Mexican restaurant to get the hottest possible hot sauce. For those with a milder palate, however, the 'bite' in this soda may be overwhelming or even unpleasant.
     A deep inhale of the effervescing soda shortly after pouring burned the nostrils and back of throat...that should give an idea of what's coming with that first sip. The soda tastes good, lightly sweet with a peppery ginger base. There is a lingering ginger bite (read aftertaste) on the tongue and in the back of the throat. Again, it tastes good but you're going to have to like spicy food and have a slightly bitter palate to enjoy this soda. If you only eat mild salsa and like lots of sugar in your tea this probably isn't for you.
    I enjoy bitter and spicy foods and enjoyed the soda, but found the 'bite' slightly unnecessarily strong. Tammy has a taste for sweet and mild foods, and found the soda downright unpleasant.
    Here it is once again, in front of a Halloween tree with some of the great handmade decorations Tammy makes for all occasions that you can check out here if you are interested.

     We'll be trying more soon. Let us know if you try something new and interesting!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Black Cherry Limeade

     We decided to kick things off with one of our favorite sodas, cherry limeade, with a bit of a twist.
We actually tried a couple of juice-tinted seltzers first (we'll be back to them later, for a less-sweet refreshing option) but this was our first foray into a true soda syrup.
     We're both big fans of the cherry-limeades you can get at various drink places (at least, in the southwest they're very popular) but we wanted to make some at home without the artificial red #40 cherry syrup.
     Our first attempt at this recipe was good, but not quite right. Fresh cherries were not available at our local market, so we used RW Knudsen's organic tart cherry juice. There's nothing in there but cherry juice, so it fit our standards. The tart juice did not offset the lime well, plus I got a little over-zealous in my zesting of the lime, and we ended up with a bit of a bitter after-taste. Sooooo.....attempt number two.
     The only major changes were not zesting into the white pith of the lime (gimme a break, I'm a often do we zest?) and switching to RW Knudsen black cherry juice. Here are the ingredients:

-1 cup cherry juice;
-1 cup sugar;
-juice and zest of three limes;
-3 drops natural almond extract.

     The black cherry juice tastes somewhat sweet on its own, so you could experiment with less sugar, and more juice if you want to carbonate with a siphon. This recipe is meant to provide a sweet syrup that can be mixed with seltzer or diluted with cold water and carbonated.
    I zested the limes into the sauce pan, then added the sugar and juice. Heat stirring until the sugar dissolves on medium heat. Bring to simmer and continue (16 minutes in my case) until it is reduced to half its original volume. Let cool and add the lime juice and almond extract. Pass through a fine mesh strainer or coffee filter (I recommend the coffee filter if you're going to put it through a siphon).
     Makes slightly more than 1 cup of syrup. Stir 1/3 cup syrup into 1 1/3 cup seltzer or cold water or add to 4 cups cold water and carbonate.
Here's the result:

     No need for anything artificial here! The recipe yielded a very tasty soda with a rich, red color with a cherry-lime aroma. The taste was a good balance of the sweet cherries and tart lime. The cherry flavor comes through nicely and the lime is not overpowering. Experiment with it on your own; some may like slightly less sugar, or more lime. Have fun with it!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Let's Make Some Soda!

     We are Tammy and James, and we're just beginning to experiment with making our own all-natural artisanal sodas at our home in Oklahoma.
     As you can see from the picture below, we are very much in love with each other, and we both are enjoying the pleasures of braces in our mid thirties.
     We got bored with just ignoring our orthodontist's instructions to not drink soda, and decided we'd take it to another level and make our own.
     We're pictured below attending a ball-game. You can't get decent soda at a stadium, even if you can get out of the stands and want to stand in line at the concessions.

     As you may guess, our profile name for our soda venture, like many things in our daily lives, was inspired by our ever-present canines. Clockwise, from bottom left are Mr. Stoops (can you guess our favorite football team?), Sissy and Popeye. They love to prowl while we're working in the kitchen.

     Neither of us had any experience making soda at home when we started this, so a little research was needed. We came across this book, 'Homemade Soda' by Andrew Schloss. A payment to Amazon and a couple of days later and we had it in our hands. It is well worth the investment if you're interested in making all-natural sodas and soda inspired concoctions at home.
     The book is ideal for beginners because Schloss started with no experience in soda-making when he set out to write the book. The result is an interesting read that takes you from no experience to comfortably making homemade soda, with some great background on soda history and science.
     It's an easy read and the recipes are designed with little required equipment. You likely have the equipment in your kitchen already if you're not a bachelor.
     He provides 200 recipes for different types of sodas and soda-based foods. The soda recipes include three different carbonation methods (when appropriate for the given recipe) offering the option to craft syrup and mix it store-bought seltzer (no special equipment needed), to carbonate with a soda siphon (buy a siphon) or carbonate with yeast brewing (now you've begun an involved and expensive hobby).
     The options give lots of flexibility, and the recipes are a great springboard from which to launch into your own concocted fruit and herb blended sodas.

     We purchased an ISI siphon (more on it and its performance later), but most of our attempts at this stage involve making syrup (basically combinations of fruit juice, herbs, natural oils, water and sugar, ohhhh the sugar) and mixing it with seltzer or water.
     Tammy doesn't care for the carbonation, so we're working on recipes that make a good, quality syrup that can be blended for a great soda or an equally tasty flat beverage.
     We hope you'll enjoy and try a few of our concoctions, or come up with some of your own.
     Let us know how it goes!