Friday, August 20, 2010

Homemade Pop!

Yesterday I mentioned The Kitchn and how it was a great website except for the fact that it was promoting putting corn in desserts (baaaarfffff).  Today though I'd like to talk about one of the awesome things The Kitchn inspired me to do, and you should definitely try it as well!  You really have no excuse not to, it's so easy.

The thing I want to talk about is making homemade soft drinks, without the use of any type of fancy CO2 injector.  !!!!!  Who knew you could do this?  I normally dislike pop a lot because it is just so disgustingly sweet.  I'd already figured out how to make potato chips at home, was it really possible to make a whole pop-and-chips combo for less than 25 cents without leaving my kitchen?

It all started with this article - a recipe for "easy homemade ginger ale."  I was intrigued!  Basically if you don't want to click that link, all you need is some tap water, a pinch of yeast (I used instant yeast and it worked just fine), sugar, ginger, and lemon juice.  Mix it all up, seal it for a day or two, chill, and serve!  The science behind it:  the yeast interacts with the sugar and ferments, creating the carbonation.  Since you only use a bit of yeast, the resulting alcohol content is much too low to actually have any sort of effect on the taste, and if you use the correct amount of yeast you shouldn't be able to taste it either.

I researched a bit more on the internet just to make sure The Kitchn wasn't pulling my leg.  Sure enough, may websites had similar recipes and also suggested it as a way for making cream soda (replace the ginger and lemon juice with vanilla) and root beer (use root beer extract for the flavouring agent).  Neat!  Having all of the ingredients for ginger ale and cream soda, I decided to give it a try.

When I cook and bake I am definitely not an "ingredient measurer," which didn't entirely work to my advantage for my first couple tries at the ginger ale - I used a little too much yeast which caused the mixture to ferment too fast and the liquid to be slightly flat with a pretty distinctive yeasty flavour and aftertaste.  Still, it mostly tasted like ginger ale and now that I know the correct proportions (the cream soda worked perfectly), I'll definitely make this again.

My successful batch of cream soda happened like this:

In a 500 mL plastic bottle, shake together:

3 tbsp sugar (or more if you like it super sweet)
Approximately 2 small finger pinches of yeast (about 1/16 tsp)
1 tsp vanilla (or more if you want a really distinct flavour - I find subtle flavour and sweetness more refreshing)
Fill with cool tap water (not totally full - I left at least an inch of room from the water line to the neck of the bottle)
Seal the bottle

Leave at room temperature for a couple of days - until the bottom of the bottle starts to poke out and you can't squeeze the bottle anymore (the cream soda took about 3 days).  Then put in the fridge for another day to stop the fermentation process.  Don't use glass bottles or jars - they could explode if too much gas builds up inside.

Unless you have a really fine strainer (I don't), when you pour the liquid out of the bottle you'll probably have to dump an inch or two of liquid at the end (it will have mixed with the yeast that has settled at the bottom of the bottle and be murky and gross). 

Photographic evidence!

Cream soda in a glass (you can see what I mean by having to discard the murky last bit in the bottle behind it).  The bottle is slightly tipped because the bottom has "popped out" from the gas buildup inside.

Closeup of the carbonation!  It worked!  My next experiment might be to use even less yeast to see if it builds up more fizz.  This attempt was good but it could use a bit more.  Also I think this experiment yielded enough success to warrant buying some root beer extract.

Hooray!  Pop that is basically healthy ;)  More importantly, pop that I can control the sugar content and might actually enjoy drinking!

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