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[ Currently Eating: Salty Eye Boogers ]

I am sitting here at the computer. Waiting.

Waiting, waiting for my homemade ginger ale to call. Suddenly, he breaks into song: I’m waiting by the phone. Waiting for you to call me up and tell me I’m not alone. Hello, speak up, is there ginger ale there?

These hang ups are getting me down.

In a world frozen over with over fermentation. Let’s talk it over, let’s go out and paint the town.

Cause I’m waiting by the phone. Waiting for ginger ale to call me up and tell me I’m not alone…

End song plagiarization. Start recipe plagiarization.

So, I’ve been wanting to try out making some homemade ginger ale for awhile now. The idea came to me in a dream. Well, not really in a dream, because I wasn’t asleep. Actually, I was awake and this was no waking dream or nightmare. Actually squared, I was already on the interweb looking for a cheap recipe to try out.

The thing with all these ginger ale and ginger beer recipes is that they often require huge amounts of labor, time, time, time, time and weird ingredients, in that exact order. For the ginger beer, you have to make something called a “plant” and feed it. No thankee. Dude, I’m not going to keep adding sugar and yeast to a bottle for 2 weeks to produce some crappy tasting, slightly alcoholic ginger swill that I could just buy at Trader Joe’s.

But I found one ginger ale recipe that seemed pretty simple, both in ingredients and procedure.

Plus, it was written by a Professor-guy.

Man, that’s enough to convince me. Who would you rather trust with potentially exploding ale – a 30 year old mummy [sic] blogger or a Professor-guy of Biology and Chemistry?

The math, it should be done.

So I tried it out and the results are sorta detailed below.

The Professor-guy’s Homemade Ginger Ale

1 cup sugar — $0.30
1 lemon — $0.30
2 tbsp grated ginger — $0.25
1/4 teaspoon yeast — $0.15
water — negligible
2 liter plastic bottle

Total: $1.00

OK – you probably want to grate up the ginger first. This took me the longest time, even with a really good microplane zester thingy. I just have the habit of grating knuckles and fingertips when going too quickly. You can use less ginger – we actually felt like it needed MORE, but then we’re ginger eating maniacs.

Get the plastic bottle and make sure it’s clean. Oh, dude, I would NOT use glass bottles. No way. Using that much yeast makes it ferment like a fermenting madman. Just know that I will not be held responsible for any inadvertent boom-booms. Trust me, or rather, trust the Professor-guy whose recipe this is.

Get a plastic funnel, pour the sugar and yeast into the bottle. Shake it a little. Get a glass measuring cup, stick the ginger in it. Juice the lemon, and pour it into the cup as well. Swirl it around.

Now dump that lemon-ginger mofo into the funnel. Professor-guy said to not worry about it sticking in the funnel. Fill up the unwashed glass measuring cup with clean water. Pour that into the funnel and it’ll wash all the remains into the bottle. Damn, I like this Professor-guy – such attention to detail.

Fill up the remaining space in the plastic bottle with clean water. You can use the funnel if you like. Just don’t fill it up too much. I actually left about 2 inches at the top, though Professor-guy says 1 inch is OK. Cap it and shake to distribute – turn the bottle upside down to make sure the sugar is not sticking in the crevices.

Now comes the sketchy part – leave the bottle in room temperature for between 8-48 hours. I would say to put it in a bomb-proof bag, but not everyone has one of those. The reason for the great range of time is that the temperature of the room and the efficacy of the yeast can be REALLY different.

So how do you know it’s done – you kinda “squeeze the bottle forcefully”. So much for science! If you can’t really dent it in, then it’s time to refrigerate it. Then chill it in the fridge overnight. When you’re opening it the next day, make sure to open it slowly. Dang, there’s a lot of gas in there.

You’ll want to strain it into a glass, unless you like bits of ginger and lemon floating around in your glass. I actually do – feels more homemade.

This entire recipe was copped from Professor-guy. Thank you, Professor-guy.

Some quick thoughts – I didn’t use a standard 2 liter bottle because I didnt’ have one at home. I used one of those harder plastic containers, but it seems to work the same way.

However, I found my ginger ale bottle got rock hard within like 5-6 hours! This is probably because I used double the yeast recommended by the professor. I did not have any inadvertent boom-booms, but this is probably not recommended. However, it did produce some passable carbonated ginger ale in a shorter time. I used the Fleischmann’s instant active yeast packets.

I’ve heard you can use dried grated ginger with similar results, but we always have the fresh stuff around. I thought the lemon juice was just for flavoring, and Professor-guy indeed said it was optional. However, I’ve seen another person say it’s important to balance the pH or something. I’ll let the other Professor-guys (or gals) comment on that.

The refrigeration is actually necessary to stop or slow the fermentation process, so make sure you put the bottle in the fridge before it has a chance to get really sketchy. Because the liquid is cold, the sugar sometimes doesn’t dissolve right away, and that may affect the time as well. I might experiment with using a simple syrup instead of sugar next time.

Overall, the ginger ale was surprisingly good. In my humble non-Professor-guy opinion, it was more of a “lemony soda drink with a ginger taste”. But I’d much rather drink this than Sprite.

It lasts for a few days in the fridge. For grins, on the 3rd day I dumped a little more sugar and yeast into the bottle to see if it would make it more fizzy again. I left it out until the bottle got hard, and then refrigerated it. That actually worked pretty nicely, except it tasted a little too much like breadahol (alcoholic bread) than it probably should.

On the subject of alcoholic content – I don’t think that there’s that high a level of alcohol in this type of homemade ginger ale. I think if you keep on “feeding it”, it might get higher. It certainly tasted more like alcohol after I tried adding more yeast. Well, maybe some of the Professor-guy-types out there can weigh in on that.

Anyhow, at about $1 a bottle it’s a pretty nice drink to sip, while waiting on the phone.

[Editor's Note: I am not a Professor of Grungology, but Magic Bonus points will be given if you knew the song I was singing. Without googling it, genius.]


[ Currently Eating: Homemade Toast ]

Coffee Syrup - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

I like flavored coffee.

I guess that counts as a sheepish confession. Though, I prefer to call it an antelopish or gazellish confession. You know how it goes: Wild animals and coffee.

I decided to say that up front so that all the hard-core coffee drinkers could immediately hit the back button and go back to drinking whatever passes for the Real Coffee Deal nowadays.

I also can’t drink coffee straight black. I need milk or cream or 1/2 and 1/2 in it. Or at least some whiskey, especially early in the morning. I suspect this is somewhat less of a heinous offense in the eyes of coffee drinkers (and alcoholics) around the world. But I’m throwing that out there too, just in case.

I also sometimes nuke day old coffee in the microwave, drink fricking Folger’s instant coffee on occasion, and I have been known to tentatively eat some of the grounds in the mistaken belief that it will make me grow a few inches.

I meant in height, you maniacs.

For the three people still with me after those confessions, congratulations!

OK. So I like the flavored coffee and coffee drinks, but I really hate to drop an Abe Lincoln every day at Stirbuks. So, we’ve been buying the standard Torani Syrup to flavor up our morning drinks. The only thing is that they’re sort of expensive, especially considering they’re mostly sugar water. We usually get the 750ml large sizes, and those usually run between $7 and $10 at specialty stores. On Amazon, I discovered you can pick up a three pack of syrup for $16.30 which comes out to about $5.40 a bottle.

Not too bad, but I was thinking – how hard could it be to just make your own coffee syrup at home?

Coffee Syrup - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

The answer is that if you know how to boil water, you know how to make your own coffee syrup. The most difficult part is the flavoring. If you’re just looking to get simple sugar syrup, hey, add equal parts sugar and water together, reduce it by half, and there you go. I have to admit, I never really got into making simple syrup – but it’s a really handy thing to have around, especially when you need to flavor cold beverages. And yes, it’s just boiling sugar and water together.

I looked up a bunch of different recipes for coffee syrups, and a lot of them have you scraping vanilla bean pods, harvesting your own hazelnuts, etc. Ugh-a-bugga. The method I settled for flavoring the syrup just uses vanilla extract.

Yes, I realize that the price of these extracts if you buy them JUST to make your coffee syrup sort of defeats the purpose of making your own syrup. However, I think most people have Vanilla extract in the cupboard – and if you’re using a teaspoon, I think it’s worth it. Based on a 2 Fl. Oz. bottle of vanilla extract that costs $3.50, I think 1 tsp should run you about 30 to 40 cents.

I’m sure that using an authentic vanilla bean pod will make it taste a ton better – let me know if you try that out. My vanilla bean plant is tired after doing all those pushups this morning.

Vanilla Sugar Syrup

1 cup sugar — $0.35
1 tsp vanilla extract — $0.35
1 cup water

Total: $0.70

Get a pot. Dump the sugar, water and extract into it. Stir it up with a wooden spoon to kind of dissolve at least some of the sugar.

Flame up that pot with a medium flame. I wouldn’t walk away, because it won’t take that long. I’d also stir the pot once in awhile. Don’t watch the pot too hard, or it wont boil. Haha.

When it starts to boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the mo-fo. Everyone says to reduce it by half, but my eyes aren’t very accurate. So it’ll be about 4-7 minutes I think. It won’t really thicken up THAT much, which is correct because the syrup that you buy is pretty watery as well.

Let it cool, and that’s pretty much it. Congratulations.

This whole shebang seems to result in about 1 1/3 cups of syrup, or, if my shoddy math (and googling) is correct – about 1/3 Liter. So, 750ml (3/4 Liter) of Torani costs at the cheapest, say $5. That same amount of homemade coffee syrup would be, uh, about $1.60? Please don’t check my math work, I’m that embarrassed.

In any case, $5 versus $1.60 seems worth a shot. I suspect that the price will change dramatically if you use real vanilla bean pods, or if you try other extracts like almond or hazelnut. Who knows. The syrup I made seemed to be adequate, although it definitely wasn’t as fragrant. I might try doubling the vanilla extract next time or something.

The consistency of the syrup is about right. It doesn’t seem like it’d be sticky, but I did spill a considerable quanity on the stove top. The resulting mess was both sticky and tasty, though not in that exact order…

One thing I noticed is that while I don’t require any of the preservatives that Torani puts in their syrup, they also sometimes add stuff like citric acid. I didn’t notice it at all until I tasted the store-bought and homemade coffee syrup side by side. The citric acid definitely adds a little something, a bit of a zing. I haven’t thought about experimenting with stand-ins for the citric acid yet – maybe some lemon?

I know some folks also recommended using brown sugar in some of the recipes – I think I might give that one a go later. Others try to use homemade caramel. But I think I’ll leave that one to other people. Boiling sugar and water for 5 minutes is plenty dangerous enough for me right now.

5/15/08 | Lemonade


[ Currently Eating: A Tamale For Breakfast ]

Lemonade on Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Hm… my usage of girly kitchenware in the pictures are sure to further speculation that I’m really a girl and not a guy. But hey, that shouldn’t matter, right? *Curtsies*

The other day, life doth handed me free lemons – thusly, I doth made lemonade. Now, I’ve never really made lemonade from scratch. Mostly because the price of lemons is just too high to justify squeezing them to make juice. Maybe if you bought them in bulk it’d be worth it. Or, perhaps if you went on a fruit collecting trip.

But usually, I get lemons for free from relatives who have the trees and don’t know what to do with the fruit. So, conveniently for the 3 dollars or less limit – the price of lemons is going to be zero in this recipe. Actually, the only other ingredient that actually costs money is the sugar. I looked up a number of different recipes on the web, and settled on a version of this one to try:

Lemonade

4-6 lemons — Free
1 cup granulated sugar — $0.25
Water
Ice

Total: $0.25

You want to make a sugar syrup so there isn’t sugar crystals swirling around in the lemonade. Combine about 1 to 2 cups water with the sugar in a small pan or pot and heat until the sugar dissolves all the way. While that’s going on, juice the lemons so that you get about a cup of juice. Usually about 4-6 lemons.

Mix the sugar syrup and lemon juice in a pitcher. Add about 3 cups ice and then 4-6 cups of ice water. I like to use ice because it decreases the time you need to refrigerate the mixture before it’s cold again. Usually you still need to refrigerate it 15-30 min. Serve in glasses with ice.

Well, as you can see, it’s no wonder why kids are pushed to start up lemonade stands. The margin is enormous if you happen to have the free lemons.

The above recipe felt kind of off to me – in fairness the author said that it would make a very, very sweet lemonade. I think I would have cut the sugar by even 1/2 next time. But I like lemonade that’s very mild. I do think the simple syrup idea helps out a lot, as opposed to trying to get pure sugar to dissolve in ice water.

Continue reading “Lemonade” …




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