Suddenly Sauer: Preserving Food and Tradition in a Modern World

Cultured Root Beer Floats
February 14, 2010, 2:46 pm
Filed under: beverages, Uncategorized

Oh yes, you read that right… the cultured root beer (made with local sassafras from Holtz Farms, vanilla, molasses, and whey) was a rip-roaring success. I’ve been testing the same batch for the past three weeks, and I couldn’t figure out why one bottle had carbonated and the other had not–even though I actually had the same problem with my lavender soda. I finally got smart and poured the un-carbonated batch into the bottle that had carbonated, and viola, two successful batches of root beer later, I have problem solved myself to the point where one thing is now clear– I need to buy myself some reliable bottles.

But the flavor was delicious, more tangy than folks are used to, no doubt, but also deep and full bodied. like good beer, only it’s soda!

How to Make Cultured Root Beer

Brew a simple syrup: sassafras root, 1 1/2 cups sucanat (or organic cane sugar), full vanilla bean, and 1/4 cup molasses in 2 quarts of water

Allow the brew to cool to room temperature, add another 2 quarts of water and 3/4 cup of whey

***the whey is the starter for this fermentation, it contains the lacto-bacilli, which will convert the sugars (sucanat in this case) into lactic acid and CO2. This is how we get carbonation.

Pour the mixture into sealable bottles: bottles must be made of thick glass, and lids should be grolsch style, to reduce risk of explosions.

Allow to ferment in a warm place (around 70 degrees) for about 1.5-2 weeks. normally the ferment takes less time, but I think the bacteria takes more time to digest sucanat (a whole cane sugar with it’s molasses content still intact) than it take to digest refined sugar.

When you can shake the bottle and see LOTS of bubble activity, its a good time to stick it in the refrigerator, and pop it open when you’re ready for a taste. I would caution you about two things: 1) don’t forget about your fermenting soda, it could build TOO MUCH pressure and become dangerous. 2) don’t bring your soda to a party, promising root beer, only to then open it and discover it’s flat as anything and a little bit sour (the sourness will happen no matter what, but without the bubbles, it’ll be a hard sell for people who are expecting soda). Try to test the batch before you bring it around promising root beer. I’ve made this mistake a few too many times by now, always a disappointment.

For the float party, I made a batch of plain vanilla ice cream, my first time ever using fresh dairy. I always opt for non-dairy or fermented dairy bases because my body is much happier when I feed it cultured dairy. I’ve been making nut, rice, yogurt, etc. based ice creams for about a year now, and I think they’re spectacular and far from a compromise; the non-dairy cream base lends complexity to the ice cream, and the flavors you can create are adventuresome to say the least. BUT for a cultured root beer float party, something a bit more classic was in order. So I made a vanilla custard ice cream base (full fat organic raw milk from Hampshire Farms, vanilla, and egg yolks) and I sweetened it with agave. not only because I can’t leave my health food instincts behind completely, even when making heavy cream ice cream, but also because agave is a natural sweetener with the same syrupy quality of corn syrup, which makes for a wonderfully smooth ice cream.

And when it was time to crank out the Ice Cream, we procured our ice by breaking chunks off of the frozen 5 gallon bucket ice lanterns on the porch, with a hammer and chisel, which I observed was much more contemporaneous with the circa 1925 hand crank ice cream maker than buying a bag of ice from the corner store would have been anyhow.

When the cranking was complete (about 25 minutes) I scooped the creamy goodness into cups, crossed my fingers as I popped the top on my experiment for the 3rd time, and was greeted by the incredibly satisfying pop of a carbonated bottle of soda releasing its pressure. Yum. Cultured Root Beer over ice cream and some satisfied company… I love this city.


6 Comments so far
Leave a comment

that sounds just wonderful. i’m envious. i especially like the part where you actually went outside and chiseled off your own ice. that’s awesome. i bottled a new batch of ‘booch last night and started a batch of kimchi today. got to keep the revolution fermenting.

Comment by uriel

B-bear, did you use fresh root or dried root? If fresh, is it possible to use dried? Would it taste less potent? Is dried sassafras root something that is even sold anywhere? If it’s not sold anywhere, do you want to send me some and I’ll pay you for it?

Comment by uriel

Uriel, I used fresh sassafras root, bought it at the farmers market. I would love to buy you some. it only costs a dollar for a bundle big enough to make the recipe I included in this post. If you e-mail me your address, I’ll buy some NEXT weekend (not this weekend) and send some your way. My pleasure. And how about instead of you sending me $, you just send me something Californian that I can’t get here, if you see something or if I figure out something I’ve got a yen for:)??

Comment by Blair

ok, i can see it now. my ginger bug is alive, btw. gut shabbos!

Comment by uriel

well even though you’re ignoring me, you inspired me to start a ginger bug in the hopes of brewing a batch of ginger beer. i’ll be sure not to get people hyped up about it until i taste it 🙂

Comment by uriel


Comment by Angela Newsom

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