January 13, 2012
Make Your Own Ginger Ale
I'm not a big fan of soda as a general rule, but I do like a good root beer or ginger ale! My beef with most commercial varieties of these drinks? You've got it...high fructose corn syrup! There are some lovely artisan sodas out there, and I usually have some of those on hand, but occasionally I like to make my own ginger ale
Ginger ale obviously starts with ginger, in this case several pounds of it. This is a very easy thing to make, and you can't really go wrong. If your syrup ends up a little less gingery, use more of it when you make your final drink. If it has a stronger ginger flavor, use less. Not sugary enough for you? Add more sugar. Too sugary? Add less sugar, or add a bit more sparkling water when you're ready to drink your ginger ale. This is a very no-fail sort of thing. There are no wrong answers! And you know how I love that sort of thing.
So what's next? I'll make my own root beer, but that as they say, is a story for another day!
Let's talk some homemade ginger ale!
What You'll Need:
2-3 pounds of ginger, mostly peeled
6 quarts of water
4 cups of organic cane sugar
First you want to scrub your ginger. Usually ginger is presented to you in the store pretty clean, but you still want to scrub. Since ginger is a knobbly beasty of a plant you'd be amazed where dirt can hide in its little nooks and crannies! Look at those monsters in the picture above! Plus who knows who touched it at the store, or in the process of transporting it there, before you and what might have been lurking on their hands.
Next you're going to need a large stockpot. One that can handle at least 8 quarts of liquid, so you have a little room.
Peel your ginger. This doesn't have to be perfect. If you leave a little ginger skin here or there, no biggie! Did I mention how many nooks and crannies ginger has? Just get most of the skin.
Once the ginger is peeled, chop it into rounds or chunks. Again nothing has to be perfect here. Just make sure you've got a sharp knife and chop/slice to your hearts content!
Place chopped/sliced ginger into your big stockpot.
Add six quarts of water and bring to a quick boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook covered for 1 hour.
Strain liquid through a sieve into a large bowl. Wipe or rinse out your stockpot to remove any debris and then return syrup to the pot and stir in sugar. Place back on your stove top and stir until sugar is melted. Given this has been cooking for an hour, the sugar melts almost instantaneously.
Once sugar is melted, pour ginger sugar syrup into glass canning jars. I like to use the ones with wide mouths, because if you leave an inch of space at the top you can freeze the syrup for use later.
Keep in mind that your liquid is hot, so either heat your jars a bit in a 200 F oven for about 10 minutes and then handle with mitts, or let the syrup cool down first or the jars might crack. Let the syrup cool completely if you chose the heated jar route, if not you're already cooled and ready to go.
No matter which way you chose to handle your syrup above, now you've got your ginger syrup and you can make ginger ale!
Now you get to decide whether you want to use ice or not. I like to do this over ice, but if your syrup and/or sparkling water have been stored in the fridge you can skip the ice if you want.
Place a little of your ginger syrup in the bottom of a glass.
Cover with sparkling water and stir.
The amount of syrup versus sparkling water depends on your own personal tastes. Play around with it until you get it where you like it!
What you end up with is a really fabulous, sweet, yet spicy, ginger ale that you can mix up whenever you like.
How fabulous is that?
Makes about 5 quarts.
To store you can place in a cool dark place, in the fridge or even freeze your syrup until ready to use. You could put one jar in the fridge and the rest in the freezer and then use it as you need it. The syrup lasts for weeks in the fridge or a cool dark place, and up to a year in your freezer
If you do decide to freeze your syrup be sure that you've left at least an inch of head space at the top of the jar and that your jars are completely cooled before you put them in your freezer. This prevents the glass from cracking as the liquid freezes and expands/cools.
Notes: Keep in mind that ginger has a little zing to it. Some people might not care for this version of ginger ale because it does have a bit of "heat" to it, for lack of a better word. Most of the people I've given this to, who were fans of ginger ale to begin with, loved the finished product!
January 3, 2012
Make Your Own Honey Butter
I was talking about making honey butter with some friends a while back and I was surprised to find out that they thought this was an epic culinary undertaking. They were shocked when I told them just how easy it was to make!
I'm a big fan of honey butter, or well honey itself for that matter. My father has his own bees so I've always got a ready supply of honey in the cabinet. Honey butter is perfect on warm biscuits, yeast rolls, or even simple toast. Making your own is also a lot cheaper and has less unneeded additives than what you might find in your store.
2012 will bring more of these "Make Your Own" segments, which in reality are what I like to call "semi-recipes". Everything from herbed oils, to seasonings, to other food items, along with a few household cleaning and beauty items as well. In 2011 I started making my own laundry detergent and cleaning spray. Not only is it cheaper, it's healthier too. After all isn't that how most of use want to start out the New Year?
Happy New Year! Here's to hoping 2012 is a healthier, better year for us all!
What You'll Need:
1/2 pound of butter, softened (Note: I like to use Kerrygold Irish Butter.)
1/4 to 1/3 cup of honey
In a mixing bowl beat butter until light and fluffy. On low speed slowly add honey and mix until incorporated. Turn to high and beat for one minute.
Remove butter from mixing bowl and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Plus it's ready to use immediately.
How easy is that?
Notes: If you like your honey butter a little less sweet go with 1/4 a cup of honey. It you like it a bit more sweet then go with 1/3 a cup of honey instead. Honey butter not your thing? Add a couple of tablespoons of cinnamon sugar instead to make another great "fancy" butter to enjoy.