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Old Fashioned Root Beer
#1
[size="4"]This is a copy/paste from another forum I used to frequent. I figured there might be someone here who'd enjoy this recipe...

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Before we start, let me clarify something. Root beer is not an alcoholic beverage. It is a carbonated drink similar to Coca~Cola sodapop.



Where I come from, in the summer we'd make homemade old fashioned root beer with a "by the bottle" brewing carbonization method. It would be the highlight of my day as a child to be able to hide out of the sun and pop open a bubbling bottle of REAL root beer.



Now, before I go too far into the details on just how to make root beer, let me describe a few things first.



Likely, not a single person on these forums have ever actually tasted real root beer. "Why is this?", you might ask... followed by a denial and quick justification of your root beer exploits. The answer is simple. It's actually illegal in the U.S.A. to produce old fashioned root beer and sell it (sassafras root is toxic and a controlled substance used in the production of the drug Ecstacy).



Root beer is made with flavouring added by the elusive Sassafras root. The Sassafras root extract contains a chemical that is dangerous in large doses. So most root beer manufacturers actually use entirely artificial chemical combinations to emulate the Sassafras root's flavour. This results in hundreds if not thousands of different tasting "root beer" products worldwide... of which most do not even come close to true root beer flavour.



This root beer recipe is the one my family has used for over 100 years (although it has undergone a few changes over time). It is TRUE root beer and uses sassafras root. Fresh roots are ALWAYS better than dried. Get fresh if you can.



Daerk's Family Recipe Book Wrote:What you'll need...

  • 1 Compressed Fresh Yeast Cake (0.6 ounces)

  • Sassafras Root (2 and 1/2 ounces)

  • Anise (1/4 ounce)

  • Pure Dark Buckwheat Honey (3 pounds. Not light clover honey, and not honey stretched with corn syrup or sugar solution)

  • Molasses (1/2 ounce)

  • Cinnamon (2 tablespoons)

  • Nutmeg (1 tablespoon)

  • Vanilla Extract (2 ounces. Use REAL Vanilla extract, NOT Fake/Artificial, and not Vanilla Bean)

  • Wintergreen Leaves (2 and 1/2 ounces)

  • Juniper Berries (2 ounces)

  • Ginger Root (1/2 ounce)

  • Hops (1/2 ounce)

  • Dandelion Root (1 ounce)

  • Water - Purified with reverse osmosis (4 Gallons)



First, we need to make the root infusion.



Using sassafras bark to make the infusion is not recommended. It comes out tasting rather woody and faint. Using sassafras leaves are better, especially if you've dried the leaves in a dehydrator. However sassafras root is definitely the best.



When you make tea, leaving the tea leaves in the brew causes the tea to become bitter. This process is the same when attempting to extract the flavour of the roots to make root beer. To provide the best flavour, we'll need to be able to quickly and efficiently remove all of the roots, leaves, and berries. Enter the cheesecloth bag.



Place large heavy glass mugs into the freezer.



While you boil 2 gallons (8 quarts) of the purified water, wash all of the roots and the berries in purified COLD water.



Break all of the roots up into small pieces and roughly chop them up slightly smaller, creating an evenly sized mix.



Place the roots into the nylon or cheesecloth bag (cheesecloth is best, however a NEW and UNUSED cheesecloth would be recommended for use as the contents of the bag tend to stain the bag permanently... especially after multiple batches) and add the Juniper Berries into the bag and crush them slightly by irregular use of a rolling pin over the bag. Add the Wintergreen leaves and bruise them by squeezing the bag. Add the Cinnamon and Nutmeg into the bag... I prefer to grate all of the cinnamon and nutmeg and then add some extra whole as a cinnamon stick and whole nutmeg that I've merely broken into pieces with a hammer. Add the Hops. If you like a lot of bitter hop flavour, bruise the hops prior to adding.



Close the bag securely and place it in the boiling water.



Keep the water to a slow boil for 20 minutes.



Using a WOODEN spoon, press the bag up against the sides of the pot and remove the bag. Squeeze the liquid out of the bag carefully into the pot.



Strain the infusion and place back on the heat.



Pour the Molasses, Honey, Vanilla Extract, and remaining 2 gallons of water into the pot (Yes, this needs to be a BIG pot. The traditional large chili stock pot should do... or a home brewer's 10 gallon (or larger) stock pot).



Bring mixture back to a boil and boil for exactly 2 minutes then remove from heat and let stand until lukewarm.



Once the mixture is lukewarm, use just enough purified cold water to dissolve the yeast cake in a small bowl. Pour into the root beer syrup, stirring constantly. Let the mix settle and cool down to room temperature, then strain the mixture again through a fresh cheesecloth.



Bottle into dark amber glass bottles with patent stoppers. Leave between one and two inches of air space at the top of the bottle. This is REQUIRED for proper effervescence! Weak bottles or lids, or not enough air expansion space will cause the bottles to explode. *BOOM*!!!



Allow bottles to stand upright in a warm room, not less than 78 degrees Fahrenheit, for about 6 hours. The summer sun works wonders, here.



Move bottles into a cool dark place (cellar, pantry's in air conditioned houses, etc). DO NOT REFRIDGERATE OR FREEZE THE BOTTLES.



To serve, remove a large heavy glass mug from the freezer (hence the reason we put those into the freezer first) and pop the cap on the bottle of root beer. Angle the mug at 45 degrees and slowly pour the root beer into the mug, allowing the head to build. Serve immediately.



Hope you all enjoy the root beer!



-- Daerk
Current Projects: Building Homestead Mini-farm irrigation system, Designing Aquaponics Mini-farm tank/bed gravity siphon water exchange system, Building Chicken Coop, Building Bunny Hutch, Building a Hot (Berkeley Method) Compost System
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#2
Thanks! I need to make this sometime.
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#3
Not sure I will ever try it but very good information.



Thanks for posting.
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"I won't be wronged, I won't be insulted, and I won't be laid a hand on. I don't do these things to other people, and I require the same from them." John Wayne, The Shootist
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#4
Daerk, Sassafras may be elusive in your area, but it is very common here. I printed your recipe and may want to try it in the future. I have drank more "Sassafras Tea" than Root Beer, but I can remember the older folks telling about making "Root Beer" from the Sassafras.



As a side note, the first product produced in 1889 by the firm of Zatarins in New Orleans was Root Beer, and it still produces the extract for this product today. One 4 Fl Oz bottle will produce 5 Gallons of Root Beer, but as you so adeptly pointed out in your introduction the real extract of the Sassafras Tree is now illegal for commercial manufacturers, so Zatarins Root Beer extract now contains an artifical Sassafras flavoring, but their original Root Beer contained the real extract.



Gumbo File' the essential seasoning for gumbo is also a product from the Sassafras Tree. File' is made from the dried leaves of the Sassafras Tree, which have been crushed and/or ground into a fine powder.
Jimbo
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#5
I make root beer if people ask for it, but most seem to prefer the sassafrass wine. Each to their own...
Men are, that they might have joy.
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#6
[quote name='Jimbo' timestamp='1362113387' post='574633']

Daerk, Sassafras may be elusive in your area, but it is very common here. I printed your recipe and may want to try it in the future. I have drank more "Sassafras Tea" than Root Beer, but I can remember the older folks telling about making "Root Beer" from the Sassafras.



As a side note, the first product produced in 1889 by the firm of Zatarins in New Orleans was Root Beer, and it still produces the extract for this product today. One 4 Fl Oz bottle will produce 5 Gallons of Root Beer, but as you so adeptly pointed out in your introduction the real extract of the Sassafras Tree is now illegal for commercial manufacturers, so Zatarins Root Beer extract now contains an artifical Sassafras flavoring, but their original Root Beer contained the real extract.



Gumbo File' the essential seasoning for gumbo is also a product from the Sassafras Tree. File' is made from the dried leaves of the Sassafras Tree, which have been crushed and/or ground into a fine powder.

[/quote]

You can easily find Sassafras growing in some individuals gardens or even in the wild throughout most of America. Unfortunately, most of the gardeners who grow it will only collect the leaves of the plant, and sometimes some of the bark off of it. Rarely do you find someone willing to dig the whole plant up and relinquish the roots. Now obviously, finding it in the wild means you can do what you will with it. However at this point you've now reached a state where the individual wanting the sassafras has to go hunting through the wild to find, identify, and harvest the sassafras root. That's more work and skill than the overwhelming majority are either willing to do or are knowledgeable enough to do. So as so many things in life are, it becomes a job best done yourself if you want it done right. I grow sassafras myself in my own garden, specifically for this purpose as well as a number of other uses the plant has. From other's experiences trying to duplicate my family root beer recipe, they have almost all encountered issues attempting to find sassafras root. Mostly because the majority of them have not the skills to go traipsing around in the wood trying to identify the plant, and also the majority have no garden or associated gardening skills. Hence the elusiveness. <img src='http://hoodswoods.net/IVB/public/style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/smile.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt='Smile' />



I doubt those issues plague the Hoodlums, though lol <img src='http://hoodswoods.net/IVB/public/style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/biggrin.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt='Big Grin' />



-- Daerk
Current Projects: Building Homestead Mini-farm irrigation system, Designing Aquaponics Mini-farm tank/bed gravity siphon water exchange system, Building Chicken Coop, Building Bunny Hutch, Building a Hot (Berkeley Method) Compost System
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