Along the Grapevine


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How to Make Tonic Water

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I recently wrote about making sodas from the root of a common weed – chicory. Fermenting a root, often ginger, is the first step in making a soft drink. It is then mixed with whatever juice you choose, a little more sugar or raw honey for a further ferment, sealed, and that’s it. The full recipe can be found here.

How to Make Tonic Water on Punk Domestics

I found the chicory bug had a bitter flavour, but nothing that would interfere with other flavours, so it can be a good alternative to ginger. It reminded me of the flavour of tonic water, so the next challenge was to develop it into the real thing.

I dug up some more chicory root while the ground is not yet frozen. The flowers had wilted but there were some tasty young green leaves at the base of the plants not to be wasted.

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Chicory plants in November

The roots are easiest to cut up when fresh, so it’s best to chop them all so when they dry, they are ready to add to your bug.

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Chicory roots

Searching for a good tonic recipe, I came across this one by David Lebovitz which I followed very closely, except I used a pinch of lavender flowers in place of the lemongrass called for. Instead of mixing the prepared syrup half and half with soda water, I fermented it with the ‘bug’, some raw honey and more water.

First, a little about this syrup. The ingredient that gives tonic water its distinctive flavour is the bark of cinchona (quina), a plant originating in South America but cultivated also in Asia for its medicinal qualities, one of which has been a treatment for malaria. For more about the plant, its uses and contraindications, read this.

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Cinchona bark

You won’t likely find this bark in your local green grocer’s, but a good herb shop should carry it, and of course you can buy it on line.

It is wise to use organic fruits, especially since the peel is used.

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Tonic infusion after 2 days

The bark, some spices, fruit juice and zest are all mixed together, heated and allowed to sit for a couple of days to make a richly coloured, super aromatic, bitter syrup.

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Strained tonic syrup

The next step was to ferment this with my chicory bug. For this I used

100 ml. chicory (or other root) bug

125 ml tonic syrup

2 Tbsp raw honey

1 tsp granulated sugar (optional, for a little extra sweetness)

200 ml non-chlorinated water.

Mix these ingredients in a bottle with a sealable lid like the one in the photo above, and let it sit at room temperature for about 5 days, after which time it should be refrigerated. Even at a cool temperature, fermentation will continue, so to be safe you can occasionally release the seal and let some gas escape, then seal it up again.

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Tonic on the rocks

The syrup soda combination was very good, but the fully fermented drink was definitely superior and well worth the extra little effort. The recognizable flavour of tonic was more complex, and was so good I didn’t even feel tempted to add the usual splash of gin, although I’m sure that would be excellent too.

If you don’t have access to chicory roots, any bitter, edible root such as dandelions would be a good alternative.

Linked to: Fiesta Friday #96

Related posts: Two New Flavours of Ginger SodaChicory Root Soda; Dandelion Gin Fizz

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Goldenrod Tea

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This beautiful and, yes, edible goldenrod (soldiago) is in full bloom just now and has transformed our local landscape into a mass of golden colour. Unfortunately it is often confused with another plant which is also plentiful just now – ragweed. You can see from these two photographs the differences in the plants. Both are in bloom. One is bright, the other relatively colourless. Also, the leaves on the first are elongated ovals while the second has lobed leaves.

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Ragweed is the source of much discomfort for people who are allergic to its pollen. Because the two plants occur in the same places at the same time, goldenrod is assumed to be equally noxious. It is not. The difference between the two, other than their appearance, is that ragweed has a light and abundant pollen which is easily carried through the air. Goldenrod, which has a heavy and sticky pollen, is pollenated by insects. So if you suffer from hay fever at this time of year, you know which one to blame it on. My advice is to eradicate as much of the ragweed as you can.

Not only is goldenrod not a noxious weed, it has many health benefits, one of which according to much of the literature I have been reading (for example this article) is its ability to counter the effects of allergies.

Once identified, goldenrod is easy to harvest. No worries about over harvesting this robust perennial, and the blooming period is relatively long in this area – from late August until the first frosts. Pick only the top third of the plant, and preferably young flowers which have not fully opened or are still bright yellow. Leaves and flowers can both be used. Just watch for insects – the pollinators love the stuff.

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When I first try a new plant, I always prefer a simple recipe to test the flavour, so here is yet another herbal tea. Begin by shaking any small insects out of the flowers and rinse lightly under the tap. To make, remove leaves and flowers from the stems. For each half cup of these, add two cups of boiling water and allow to steep for 20 minutes. Strain and serve.

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The flavour is substantial, slightly bitter and a bit smokey. I advise adding some honey or sugar as a sweetener and you will have yourself a very pleasant and healthful drink.

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This is a fine drink for any time of the day, but my experiments don’t stop with this. I feel that this flavour is capable of so much more than just a tisane, so I will be posting an ‘after five’ drink soon

Goldenrod Tea on Punk Domestics


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Chicory Root Soda

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I recently wrote about making ginger soda, a simple process of fermenting ginger root until it bubbles (called a bug), mixing it with fruit syrups or juices and allowing it to ferment for a few days until a fizzy, sometimes downright frothy beverage is ready. These old- fashioned drinks have been a god send on these hot, sticky days of summer, but now I am ready for a change of flavours. Since a bug can be made from any edible root and since I prefer to use wild roots from my own backyard, I decided to make use of some of the vast quantity of chicory blooming not far from my kitchen window.

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Common chicory (cychorium intybus) is native to Europe but now naturalized in North America and Asia. It is a woody plant with blue flowers and cultivated for its leaves, buds, flowers and roots. At this time of year the pale blue flowers are visible along roadsides and in fields in this area. All parts are bitter tasting, although the flowers and leaves are popular in salads. Sometimes the leaves are boiled first to remove some of the bitterness and then added to cooked dishes.

The root is the most commonly used part of the plant, usually roasted and ground to be used as a coffee substitute, caffeine free and less expensive than coffee. It is also used as a food additive in all sorts of things because of its inulin content.

A word of caution: if you are allergic to ragweed pollen or any related plants, you might have a similar allergic reaction to this one. On the plus side, it does contain antioxidants, inulin and it is considered to provide functional help for the liver.

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To prepare the bug, I followed the same procedure as for my ginger bug. Beginning with about 1 cup of water, I added 2 Tbsp of chopped root and 2 Tbsp sugar. Cover it loosely to prevent any contamination. Each day I added 1 tsp each of root and sugar until it became bubbly. This took about five days.

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At this time, you can put a lid on it and refrigerate for a few days until ready to use. Once you use some of the liquid, replace the liquid with water and continue to feed more root and sugar a tsp a day.

At this point, it has a pleasantly bitter taste which I thought very much like tonic water.

For the first drink, I used the juice of one lime, 6 oz of water and enough honey to sweeten plus a bit more, since some of the sugar gets used up in the fermentation process. I then added 2 oz of bug, closed the flip lid to seal well and left it for five days.

The second drink was made with elderflower cordial I had stored in the freezer – the same quantities of drink and bug and the same amount of time.

The lime drink was quite dry and had a distinct bubbliness, much like a kvass.

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The elderflower was much sweeter and very frothy.

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It takes some practice to get the right amount of sweetness and fizz according to your taste, but I have not produced an inferior drink in any so far and they have all been far superior to any commercial soft drink. You can experiment also with any fruit flavours you like. The chicory adds a slightly bitter note which I like, but the flavour is neutral enough it does not overpower whatever flavour you are using.

To be safe, open the bottles very slowly and somewhere you can afford to have a little splllage just in case

Chicory Root Soda on Punk Domestics


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I recently posted a recipe for Dandelion Gin Fizz, a refreshingly light “superdrink” – a term I use advisedly because it is made with lacto-fermentation. Naturally fermented drinks are made with a starter, much as a sourdough bread is. The starter I used for that recipe was whey, perhaps the most common method. Another method is to use a ‘root bug’,  often made with ginger, and fittingly called a ‘ginger bug’. This involves allowing some root and sugar to ferment in non-chlorinated water for a few days in an anaerobic environment (no air) until it becomes fizzy – and delicious. This can be a base for all sorts of soda-type drinks, but so far I have only experimented with dandelion flowers.

I did not have access to a good quality, organic ginger, but read somewhere that any edible root will work. Even dandelion roots, of which I have many high quality, fresh and organic ones available – and they are free.

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I followed this recipe for ginger bug, substituting the ginger with dandelion root.

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To make the bug, I put 1 Tbsp of clean, chopped dandelion root with an equal amount of sugar in an 8oz mason not quite full of chlorine-free water. Just stir until the sugar dissolves. Every day, add a tsp. each of chopped root and sugar and give it another stir. Cover the jar with a clean cloth (to prevent any bugs of the other sort from getting in). After 3-5 days, you will see a lot of white bubbles forming on top of the liquid. I also taste it each day to see how it is doing. It is slightly sweet, and each day a little bit fizzier.

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When it is ready, you will want to add it to your dandelion flower infusion mixed with sugar syrup – all at room temperature. For this batch I had 2 cups of infusion and 1/2 cup of syrup. I added 1/2 cup of ‘bug’ and let it sit for about three days, covered with a cloth and stirring each day. Once it has fizzed up, it can be capped and refrigerated, but with the small amount I was making, we didn’t have any to store. I hope to master the storing process on my next batch.

The remaining root bug can be stored in the fridge, and used for making more by adding more of the same ingredients. I have not yet tried this repeat process either.

To serve, I added 4 oz. of gin and a little lemon to taste, but a non-alcoholic version would work just as well.

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I couldn’t detect any difference between this drink and the whey based one in terms of flavour. I intend to try it with other roots and, of course, other flavours. Any readers who have experience with this, I would love to hear what you used and how you made it.

 


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Dandelion Syrup

I have often hoped to come across a recipe for floral drinks such as the ones found in Swedish shops (or Sweden). I just discovered dandelions do the trick very nicely. I made a syrup first, then diluted it – every bit as good as elderflower etc.  I am sure it can be used equally well for cocktails or toddies, but for now am just using it for a tall summer non-alcoholic drink.

Syrup

2 cups dandelion petals, packed tightly

2 cups of sugar

2 cups water

juice of 1 lemon

Wash the flowers and remove the petals. Cover them with water, bring to a boil for no more than a minute, then remove from heat and leave them to steep overnight.

The next morning, strain the liquid and discard the petals. Add the lemon juice and the sugar, bring to a boil and then simmer for about an hour and a half.

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Dandelion Drink

Mix one part syrup to four parts water.