Monday, July 23, 2007

Imperfect; not for everyone.

A few summers ago, I was lucky enough to live on an organic farm and cook lunch and snacks for the crew and dinner for the farmers and their family. It was a fantastic opportunity and it might always live on in my memory as the best job I ever had.
I knew I wanted some sort of record of the things that I cooked that summer so I made a journal and clipped or photocopied the recipes that I used.
This system was imperfect and time consuming but I stuck with it. As a result, I can flip through the pages and remember every meal I ate that summer. I had never heard of blogs back then but if I had, I'm sure I would have started one. When I pull out my journal today, though, I'm glad it's hand written. I just wish it had a search function!
Because of the journal, my memories are still so vivid. In April, I picked dandelions with my rubber boots on because there wasn't much growing in the fields. My job included feeding the cows and although sometimes I resented getting up early to take care of this task before heading into the kitchen, I'm grateful that I had the chance to raise an animal that I would consume. We traded veggies for eggs from the neighbors (who just happened to be the CEO of Organic Valley) and I'd walk around Saturday market with a bag of food to trade for honey, cheese and trout.
I tried many new things that summer and came away with some favorites: homemade rhubarb schnapps, whipped cream sweetened with strawberry syrup, elderflower ice cream, the best plum pie EVER. Hmm, can you tell I like dessert? I also made asparagus soup with Parmesan custards, learned to like rutabagas, fried up homemade root vegetable chips and on the 4th of July we had fried chicken from farm raised chicken that had never been frozen. So incredibly juicy!
Possibly my favorite discovery of the summer, however, was homemade ginger beer. As many times as I flip through my journal, though, I can't find any trace of a recipe or even a mention of when we drank it. I've searched the web in hopes of finding something that resembles this elixir but have had no luck. I remember it had A LOT of ginger in it and I think it sat at room temperature for a day or so and then went into the cooler for a week. I remember this part well because I could not wait to try it. But wait I did and I was well rewarded. It was unlike anything you could buy at the store. Perfectly sweet and so spicy that it warmed the stomach. Not everyone who tried it loved it, but I sure did.
This summer, I gave up on finding that illusive recipe and decided to work with what I had. I found a super easy recipe on Instructables and gave it a go last week. In less than 24 hours, I had a tasty beverage. It was not the drink of my dreams but as I drank glass after glass, I started to fantasize about how to make it better. My imagination really took off after I read Married with Dinner's post on the Gin Gin Cooler. I didn't have all of the necessary ingredients to make their cocktail so I ended up just mixing the ginger brew with Death's Door Gin (local gin, woohoo!) and added a slice of lemon.
I was so busy thinking about how to improve the ginger beer- more ginger for sure...hmmm, some vanilla? about lime instead of lemon juice- that I don't think it hit me until the next day that this method of quick brewing had far reaching applications. I've brewed beer and mead and made homemade liqueur out the wazoo and while they are all delicious, none of them are easy or quick. It can be weeks or months before you get to taste anything. But put a flavor agent in a two liter bottle with a smidge of yeast and some sugar and the next day you have a delicious, fizzy beverage to enjoy. The mind boggles at the potential. With a little nudge from Shuna, I decided to start with chocolate soda.
I used Dagoba Xocolatl cocoa powder, which is slightly sweetened and has a hint of cinnamon and chilies. I admit that my concoction smells a little weird. When you get past that, it has an interesting, complex flavor. In the ginger beer, there was no hint of the yeast but in the chocolate soda, the yeast and the chocolate are making friends. I haven't had the chance to share my latest creation with anyone yet but here's the recipe for you. It may be imperfect still and the finished product may not be for everyone, but I'm still excited about the potential for this method. Try your own homemade soda and let me know what you come up with. I'm gonna try coffee soda next.

Homemade Chocolate Soda

1 empty 2 liter bottle
1/4 c. Dagoba Xocolatl cocoa powder
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. wine yeast

Put the cocoa, yeast and sugar in the bottle. Add water to within an inch of the top. Shake to distribute ingredients. Put on top of fridge. Approximately 24 hours later feel the bottle. If it feels like it's going to explode, put in the fridge. When its cold, drink it. If it doesn't feel like it's going to explode, let it sit at room temp until it does. DO NOT forget about it or it will explode all over your kitchen and make you very, very sad.


At 1:36 PM, Blogger Crystal said...

Nice to hear from you again. I saw the article about you in the Isthmus, btw.

Your cooking experiments and experiences inspire me. Keep up the great work!

At 11:52 PM, Blogger Tea said...

Mmm, ginger beer. I love it so.

Any chance of getting a recipe?

At 6:58 AM, Anonymous lee said...

crystal- I'm so glad you're still checking back and glad I can inspire someone!

Tea- What, you're not ready for chocolate soda? I swear it's growing on me! Anyway, the link in the post to Instructables goes to a recipe for ginger beer. I added more ginger and would add even more when I do it again plus some vanilla. Mmmm,it's so easy and yummy, I hope you try it!

At 5:42 PM, Blogger allisonmariecat said...

You're so creative! Chocolate soda sounded revolting to me until I read your recipe. I love the Dagoba...chiles and chocolate--yum! I might have to try the ginger beer with extra vanilla first, though. Seems more summery to me, somehow.

Your summer sounds great, and it's so cool that you have a written account of it to jog your memory.

At 6:22 PM, Blogger Fiber said...

Wow - that sounds like a dream job! Love the ginger beer - I made some on my blog not too long ago. Tasty!

At 3:11 PM, Blogger allisonmariecat said...

Hey! Long time, no blog. Do you have another site somewhere else that's getting all your foodie stories?

At 11:14 AM, Blogger insane scribbler said...

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At 12:33 PM, Blogger Angelina said...

Riana from "These Days In French Life" has a recipe for ginger beer that I'm going to try-maybe today!

She has a food blog too called "garlic breath" that you might enjoy.

I love hearing about your farm and food experience!


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