I just made some real, honest, non-alcoholic dandelion root beer! In the book Wild Fermentation by: Sandor Ellix Kats, I rediscovered a recipe for ginger beer and I asked myself: How can I do this with what's around me?
Last year I made Sandor's ginger beer. It didn't go as planned. Come to find out I let it ferment way too long, like weeks too long, and I had a one gallon glass bottle explode. I was hit with a piece of flying glass and I had one gallon of sweet ginger juice flood my entry way and go down into my heating vents.
This year I followed the same recipe, but with the ingredients that were around me. Instead of ginger root, I used dandelion root. And no, I didn't buy the roots at some fancy store. I went out to the yard with a spoon and dug them out of my soil. The rosette of the dandelion plant is still in the grass, even if the stem and the flower are not, making them easy to spot.
The first step was to make a starter: 1 teaspoon of the diced dandelion root and one teaspoon of sugar. I want to be local, I want to do things myself, so for the sugar I used a mixture of local honey and local maple syrup. I mixed them because I didn't have enough of one of them to make the brew. You put the root and sugar in a pint jar with one cup of water. Let that sit on the shelf with a paper towel over the top to gather wild yeast for a few days. The second day I added a teaspoon of maple syrup and a teaspoon of dandelion root. By the third day it was bubbling and ready to go. Continue to add the sugar and roots everyday or two until it starts to bubble. This process collects wild yeast. Yes, there is a big debate on types of yeast to use...I'm doing this one, you could do another.
I had to then brew a tea. I didn't have enough dandelion root, so I added some hollyhock root I got from the yard this past summer. I washed the roots and threw ten of them in a pot with some dried and cut up hollyhock roots and let them boil for a few hours. I turned the heat off and let it cool over night.
The next day I added 1 cup of maple syrup and 1 cup of honey to a one gallon glass bottle. I then added the tea and the starter that was bubbling. I added some water and mixed it all up real well. At this point Sandor says to add 1/4 cup of lemon juice to the ginger brew. I can't forage for lemons, so I needed to improvise.
Check this out! I went down to my favorite park in Saint Paul and foraged for some sumac. If you don't know what sumac is; it makes a type of acidic drink often referred to as "sumac-aide." The hairs on the red sumac fruit are acidic and it tastes similar to lemonade. To make some of this drink; Go forage for 7-10 sumac fruit clusters and put them in a pitcher. Pour some cold water over the top and let it sit for .5-12 hours. Strain out the fruit and you have a drink. I poured 2 quarts of that into the gallon glass jug to top off the dandelion brew. I put the jug on the "fermentation station" and let it sit for 24 hours.
I opened the stuff and poured it into a glass... It was lovely. It is similar to root beer. It is lighter than root beer, the honey and maple syrup add awesome flavors. It was well carbonated. It is honestly my favorite dandelion root beer I have ever had...and only. I drank two glasses of it, with intent to finish my gallon in the coming weeks. I gave some to Kristina and she wasn't as impressed as I was. I'm not saying the stuff is perfect, but I am proud of it! I plan on drinking the whole gallon and foraging for materials to make more.
Time expected to brew: 3 days- 1 week
Ingredients-for one gallon:
7-10 heads of sumac
1 cup of honey
1.25 cups of maple syrup
1 cup of dandelion root- diced
1/2 cup of hollyhock root- diced
Pour one cup of water into a glass pint jar
Add one teaspoon of maple syrup and one teaspoon of dandelion root
Put the glass on a shelf with paper towel covering the top
Check on it every day to see if it's bubbling
If it's not bubbling- add one teaspoon of maple syrup and one teaspoon of dandelion root
Fill a half gallon jar with the sumac
Pour cold water over the top until jar is full
Let sit in the fridge overnight
Strain out the sumac saving the water
Take the hollyhock root and the rest of the dandelion roots and add them to a 4 quart pot with a lid
Add 3 quarts of water
Cover and boil for an hour
Let tea cool overnight
Strain out roots
Filling the jar:
Add the sumac-aide, the tea and the starter to the jar
Add the rest of the maple syrup and the honey to the jar
Mix real well
Top off to one gallon with water if necessary
Cap and set on the shelf for one day
Put in fridge to cool down and stop the fermentation
Once it is cool, open and pour it into a glass