Home-Made Root Beer Recipe
If you are feeling adventurous and you would like to try your hand at making a true old-fashioned root beer, you will be rewarded with a delicious treat. The real thing has a very different flavor and depth of flavor from the artificial flavorings used in modern varieties. Real root beer is made with natural ingredients so it has health benefits as well. Old recipes varied quite a bit depending on availability of ingredients and personal preferences. This recipe is similar to the original natural one made successful by Charles Hires, the originator of Hires Root Beer.
Finding the ingredients for this concoction may be a challenge. I am putting links to a couple of sources below the recipe. For the natural carbonation* the recipe calls for a probiotic product called Kefir starter culture. There are a few options for this part such as the Kefir starter culture, champagne yeast, "ginger bug", or fresh whey. You will also need individual bottles for the brew to ferment in. Reusable flip-top bottles work best. Strong bottles are recommended and caution is advised when handling and opening the fermented root beer. Bottles can suddenly fail from the pressue producing broken glass and a mess. In larger batches some folks used to time the fermentation using champagne yeast to the first bottle failure, and then they would immediately refrigerate the rest of the batch.
*Depending on your method of natural fermentation your root beer may be for adults only, as it may contain alcohol.
Make about 3 quarts
¼ cup sassafras root bark ¼ cup winter green leaf 2 tablespoons sarsaparilla root 1 tablespoon licorice root 1 tablespoon ginger root 1 tablespoon dandelion root 1 tablespoon hops flowers 1 tablespoon birch bark 1 tablespoon wild cherry tree bark 1 teaspoon juniper berries 1 cinnamon stick 1 cup unrefined cane sugar 1 packet Kefir starter culture
Bring two and one-half quarts filtered water to a boil and stir in sassafras, sarsaparilla, wintergreen, licorice, ginger, hops, juniper, birch and wild cherry bark. Reduce the heat to a slow simmer and simmer the roots, berries, barks, leaves and flowers for twenty minutes. After twenty minutes, turn off the heat and strain the infusion through a fine-mesh sieve or a colander lined with cheesecloth into a pitcher. Stir unrefined cane sugar into the hot infusion until it dissolves and allow it to cool until it reaches room temperature. Stir in the starter culture and pour into individual bottles using a funnel, leaving at least one inch head space in each bottle. Allow the root beer to ferment for three to four days at room temperature, then transfer to a refrigerator for an additional two days to age and to stop the fermentation. Serve chilled - if you have heavy glass mugs put them in the freezer until they are ice cold for a true "frosty mug" of root beer.
adapted from a recipe by Nourished Kitchen