Root beer extracts, usually in an amount suitable for five gallons of beverage, are available from herb and spice purveyors. These yield a drink that’s very close in flavor to commercial root beers. Making your own infusions, however, allows for experimentation and a distinctive “house” brew. Ours is less sweet than most. MAKES ABOUT 1 GALLON OF ROOT BEER
• 5 quarts water
• 1/4 ounce hops
• 1/2 ounce dried burdock root
• 1/2 ounce dried yellow dock root
• 1/2 ounce dried sarsaparilla root
• 1/2 ounce dried sassafras root
• 1/2 ounce dried spikenard root
• 1 1/2 cups sugar
• 1/8 teaspoon granulated yeast
1. Simmer herbs in water for 30 minutes. Add sugar, stir to dissolve and strain into a crock. Cool to lukewarm, add yeast and stir well. Cover crock and leave to ferment for about an hour.
2. Funnel into sterilized bottles (old beer or soft drink bottles will do), and cap tightly. Metal caps, caps applied with a crimping tool or wire-hinged caps are best. If you cork your bottles, tie or wire the corks down firmly and store bottles on their side to encourage sealing. Use only sturdy, returnable-type beer bottles or champagne bottles, as those with twist-top caps are not strong enough.
Kathryn Kingsbury is a freelance writer who enjoys turning her kitchen into a culinary chemistry lab.
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