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pmcgrady December 12, 2018 08:50 PM

Old Fashioned Root Beer
Interested in making my own Root Beer/Soda, mainly from sassafras, juniper berries, wild cherry etc... Locally harvested from within 50 miles of here. One ingredient is Star Anise, and I'm not familiar with it, can I grow it here? Anybody have seeds or experience growing it?

oldman December 12, 2018 09:01 PM

Star Anise is a seed pod from an Asian tree. Not something you'll want to grow. Too much space, time, and it's not Hardy.

Burdock root adds a nice smoothness to root beer and you can grow it yourself. Wintergreen is another ingredient that I like in root beer. A few drops of wintergreen oil in a 5 gallon batch is plenty so it's easier to just buy it. Although you can probably grow it if you want.

pmcgrady December 12, 2018 09:31 PM

Very informative! Thank you!
Looks like a few ingredients need imported...
Appreciate the suggestions!

Nematode December 12, 2018 10:47 PM

Safrole contained in sassafras root is a carcinogen, and has i think been banned.
Wouldn't stop me from having one here and there, but wouldn't make a habit of it.

Worth1 December 13, 2018 07:46 AM

We used to dig the roots.
No trees to be had in this area too far west.


oldman December 13, 2018 08:07 AM

The FDA requires safrole to be removed from commercial foodstuff and has since the 60s. This is the same FDA that was allowing tobacco to be sold as beneficial to a smoker's health at the time. There's no medical evidence linking safrole from sassafras root to cancer.

Since A&W was cutting into colas' business at the time I am inclined to believe the restriction was politically motivated, not a health concern. A&W declined in taste and popularity. Big Cola bought them out and the products sold as root beer by the soda companies today are largely artificially flavored water sweetened with corn syrup. Not terribly healthy, but not a concern if the FDA.

With cost cutting to satisfy the stock holders, most colas have suffered a similar fate. Modern Coke would be unrecognizable, and possibly undrinkable, by people who were used to the same product from 40 years ago. If you have the space and the time making your own sodas is probably a healthier option than drinking commercial soda, especially if you carbonate with yeast. And even a moderately successful attempt will taste better than the major brands of soda.

Salsacharley December 13, 2018 10:49 AM

I made cherry soda and root beer but I used flavorings from a local brew supply store. It was pretty good but I'm not a soda drinker.

oldman December 13, 2018 11:10 AM

I won't say I'm a big soda drinker myself. But I prefer soda made with sugar to those sweetened with corn syrup. It's the same principle as people who don't like beer but only have experience with big batch brews from companies like Budweiser.

Most brew stores sell soda flavors that are made with natural ingredients. If you're going to brew your own you won't be interested in anything artificial. They're a fair alternative to cooking up you own. But making soda from natural ingredients isn't much more difficult than making soup. If you aren't willing to risk sassafras root there's a safrole free sassafras tea you can buy on Amazon if you don't have a local store that will order it for you. It may not be an authentic craft soda, but it's still good experience..

clkeiper December 13, 2018 11:46 AM

let us know how it works for you. I love oldfashioned real home made root beer but it is impossible to find. nor have I tried making it. we do have sassafras trees here so I have no excuse other than just not trying it. commercially made is just disgusting now a days. just nothing. brown carbonated treacly sweet nothing drink. If I can find it without caramel coloring I can drink it. otherwise the caramel coloring keeps it outta my hand too.

pmcgrady December 13, 2018 02:34 PM

Some of the recipes I'm looking at call for Sassafrass and Sasparilla root, I never realized the two roots are different. Looks like I'm going to need to order a few of the ingredients.

oldman December 13, 2018 02:38 PM

The Arbor Day Foundation sells sassafras, but you propably have it growing near you already since you're east of the Mississippi. You might check them for sasparilla too. Although the last recipe I made didn't use sasparilla.

Hunt-Grow-Cook December 13, 2018 05:14 PM

I'd research birch beer as well, I've had some that tasted almost identical to a natural root beer. Not the commercial syrupy stuff.

pmcgrady December 13, 2018 06:23 PM

Looks like the easiest "soda" I've seen so far is ginger ale. I planted some old ginger and got a better harvest than expected and was wondering what to do with it. I'm going to start a "ginger bug" tonight to get it going.

pmcgrady December 13, 2018 06:31 PM

[QUOTE=oldman;720859]The Arbor Day Foundation sells sassafras, but you propably have it growing near you already since you're east of the Mississippi. You might check them for sasparilla too. Although the last recipe I made didn't use sasparilla.[/QUOTE]

My garden is pretty much surrounded by woods, Sassafrass everywhere even volunteers in the garden. Here's a new proverb I just came up with...
"When life gives you Sassafrass... Make Root Beer!"

slugworth December 13, 2018 06:34 PM

Be aware that homemade root beer is actually beer, and has alcohol content.

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