Lemongrass Saffron Soda and Ginger Ice Cream Float
Sugar High Friday #19: Ginger It Up! posed a real challenge for me. You see, I love gingery sweets. I make them all the time. I’ve posted about one here already, my ginger rum churros with milk chocolate dipping sauce. I use ginger in my apple pies, my ice creams, everything. And I hate using old recipes for food blog events.
I almost made ginger mousse, but time is hard to come by lately, and this isn’t really the month for extensive experimentation. I’ve never made a non-chocolate mousse before, and it may take several attempts to get it right. But I have brewed soda before, and there are few things easier to put together than homemade ice cream.
This is an easy treat to throw together; it requires mostly pre-planning and patience. I went over my old notes from when I made habanero ginger ale a few years back, and adapted it into lemongrass saffron soda. (It was going to be rhubarb soda, but for the unavailability of rhubarb in the area on Monday. It almost ended up as lemongrass apricot soda or lemongrass currant soda, but saffron really turned out to put the lemongrass in its place with a dignified firmness that nothing else was able to provide.)
The important thing to remember when making ginger ice cream is that you have to use fresh ginger, not candied ginger. The one time I used candied ginger in an ice cream, it had a jellied texture and tasted like canned tuna fish. But fresh ginger, oh, that works just beautifully.
Lemongrass, saffron, ginger, coldly fizzing together! It is hard for me to be patient, but it is so worth it in the end.
Lemongrass Saffron Soda
5 half-liter bottles of water (2 1/2 liters total)
2 C granulated sugar
12 stalks lemongrass
2 tsp cream of tartar
3 large pinches saffron (threads)
1/2 packet champagne yeast
Remove the roots and grassy bits from the lemongrass, leaving only the white and pale green portion – should be the bottom 6″ or so of each stalk. Cut these into 2″ pieces and bruise with a mallet or rolling pin.
Close each bottle immediately after emptying the water into the pot, and keep the bottles safe and clean. You will need them again soon enough.
Bring the water, lemongrass, and sugar to a boil, then simmer until quite lemony. Remove the lemongrass with a slotted spoon. Stir in the saffron and cream of tartar, and simmer until the tastes blend together. The saffron should deepen the flavor, balance out the lemoniness, and make everything taste less sweet and cloying. If you feel like you’ve been simmering for too long without the flavors really coming together, just add more saffron and simmer until it works for you.
Set up another pot of boiling water, and use it to sterilize a ladle, a mug, a spoon, and a funnel.
Let the soda cool to around 100°. Lining the funnel with a coffee filter, filter and pour about 1/2 C of soda into the sterilized mug. Stir in the champagne yeast with the sterilized spoon, and set it aside.
In the meantime, empty the pot you used to sterilize your equipment, and filter the remaining soda into it using coffee filters and your funnel. This should take enough time to let your yeast get its start in that mug. Once all the soda has been filtered, pour the yeasty soda from the mug into the rest of the soda and stir until it is evenly distributed.
Fill the empty bottles (you did keep them nice and clean, right?) with the soda. Screw the caps on very tightly – I use teflon tape (the sort usually used by plumbers) to improve the seal. The better the seal, the more carbonization and less alcohol you will end up with. I’m not particularly good at this step, so my sodas always end up mildly alcoholic.
Remove the labels from the bottles, and re-label them yourself with the date and contents. Place them in a cool, dark place for about a week, or until they start to really scare you. Check in on them every day or two in order to gauge your fear quotient.
I use plastic bottles when making soda because if they explode, at least there won’t be glass shards all over the place. The pressure can build up enormously as the soda carbonates, so explosion is a very real concern. Don’t place these in the cabinet where you keep your fancy linens. Do check in on them at least every other day.
At first, you will be able to squeeze the plastic bottles easily. After a day or two, you may notice the bottles becoming firmer to the touch. Soon you won’t be able to squeeze them in at all. Eventually, the shape of the plastic will deform as the pressure forces it to bulge outwards. Once a formerly bloopety plastic bottle becomes smooth, that’s when I get scared.
Once the bottles begin to scare you, put them in the fridge. The cold will slow the fermentation process almost to a halt, and you will be safe. At this point, your soda is ready to drink.
Just be careful when opening the bottles.
Ginger Ice Cream
About a 6″ knob of ginger
2 C cream
1 C milk
2 vanilla beans
1/2 C sugar
Scrape the vanilla beans into the cream. Peel the ginger and chop roughly. Bring the cream, ginger, and vanilla beans just to a boil, stirring all the whole, then remove from heat, cover, and let steep for at least 15 minutes. Strain into a bowl. Whisk in milk and sugar. Cover with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic is touching the surface of the liquid so that a skin doesn’t form, and place it in the fridge to cool. Follow the instructions on your ice cream machine for the next step.