Thursday, January 12, 2012

Snow and Seltzer.

Well, we finally have our snow. Since late this morning, I've been looking out the windows at the sky which is the same color as the ground, rooftops and most of the snow-dusted driveways. The monochromatic part of the year is finally here. Our land did not previously look like any January I can remember, it resembled more of a deep fall or early spring depending on the humidity and sunshine levels. I do love the first snow and how it's all anyone can talk about. I love that every person that is Wisconsin born and bred mysteriously forgets how to drive, and I love hunkering down over a kettle of something warm, thankful that I don't have anywhere more important to be than my kitchen.


It seems I'm always busy doing something culinary lately, but haven't taken the time to be a creative writer about it. Our dinners have been simple things producing leftovers, and on the bread front, I'm doing secret (and deliciously obsessive) Daring Baker trials using sourdough. Earlier this week, I tasted a kumquat for the first time. I decided immediately that I'd wait for our snowstorm and then begin a marmalade of them and I did. (But more on that in a day or two.) I realized that I haven't replenished my cilantro-raisin chutney for about 4 months, and instantly got a craving for it. A new batch is fermenting, and I intend to make egg tacos sometime soon to enjoy it with.

cilantro-raisin chutney.

I've also been playing around with my new SodaStream. It came in the mail when I was gone for my Christmas break and I think I opened the box and read the instructions before I even unloaded my car I was so excited. Who knew fizzy water could be so exciting?

I am not a soda drinker, if I have 2 full cans of "pop" a year, that's something. On occasion, I do like sugar-free flavored seltzer waters, but I usually prefer them more in the Summer. I've had more excuses to try out all kinds of fizzy drinks since this simple machine arrived. Some really singular and delightful things, and I know that more experimentation is in my future.

<span class=syrup tests.
secret tests.

While I cannot reveal the nature of my recipe tests, I can tell you that when I retried several of my tested syrups using the seltzer water produced with the SodaStream, I was incredibly more excited about them. The quality of the bubbles is amazing, like supercharged soda. I felt like it actually improved the syrups I had! I haven't felt so enamored of soft drinks since I worked at the Square Pie a decade ago, where I had fallen under the spell of fountain Coke mixed with vanilla and spiked with half and half. Lime Cokes are pretty great too.

While SodaStream does make a variety of syrups to accompany their machines, I haven't yet tried all of them. However, three tiny glass bottles contained unsweetened, clear and natural essences of fruit. I tried the lemon-lime and the raspberry, and liked them much better than the canned LaCroix waters (which was the brand of flavored water I liked the best pre-SodaStream). Outside of testing recipes, I am trying hard to remain refined sugar-free for the month of January, so I will try some of their other syrups next month after the end of my Sugar-Free January. They are mostly corn syrup free, and I am particularly looking forward to trying the blackcurrant and pear flavor.

So far some of my favorite drinks were not only homemade, but easy and naturally sweet:

plum seltzer

I do have an unbelievable sweet tooth, and giving up sugar cold turkey wasn't really all that easy for me. When I found an aging bottle of Pom pomegranate concentrate in the door of my refrigerator, I was happy that I liked it so much I was still hoarding it. A couple tablespoons of that in super fizzy water is really great, and I prefer it to plain pomegranate juice, which has always struck me as almost too tart to drink on its own. Since I've been sugar-free for a length of time, I felt that by adding some quality bubbles pomegranate juice became much more sweet than tart, and it crushed any feeling in me of wanting dessert. I've used this trick a few times now to prevent myself from caving in and making a cake. I'm not really even joking.

grape vinegar shrub.
grape drinking vinegar.

I made many drinking vinegars this past Summer, and most of them I sweetened prior to bottling. The only one I didn't add sugar to was the concord grape, which came from grapes growing on my Parents' place. It is marvelously grapey, and while I probably wouldn't mind a little sugar in it, it did make a nice shrub. I did notice that the carbonation in the one liter bottles that come with the SodaStream stays well for about 2 days. The picture above was taken on the 3rd day after carbonating, and it was still effervescent, but not nearly as active as earlier. The next time I refill one of the bottles, I'll try this again and maybe add a pinch of stevia to sweeten it.

My favorite drink so far is actually just maple syrup. I adore maple syrup anyway, and I'm not sure when the idea struck me to mix a touch of it with seltzer, but I'm so glad I did. It's amazing, and cures me instantly of any predisposition to more refined sweets. I get my maple syrup from one of my Parents' Amish neighbors, and I've actually had the pleasure of stepping inside their sugar shack in the Springtime when the air hung with thick sweetness and breezy chill. That day, many years ago now, I became a true maple convert. Each year, I ask for the darkest syrup they can spare (and they prefer this too and hold back most of it as reserve for their own family). Maple syrup seltzer needs it's own fan club.

maple syrup drink

And so it's snow and seltzer. Kitchen projects feel like they are on the way, but in a way I feel good to relax a bit and not cook solely for the sake of cooking. Enjoying little glasses of seltzer spiked with something homemade has been really fun. I'd like to figure out a way to do something savory... I keep thinking of the pontack sauce I made this Fall and I wonder if I could add it to seltzer and brine porkchops or something - maybe the way there are lemon-lime or cola hams out there. If you have any ideas for me, let me know.

I feel my sugar-free experiment is really a good thing, since I am re-training myself to appreciate less refined sweet things and all savory things in general. Other sugar-free benefits I didn't anticipate were my appetite and energy levels both greatly improved. I guess that seems like a given, but now that I've laid off sugar, I seem to have returned to my nite-owlish ways and have no feelings of tiredness throughout the day. I also am downright hungry when mealtimes roll around and those two reasons alone empower me to believe I can actually keep to a more moderate sugar consumption after my one-month commitment is over.

I hear the neighbors shoveling which is my cue. I suppose I better go dig out my boots for the first time this season and get out there. I like going into a snowy night in the city. I can pretend I'm more rural since the snow muffles the ambient noises, and it's a rare snowfall that is polluted by obnoxious snow blowers. The snow itself appears to be on the light side, but I guess I'll find out.


Disclosure: I did receive a SodaStream Genesis model for review. My opinions are mine alone, and I did find both the design of the machine and the quality of the water it carbonates to be excellent.


  1. Super jealous of your soda stream adventures. I've been pining over them for months. I love the creativity in using it.

  2. I am so making this marmalade! I love marmalades they are my favorite jam. We too have a soda stream that we purchased over two years ago and still use like twenty times a day. We procured a restaurant size co2 tank and purchased an adapter and fill our own cartridges for pennies! We spent the extra money for the penguin version The glass bottles that come with this version are pretty tight.

  3. My favorite Pom use: I pour a short glass of orange juice, and then slowly pour 10-20% of the volume (the rest of the glass) of Pom. You get a gorgeous sunrise effect, much like a ripening blood orange. Best thing: it's amazingly delicious while being super high in vitamin c and antioxidants.


Communication is a good thing, most of the time...