When we were teenagers, my dad brought home several wooden cases of brown glass bottles about the size of today’s liter bottles of pop. They were new but we weren’t too interested until we saw the bottle capper. It was an old style bottle capper, one that crimped the lids around the top of the bottle and required a pry-up bottle opener to remove. Now were interested. We set out to make homemade root beer.
That summer and the next we made great root beer. We made huge vats carbonating it with the dry ice that Mom picked up in town for us. We would make dozens of bottles of root beer at a time. We would take them fishing with us and we always had a stash in the pick-up. When we were working in the fields, we put several in the irrigation ditch to chill. We were pretty proud of ourselves.
Later we learned that we could use dry ice to carbonate other drinks, even punch.
Dad kept that paraphernalia even after we left home for missions and colleges. He must have given it away when he and Mother moved to Alaska.
Lately, we’ve revived our old pop making skills. We started with root beer but the last couple days, we’ve been making and carbonating strawberry lemonade. Today, we’ve been handing it out in our store along with strawberry lemonade cookies. Part way through the day, we started adding a scoop of ice cream to make strawberry lemonade floats.
It’s really pretty easy to carbonate your favorite beverage.
What you’ll need:
You’ll need a beverage. You can buy root beer extract in the store. (We made a batch with the root beer flavor that we sell in the store. We found that there was a touch of vanilla in that flavor. It made a great beverage but with the vanilla, it tasted just like cream soda, not root beer.)
The frozen juice concentrates in the stores can be carbonated to make great fruit based soda pops. The dry punch mixes in the store can be used but they are not much more than colored water with a flavor and sweetened added. If you want to add flavors, we have an excellent selection of very good flavors. Later in this article, we’ll give you the recipe for strawberry lemonade.
You’ll need a container. You can make a gallon at a time or five gallons. (For us, it’s not worth the bother for less than a gallon at a time.) We have a five gallon cooler with a push-on lid and spigot at the bottom. It’s perfect for three to five gallons at time. Since it’s portable, we can make up a batch at home and carry it to the park or a family party.
To stay carbonated, your container will need a tight fitting lid else the carbon dioxide will escape and your pop will become flat. But while your brew is percolating, the lid must be loose enough to release the pressure from the gases from the dry ice. (See the cautions in the recipe.)
You’ll need dry ice. We’re buying ours from our small town, local grocery store. We just walk in, tell them how much we want, and they retrieve it from the cooler. You’ll need one to two pounds of dry ice for every gallon of beverage. If you have a good lid on your container, you’ll need less dry ice. At our store, it costs a buck a pound.
Important precautions for using dry ice:
Dry ice produces carbon dioxide that will carbonate your beverage. It is very simple to do but some cautions are important:
- Dry ice is extremely cold and will cause burns if it comes in contact with your skin. Always wear gloves or oven mitts when handling dry ice.
- Never allow children to be unattended around dry ice.
- Never put dry ice in a tightly enclosed container. Dry ice goes directly from a solid to gas. In so doing it expands, will create pressure in a closed container, and may explode the container. The container must be vented or fitted with a loose lid that will pop up under pressure.
- Never use dry ice in a closed room with no ventilation. The carbon dioxide can displace oxygen in the room. If you experience shortness of breath, leave the room.
What makes this easy is the lemonade concentrate. Add water, pureed strawberries, and maybe some strawberry flavor and you’re done. If you want it carbonated, add dry ice.
This recipe makes about one-half gallon of beverage. Double it to make a gallon. Larger batches can be made.
One 12-ounce can frozen lemonade concentrate to make 64 ounces
water per producer’s directions
about 2 cups trimmed strawberries to make about one cup puree
1/2 teaspoon strawberry flavor
dry ice (see cautions below and directions below for amounts)
- Mix the lemonade according to directions.
- Puree the strawberries in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add the pureed strawberries to the lemonade.
To carbonate your lemonade:
To carbonate your beverage, place one to two pounds dry ice for every one gallon of beverage directly into the liquid. It is better if the dry ice is broken into several pieces. (We use a meat hammer.)
Lightly cover your container with a lid or cover that can be easily pushed off by pressure building in your vessel. (We use an Igloo brand 5-gallon beverage container with a push on/off lid and push the lid only part way down.
Allow the dry ice to dissolve to carbonate your beverage.
- You may need to stir your beverage two or three times during carbonation. Blocks of dry ice may freeze to the bottom of the container.
- The beverage may freeze around a single block of dry ice and greatly slow carbonation. It is better to have several smaller pieces of dry ice in the beverage. Do not break it into small pieces—about the size of a cube of butter seems right.
- Once carbonation is nearly complete and the dry ice dissolved, tightly close your container to retain carbonation. If your container is nearly full and with a tight lid, your beverage will remain carbonated overnight.
- You can add more dry ice to increase carbonation.
- Carbonation may make your strawberry lemonade taste more lemony. We have diluted our strawberry lemonade to reach the desired taste.
- Lemon is a much stronger flavor than strawberry. The added strawberry flavor helps balance the flavors.
Dennis Weaver is the general manager of The Prepared Pantry and is a recipe designer and author.