Monday, March 8, 2010

Corn-free soft drinks

My children wanted to try a recipe I found on the Avoiding Corn Delphi Forum for a ginger simple syrup. We tried it and tweaked it and were rewarded with ginger ale and a batch of crystallized ginger rolled in vanilla sugar. Then my daughter had the idea of making vanilla simple syrup. Genius! Now after a year of drinking only water and ginger tea, we were treated to ginger ale and cream soda in the same week. We are so happy.

Ginger Ale (Corn-free and Home-made)

1 - 2 ginger roots (peeled and sliced)
10 cups sugar
5 cups water
Big K sparkling water (or perrier)

I mixed all ingredients in a large saucepan and cooked on low for at least two hours. I suppose you could do this in a crockpot as well. Do not allow to boil rapidly. You don't want to make hard candy and you want the ginger tender and sweet for crystallized ginger. I waited for mine to reduce and we just taste tested it. When a couple of teaspoons added to a glass of sparkling water tasted like ginger ale, it was finished. We were rewarded with almost two quarts of ginger syrup.

Once the syrup was ready, I took the ginger out with a slotted spoon and placed on foil to dry. After allowing it to dry for an hour or so, I rolled in vanilla sugar and placed it in an airtight container.

Vanilla Sugar

To make vanilla sugar: add (at least) three supple, moist 12 Madagascar Vanilla Beansinto a quart mason jar and cover with organic sugar of your choice. After about a month, you will have the most fragrant and smooth vanilla sugar to be used for making ice cream or to sweeten tea or bake sweet treats. We keep several mason jars full at all times and replace the sugar that we have used and rotate that jar to the back. Once the beans are no longer supple, you can grind them in a spice grinder (or dedicated coffee grinder) for ground vanilla beans. We also buy 3 oz Madagascar Pure Ground Vanilla to use in place of vanilla extract since corn-free vanilla extract is hard to find. (You can also use some of your whole vanilla beans to make the best vanilla extract using potato vodka.)

Vanilla Syrup (Corn-free and Home-made)

Now, for the vanilla syrup, the process was exactly the same using one or two tsp. ground vanilla beans instead of ginger slices. If I had any extra vanilla beans on hand, I probably would have split one or two and scraped the insides into the sugar/water mixture and then placed the entire bean into the syrup. I only had ground vanilla beans and a few less than supple whole beans (I need to re-order) so I used ground vanilla beans. We don't mind the tiny particles of vanilla that end up in our cream soda, but if you think it will bother you, simply use whole beans instead. The resulting two quarts of vanilla syrup makes the best cream soda we have ever tasted.

To make any of these syrups into a soft drink:

Just add 1 to 2 tbsp. syrup to a tall glass and fill the rest of the way with safe sparkling water. I believe that LaCroix is corn-free as well as Perrier. I am looking into one of the counter top carbonation machines like this one to make sure they are corn-free. It might make a nice family Xmas present. It would certainly make me feel better about soft drinks since I hate buying anything in plastic containers. 



  1. I would go so far as to say that there is no corn-free vanilla extract. It all is corntaminated in some way or other.

  2. I have never seen one in a store that I would dream of trying. We don't have a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's so I hate to say there isn't one, but I don't believe I have ever heard of one.

  3. I live in Northern Virginia so I am fortunate enough to have access to lots of speciality stores. However, Navan Foods based out of VA Beach is wonderful, sell and ship from online, and have tons of corn-free items. She has pure vanilla extract that is free of everything except the vanilla bean and alcohol. She checks very thoroughly with her providers and it has provided us with a world of new foods for our son who can not have corn, gluten, gelatin, dairy, coconut (excluding coconut oil), and egg.

  4. Ashley, It is always nice to find a store that is as conscientious as one needs to be to avoid corn. I have a local soapmaker that makes custom soap, lip balm and lotion for me. I just adore her and talk her up to everyone I meet.

  5. How would one find potato vodka?

  6. I think you can ask at the local liquor store. From what I've heard, the label should specify what was used to make the vodka. These two brands are said to be safe: Vikingfjord(potato) or Ciroc(grape) Vodka.

  7. How long are the ginger roots you are using? And how thick do you make the slices?

    Thanks in advance,

  8. Hi Karen,

    I just used two roots that were typical for the produce section. I cut them in slices that were about 1/2" thick, but you could also dice them. Shoot for the size of any crystallized ginger you've seen. It's not an exact recipe so feel free to use your own discretion. Once you feel it is ready, put some in the bottom of a glass or mug and let it cool long enough to taste test it.