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Old 07-04-2005, 11:28 AM   #11
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The taste of your grass may have something to do with your soil. Just as the Vidalia onion doesn't taste the same when it's not grown in that red Georgia loam, your Bison Grass may not taste the same because it's growing in a different soil (or climate) than that used in the vodka.
I'll see what I can find out about it.
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Old 07-04-2005, 12:03 PM   #12
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Thuneau, here's an article I found on the subject.

Bialowieza Forest; Polish Bison, Bison Grass & Vodka & Krupnik.

Bialowieza is famous for the 300 rare Auroch (European bison or bizon, called in Polish zubr) that roam the forest... The forest exists now as it as centuries ago. There are pines, oaks, maples and ash going as far as the eye can see. When trees fall they are not removed, but allowed to follow nature's course. This, along with abundant wildlife, creates a wilderness feeling.

One interesting plant found in this area is Buffalo Grass (Trawa zubrowka). The very fragrant grass is used to flavor the famous vodka of the same name. This vodka has a few blades of the grass in the bottle, which gives the drink a sweet, vanilla scent. Zubrowka, or Sweet Vernal Grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum) has always been loved by grazing animals. It is said that animals will leave any other food to graze on it. A northern plant, Buffalo Grass is little known to most Americans. It has very dense, fibrous roots and likes a moist place to grow. Native to Poland and other places in Eastern Europe, it can also be found in sections of the US where the climate is similar. It looks like common grass, but is very unique, especially when dried. Disapointed that Zubrowka Vodka...40% of alcohol...was not available in the US, Ted and I decided to make our own by sticking a few pieces of the grass in a bottle of plain vodka. After about six weeks, the vodka became slightly hone-colored and the wonderful fragrance that we first noticed in Poland.

I am excited about planting some of the grass along the stream that runs behind our nursery. Since it supposedly spreads wildly, I will avoid planting it in the herb garden.

Somes Poles make a drink called Krupnik by adding 1 1/2 cups of honey, pieces of Buffalo Grass, 8 sticks of cinnamon, 3 cloves, 3 pieces of lemon peel, a few whole allspice and a crushed nutmeg. Simmer all this for 5 minutes or so and add to a bottle of vodka.
(edited for content)

*If you will note, the area where this grass grows has a lot of pines and oaks, and is left un-managed, which means that dead trees are allowed to rot. This makes for an acid soil. Another article I read said to add compost to the soil, but no fertilizer. You might consider having your soil tested, and if it is too "sweet", you may need to add some iron chelate to the soil. Also, if you have access to oak leaves or pine needles, use those too mulch your grass.

I also noted that the instructions for the drink call for using only a few leaves of grass to be added to the mixture. Maybe you are using too much?
Another name for the grass is "Vanilla Grass".
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Old 07-04-2005, 03:27 PM   #13
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Thanks for looking it up. When I first set out to find a source for the Bison Grass I also stumbled on that article. I almost purchased that particular grass. Then I found a few more scientific references to Zubrowka both in English and Polish webpages (including some university websites)- all of them identifying Sweet Grass (Hierochloe Odorata) as the ingredient in Zubrowka. I believe the article you cited to be in error. Especially since I actually made a batch of vodka using Sweet Grass and the scent is the correct one.

With the help of some great folks on this and other forums (one of them is actually audio related) I was pointed toward a chemical PVPP that is used in winemaking for removing bitterness. Here is an excerpt:

"A very similar polymer - polyvinyl polypyrrolidone (PVPP) - is used to bind impurities to remove them from solutions. Basically, PVPP is a more highly cross-linked version of PVP, which makes it insoluble in water. This means that it can be used to extract impurities by filtration. This polymer is used to filter bitter compounds from drinks and can even be taken as a tablet to absorb compounds causing diarrhoea."
I will try to find a source for it next.

Another poster suggested that the grass plays a part in the actual distillation. He said the makers take ready made vodka, add the grass, heat it up and destill it one more time capturing the scent but not the bitter tasting chlorophyl. I'm a bit hesitant trying to perform actual distillation, especially since I have no access to proper equipment. So, for now I will follow the advise that doesn't involve distillation.
It seems that more thorough and slow drying of the grass is prefered over quick drying in the sun.
I will also try the gypsum and the tea methods suggested here.

Thanks to everybody for the interest in my topic.
It will take a couple of weeks for the next batch but I promise to report on my progress. I will likely start a little Blog on my website where I will report on my findings.
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Old 07-10-2005, 12:04 AM   #14
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This weekend I attempted making of the concentrate for future quick flavoring of plain vodka.
I made some strong clear vodka (100 proof +) out of pure grain alcohol and some filtered water and added about 45-50 dried and cut up blades of Sweet Grass to it. Just like when I made the first batch, they just floated on top and wouldn't soak. So I got the idea of accelerating the maceration process by heating up the mixture. I heated up a 2 gallon pot of water and submeged the bottle in it. I brought the water to the verge of boiling. Of course I loosened the seal on the bottle as not to let it explode from the pressure. I had it in the hot water for less than 10 minutes. I would say the alcohol didn't get hotter than 60 deg. C. I could still handle it with bare hands outside of the pot. The Sweet Grass leaves swelled and started to fall and swimm all through the liquid, which started to become green. I took the bottle out and set it aside. After a couple of hours, when the bottle and the contents cooled down I was left with very dark green/brown essence with strong Sweet Grass aroma. I let it sit overnight and the next day I used three teaspoons of the stuff in a 750ml bottle of good Polish
vodka. I also added 1 teaspoon of hot water dissolved sugar and a whole blade of dried sweet grass. The relatively small ammount of essence gave the clear vodka the right color and smell. I didn't taste it yet. I'm waiting for the dried blade of grass to fully soak and stabilize.
But, I have a very good feeling about this method. Like I said the color and the aroma are pretty much right on. If the taste turns out a bit bitter, I will order some PVPP from wine making supply store and try that. But for now I have to wait a few days before I can take a meaningful test.
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Old 06-26-2006, 03:18 PM   #15
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Progress update- a year later....

Hi everybody.
In the second year of trying I got the process to the point where my home made Zubrowka is very close to the original in both taste and aroma.
The taste part I had accomplished early on. The aroma part was tougher.
See, the real Zubrowka hits your nose with a very pleasant, herby and fresh aroma. Mine didn't do it at first.
I kept on trying, and finally with the help of a Kenmore water distiller I found on eBay I came very close to the original.
I wrote a recipe and posted it as a blog. All interested in this see:
http://homemade-zubrowka.blogspot.com

It's definitely a "Project", but it is worth every minute spent on it. You just can't get this great stuff in the store- unless you live outside of USA. Even then, you pay $20.00+ per bottle. My final cost is about $6.00/bottle when made in a batch. But, it's not about saving money. It's all about drinking real Zubrowka.

Cheers!
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Old 06-26-2006, 03:51 PM   #16
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thuneau,
I'm pretty new here so I haven't seen this thread until your update today. I love every thing about the project you've undertaken. I wonder how many home Zubrowka distillers there are.
I tip my hat to you!
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Old 06-26-2006, 04:03 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skilletlicker
thuneau,
I'm pretty new here so I haven't seen this thread until your update today. I love every thing about the project you've undertaken. I wonder how many home Zubrowka distillers there are.
I tip my hat to you!
I don't know of any. I searched far and wide- both English and Polish web pages.
For Poles it's not a big deal, they can just go to the store and get it, so noone bothers to make it at home. Here in USA we can't.
As far as I can tell this is the first published recipe that actually works as advertized. I found one from an old Polish cookbook, but it didn't work out for me. It called for simple soaking of the grass in vodka. Not even close. No right color, weak aroma.
I hope that some people will give this recipe a shot and the word spreads, because this wonderful beverage deserves better than the sorry "artificially flavored" copies we can find here.
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Old 06-26-2006, 04:37 PM   #18
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You started this thread just under a year ago but clearly you had been working on it a good while before that.
How long have you been on this quest?
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Old 06-26-2006, 05:02 PM   #19
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I visited Poland in 2002 and that's when I had my first Tatanka drink. I knew that it was my favorite alcoholic drink from that day. I brought a couple of bottles back to USA and treated my wife and friends to it. Once it was gone I tried to find it locally. I tried the artificially flavored stuff, but hated it. That's when I found out about the FDA ban.
At first I asked friends who went overseas to bring me some back, but that was too unreliable. Then I thought of geting the Bison Grass from Poland and growing it here. Once I did a bit of research, I realized that the Bison Grass has been known to Native Americans for centuries as Sweet Grass. Apparently the aroma appeals to people unversally all over the world. The other peoples treated it with more respect and used it as incense in religious rites. But, it took the Poles to turn it into vodka . What else would you expect from the inventors of booze?

Anyway, after it became a bit of a obsession, it took over a year (I ordered the Sweet Grass in Winter of 2004/2005), but the quest is just about complete. I really enjoy the warm summer evenings with a tall Tatanka drink.

I even laid out and printed color labels for my home made Zubrowka.
Since it is made with Native American grass I decided to use a Native American name for it, so my Zubrowka is called Tatanka Vodka.
Tatanka means "bison" in Lakota. If you remember the movie, it's the first word Kevin Cosner's character in Dances With Wolves learns from the Lakotas.
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Old 06-26-2006, 05:22 PM   #20
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Ever given any thought to making the vodka yourself?
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