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Old 07-03-2005, 12:38 PM   #1
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Homemade liquor question

Hi everybody,
My first post here. I hope this is the appropriate forum for this.
Here it goes:
There is this particular kind of vodka made in Poland called Zubrowka. It's flavored with so-called Bison Grass. It makes a great summer drink when mixed with apple juice and a lemon wedge.
Unfortunately it has been banned in the USA because the Bison Grass contains coumarine, which is an anticoagulant (blood thinner) and it has been linked to some forms of cancer. The amount of it in the vodka is tiny, nevertheless it's there and the FDA decided to be caucious.
I'm determined to make Zubrowka at home. I found a source for the grass, which I have already growing in my back yard. I also found a rather simplistic polish receipe for Zubrowka on the web.
I'm not concerned about the coumarine. After all the Polish have been enjoying the Zubrowka for centuries and it is being sold all over Europe with no restrictions.

My first batch has the great flavor but it also has some bitter grassy aftertaste that's not present in the original. My question to all in-the-know here is: is there a known ingredient or process that can strip the vodka of the bitterness but preserve the flavor?
Simply adding a spoonfull of sugar as the receipe I have suggest is not enough.

By the way, if you think of suggesting I buy the artificially flavored, coumarine free "Zubrowka" that has been available in the States lately- don't. I tried it- it's awfull. Not even close to the real thing. It actually might turn people off and prevent them from ever trying the real thing.


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Old 07-03-2005, 12:47 PM   #2
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Wow! Technical question at it's finest!
(BTW - welcome to the Discuss Cooking family!)

Do you suppose your bitterness could be from the grass you are growing?
Just as when you grow a radish, the less water you use for growing, the hotter it tastes, I'm wondering if you may have not watered your grass enough to give it the natural sweetness it could have provided. Of course, this is just a guess.

Now, of course, I want to try this interesting liquor, and being 1/2 polish, it makes it even more interesting!

Let's see what everyone else says -
and yes, this was the right place to post your thread :)
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Old 07-03-2005, 01:01 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jkath
Wow! Technical question at it's finest!
(BTW - welcome to the Discuss Cooking family!)

Do you suppose your bitterness could be from the grass you are growing?
Just as when you grow a radish, the less water you use for growing, the hotter it tastes, I'm wondering if you may have not watered your grass enough to give it the natural sweetness it could have provided. Of course, this is just a guess.

Now, of course, I want to try this interesting liquor, and being 1/2 polish, it makes it even more interesting!

Let's see what everyone else says -
and yes, this was the right place to post your thread :)
Thanks, I have been watering it every day while growing- just like the source suggested. But, the grass gets dried before it is used for vodka making anyway.

If you would like to try it, do not, I repeat- do not buy the artificially flavored stuff you find in the liquor stores stateside. You have to get the real deal in Europe or have someone bring you a bottle back from Poland. The real Zubrowka has been called the world's best tasting vodka before.
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Old 07-03-2005, 07:25 PM   #4
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How exactly are you making the Zubrowka? I am assuming you add the grass for a certain period of time and then strain. Is this correct? if so, maybe you are leaving the grass in too long (regardless of what the recipe says). Try cutting the time in half and see if that still gives you the flavor you are looking for without the aftertaste that you are trying to avoid.

Welcome to the site. You found the right place to ask this type of question. I am sure if you post the process then we will get to the bottom of it and get you the drink you are looking for. it sounds like a very interesting vodka. I would love to taste it someday.
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Old 07-03-2005, 07:36 PM   #5
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Like GB Im curious about the process, especially since me and my biochem comrades used to make our own booze in the lab. About the ingredient how are you extracting the flavor?

First of all green leaves such as grasses tend to have the bitterness in their sap so if you avoid using fresh, chopped grass that might help. Are you drying it and extracting a concentrate like tea or are you "infusing" it by adding a wad of mashed grass into vodka?
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Old 07-03-2005, 08:08 PM   #6
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2 options that can be used in conjunction of each other:
1. While the grass is seeping in the water, it may be beneficial to add powdered gypsum to the water in order to mellow out the mixture. The addition of gypsum should stay with must/wort through the fermentation process
2. In addition, what can be done is use drip-distillation with (crushed) charcoal like the major distilleries.
My first suggestion is to use option 1. If it is still "robust," then use option 2. Hope this helps. If not, repost.
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Old 07-03-2005, 11:04 PM   #7
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Thanks everybody for the responses.
I translated the polish receipe I found on the web int English and saved it as a pdf. Here is the link to it.
http://www.thuneau.com/Zubrowka.pdf

I followed the first method. Now that I have a lot of grass I will try the second method.

In the pdf, under sources of grass I listed the ones I found. My best experience was with the Shady Acres. They delivered high quality product right away. I also ordered from Ecoseeds.com back in March and am still waiting for half the plants. Meanwhile the plants from Shady Acres gave me one full harvest.
Anyway, look for Hierochloe Odorata or Sweet Grass.
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Old 07-03-2005, 11:13 PM   #8
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How many days did you let it sit?

If it were me I would try the first method again, but I would only let it sit for 10 days or less instead of 15-20 days.
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Old 07-03-2005, 11:48 PM   #9
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I made two bottles. The first one sat for about a month, the second for maybe 2 weeks. I got a bit impatient with the slow progress of flavoring and ran the second batch through a kitchen blender. This made the vodka acquire a light greenish colour (the original is somewhat gold/yellow). I ran it through a coffee filter and then filtered a good portion of it through a Brita. This gave me a close approximation of the original even if still with a bit of a bitter aftertaste.

My next batch will be using grass that was dried more thoroughly. I will also try some of the suggestions from this board.
Thanks.
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Old 07-04-2005, 01:11 AM   #10
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I don't know anything about making alcohol, but this is a very interesting topic. Keep us posted on your progress. Good luck!!

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