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After the previous round of experiments, I assumed that the source of my problems was the water itself.  Several folks left comments suggesting that only distilled water will yield clear ice, and tap water or filtered water was simply too impure.  So, I grabbed a bottle of distilled Arrowhead water and tried freezing it.  Fail.  Then I tried boiling twice it and freezing it.  Fail.

Then, I came up with another idea… a radical idea.

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If making alcohol had been this easy during prohibition, homemade hooch would have been everywhere.  A few weeks ago, I began playing with a product called Spike Your Juice, which was advertised as a way to turn juice into alcohol in 48 hours.  It works like this: pick a juice with at least 20g of sugar per serving, add a packet of their specially-designed yeast, plug the bottle with an airlock, and wait 48 hours.  Just like the fermentation process used in winemaking, the juice’s natural sugar is converted into ethanol, with a byproduct of carbon dioxide.  The result is an alcoholic drink with a champagne-like effervescent fizz.

I bought a box of these magic bacteria and started experimenting.  The instructions recommend using filtered juices that don’t require refrigeration and aren’t artificially sweetened. But, I’m bad at following instructions, and I don’t trust a juice that doesn’t require refrigeration.  I grabbed a bottle of Pink Lemonade, Mango, Blackberry and Sweet Tea from Trader Joe’s.  The pink lemonade worked well – after 48 hours, it was quite fizzy, though I couldn’t really taste the alcohol.  The Sweet Tea fizzed a bit, but also didn’t taste “spiked” – it just tasted awful.  The Mango juice (which wasn’t fully filtered) formed big solid clumps during fermentation.  I’m not sure why, exactly, but they were gross so I filtered them out with cheesecloth before drinking.  Again, some fizz, no buzz. 

The Blackberry juice was the winner by far.  It also developed some solids (even though it was very clear juice to begin with), and you’d never mistake it for wine, but it was delicious.  Think blackberry Lambic, but with an adjusted price of $1.75 per bottle (64oz of juice at $3, $1.50 per packet of yeast, 25oz in a wine bottle).  This is something I’d make again, and certainly something I’d serve to dinner guests or corruptible children. 

The instructions state that you can allow the fermentation to continue longer than 48 hours to achieve up to 14% ABV.  It also recommends using Welch’s or Ocean Spray – I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree there.  To me, the best part of this product is that you’re free to choose great starting ingredients, like a locally-produced cider, or raspberry juice from plants in your back yard.  But for the fun of quick, easy DIY booze, I’ll raise my glass to this product!

Spike Your Juice – $9.99 (or $20 for a 2-pack on Amazon)

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I am a pumpkin carving geek.  I can’t get enough of it!  As soon as October rolls around, there’s nothing I want to do more than buy a dozen of the largest pumpkins Fred Meyer carries and sit at home with my pairing knife whittling away at orange flesh.  [Tip: Fred Meyer’s scales max out somewhere around 30 lbs., so find the heaviest pumpkins you can and you’ll get a great deal!]

Over the past few years, I’ve developed a few pumpkin carving techniques (ahem… using lasers), but I am certainly not alone when it comes to geeking out over gords.  Check out this collection of nerd-o-lanterns!

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