2019: M… A to Z Italian Famiglia Foods and Memories: Mama’s Old-Fashioned Root Beer

2019: M… A to Z Italian Famiglia Foods and Memories: Mama’s Old-Fashioned Root Beer

I’m back for “year 4” of the A to Z… April Challenge!

My first year of this challenge had me racking my brain for a writing topic… especially as I didn’t quite understand the process. But finally I came up with 2016: Southern Foods and Memories. They said write what you know… and being a girl born in the South… well this was what I knew.  2017: Conversations with Mama was a somewhat easy one for me as I’d journaled our conversations for years so I researched some of my favorite topics to write on.  2018: All About Nancy Drew has been my favorite topic so far, and I don’t know if I’ll ever come up with another to equal it. It literally had me researching every day for over six months… researching, reading and perfecting every post. I was totally consumed with Nancy Drew for months… and still am! I didn’t want to “not” participate this year, but I was drawing a blank. Finally, mid February, I came up with writing on my husband’s Italian family foods and memories. I did my Southern foods the first year, so it was time to finally give his family their due! I’m also participating in the yearly 52 Ancestors 52 Stories this year… I am really feeling over-extended this month. April is a tough month for me, as we usually are traveling to my mother’s and my son in Florida… but somehow I’ll manage!

I think I can safely say that before marrying into an Italian family, I had never eaten any of the foods I’m blogging on this month… such an underprivileged child I was! Growing up in the South where we ate fried chicken, okra, black-eyed peas, butter beans, mashed potatoes, creamed style corn and southern biscuits! Oh My…!

root beer2

Mother’s Old-Fashioned Root Beer

Root beer was created in the mid-1800s by Philadelphia pharmacist Charles Hires. The original root beer was a (very) low-alcohol, naturally effervescent beverage made by fermenting a blend of sugar and yeast with various roots, herbs and barks such as
sarsaparilla, sassafras, wild cherry, wintergreen and ginger.


1 can Root Beer extract
1 fresh yeast cake
(This is the remembered ingredients from
Uncle Johnny… of when his mother made root
beer – below is an actual recipe I found)


1 teaspoon dry yeast
1/2 cup water, warm
2 cups sugar
1 quart water, hot
4 teaspoon Root beer extract

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water. Dissolve sugar in 1 quart hot water. Mix together dissolved yeast, sugar and root beer extract in gallon jar. Fill jar with warm water and stir until all ingredients are well combined. Cover jar. Set in warm sun for four hours. The root beer will be ready to drink the next day. Chill before serving.

root beer

To bottle: Fill the bottle, leaving about 2 – 3 inches of air at the top. Remove the funnel and screw the bottle cap tightly. (If air leaks out, the root beer will not carbonate properly)

Uncle Johnny remembering: “I can still see mama making us Root Beer in the early hours of the morning while it was still cool; I liked to watch as it foamed up after adding the yeast cake. When it was ready to bottle, my brother, Frankie, and I helped to pour it into the bottles while mama got the bottle capper out. We were ready to drink it as soon as possible… and often sneaked one later that afternoon… when mama wasn’t looking.


Bottle capper used when making home brew!

From Johnny:Frankie and I worked together filling the bottles one by one and capping them – working just like an assembly line. We kept the capped bottles in the cool dirt cellar at the farm; my father dug that cellar after we moved there. Of course the longer they stayed, the more potent they were, but we could never let them stay very long. Frankie and I often stole one to drink them – hot or cold – it didn’t matter! Sometimes we’d even hear a big ‘pop’ from downstairs – that meant another bottle lost – it had exploded! The one good thing was that since we had a dirt cellar there wasn’t much mess to clean when they popped open.”

Root Beer was very popular in this area, especially at Savin Rock… an amusement park in my husband’s hometown of West Haven, CT. There also was even a couple of Hire’s Root Beer stands there This was one drink that I never took a liking too… it tastes more like medicine to me!

Homemade Root Beer


Continue reading more of the A to Z…  Cooking Famiglia Italian Foods and Memories


© 2019, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

My blog is at: https://everyonehasafamilystorytotell.wordpress.com/
This entry was posted in 2019: A to Z - Italian Famiglia Foods and Memories:, Daily Writings and funnies... and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to 2019: M… A to Z Italian Famiglia Foods and Memories: Mama’s Old-Fashioned Root Beer

  1. Anne Young says:

    Definitely an acquired taste 🙂 I like ginger beer better.
    Following along from A to Z https://ayfamilyhistory.com/2019/04/15/m-is-for-marylebone/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jemima Pett says:

    We didn’t know about root beer in the UK when I was a kid. But we did make home made ginger beer. I remember one year that all the bottles went ‘pop’ one after the other – shooting fizz all over the larder. Larders are hardly ever found in houses these days, but then, we didn’t have freezers then, except for hug chest ones which we go when I was in my teens.
    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jz says:

    It’s not my favorite either, but I do have fond memories of watching mom make some!

    happy A-Z’ing!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Laura Mattingly says:

    I like root beer! Even better than plain root beer is a root beer float. Very fond childhood memories of root beer floats as a special treat.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. lingar53 says:

    Do you have a recipe for vanilla ice cream? It would go great with the root beer recipe that you just gave us. Thanks

    Liked by 2 people

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