Disclaimer: This is NOT sponsored, but I didn’t pay for any of the soft drinks that are mentioned in this blog post.
Tim dropped off a sampler pack which included Sprecher Cherry Cola, Orange Dream, Root Beer and Cream Soda as well as a few bottles of Green River soda. They’re all great sodas or pop (depending on what you call soft drinks where you live), but instead of just drinking them, I wanted to use them in a sandwich.
I knew I was likely releasing the sandwich a few days before St. Patrick’s day and in a passing discussion, over a couple of Dovetail Brewery pints my friend JP shouted out “Irish soda bread!” and I snatched that idea and I decided to focus my plan on that.
The closeness on the calendar to St. Patrick’s Day and the “Irish soda bread” suggestion got me thinking about corned beef and cabbage, so my new plan was to make a corned beef Reuben, but also attempt to incorporate the Sprecher sodas as much as I could.
Read on to see what I did.
Green River “soda” bread
First, I made soda bread. Get it?
This is NOT Irish soda bread, but it is bread made with soda. 😎
I’m not sure if it’s well known that Sprecher now makes Green River soda, but they do. They acquired the brand in October 2021. Green River was invented in 1919 and it remained a very popular soda fountain syrup in the Midwest throughout the prohibition era and after. At one point it was the #2 fountain syrup behind Coca-Cola. Green River soda has had an interesting history since then and you can check some of that out on Wikipedia or on the Green River soda history page.
Every year the city of Chicago designates the Saturday prior to March 17th to be the official St. Patrick’s Day celebration. There’s typically a parade and they dye the Chicago River neon green for the event. It’s a huge party and I’m lucky enough to have a friend who lives right above the river, so I’ve gotten to see the green dyeing from a great vantage point (Shoutout to Lisa!).
Green River soda is not named after the St. Patrick’s Day tradition of dyeing the Chicago River green, because that didn’t get started until 1962.
Green River is a caffeine-free citrus soda, similar in flavor and sweetness to Mountain Dew, but with a lot more focus on the lime flavor.
At first, I just tried to make green bread (see the photo above) but then I decided with the ingredients I was planning to use for a Reuben, I should embrace a marble rye style of bread. So, I made two doughs, colored one green with the Green River soda and then rolled them into a loaf.
This bread turned out well. If you eat it on its own, you can tell that there’s some extra sweetness and lime flavor, but it’s not overwhelming. If you check out the recipe, you can see that I remove the honey from the part of the dough that is hydrated with Green River soda, which probably helps to mitigate the extra sugar. When the bread is used in a sandwich, it’s not super obvious that part of it is made with a sweet soda.
Ok, I put soda in bread. What next?
Cherry cola corned beef
Corned beef is a big hunk of brisket that is brined in a bunch of spices for 5 to 10 days or so and then washed/rinsed off the brine and it is then braised in water/liquid until it is very tender.
I brined my brisket for five days like traditional corned beef recipes and then just replaced all the water in the boiling/braising process with Sprecher Cherry Cola like a totally normal person would do.
During the thinking process involved in making this sandwich, I started looking into the history of corned beef. Specifically, I wanted to know if it was invented in Ireland. I found this article from the Smithsonian about that. Turns out, corned beef wasn’t invented in Ireland, but due to Ireland having a salt tax 1/10th that of England’s and a surplus of cows/beef, the Irish could afford to make a lot more brined corned beef and they did.
Regardless of the origin, I doubt that any Irish folks have braised their corned beef in cherry cola, which is unfortunate because it’s pretty good.
Of all the recipes shared in this post, this one is the winner. The outside of the corned beef has some sweetness that just blends in with the salty meat. If you try this recipe, make sure to reserve some of the liquid that the beef is braised in to keep the slices of corned beef extra moist in the refrigerator.
Orange Dream sauerkraut
Yes. I made sauerkraut with orange cream soda. Was it a great idea? No. Was it terrible? Also: no. Let’s just say I will probably not make Orange Dream sauerkraut again. It didn’t ruin the sandwich, it just contributed a bit too much distracting citrus sweetness.
I’ll just say that I ate the Orange Dream sauerkraut in one sandwich and then I switched to a basic cabbage slaw that I made.
I’m not going to post and share a full recipe, but it’s easy enough to recreate if you’re following at home. All I did was add half of a thinly sliced cabbage to a medium pot over medium heat. Then I added 1/2 cup of Sprecher’s Orange Dream soda and 2 tablespoons of distilled white vinegar. Two teaspoons of salt were added and then I cooked it down until it was soft, but the cabbage still had a little bit of crunch. I stored it in a mason jar and then when it cooled down a little, I placed it in the fridge until sandwich time.
Root beer sandwich sauce
This is basically just my special sauce recipe, minus the diced pickles and pickle juice, plus a little root beer because everything can use more sweetness, caramel and vanilla flavors. Right? Reuben sandwiches typically have Russian dressing and some that you’ll encounter have Thousand Island. Since this is a wacky sandwich in the first place, I figured I’d do whatever I wanted, and I made what I think of like a root beer and mayonnaise based dressing/sauce and introduce root beer to the mix.
Note: If you really wanted to recreate this sauce, use the recipe below and leave out pickle juice and diced pickles and add a tablespoon of root beer (drink the rest).
The Soda Pop Reuben sandwich
Ok, now we will put all these ingredients together and make a sandwich. Sorry to say I didn’t make a specific recipe for this one, but here’s the order I put ingredients together in:
- Top bread slice
- Root Beer sandwich sauce
- Orange Dream kraut
- Swiss cheese
- Cherry Cola corned beef
- Root Beer sandwich sauce
- Bottom bread slice
The first day that I made this sandwich and set it up for photography, I did not toast the bread. I wanted the swirl to show through. The bread in this sort of sandwich stays soft which is both good and bad for this situation. In future sandwiches, I tested multiple bread toasting options. None were good at keeping the bread green, but they all worked a little better for keeping the structure of the sandwich and better for texture.
Soda pop recap
This was a good sandwich week. A corned beef Reuben is a fantastic sandwich. Maybe one day I’ll make a serious attempt at making a classic one that isn’t made from soft drinks and write about that experience.
Check back next week when I’ll be going fishing for my next sandwich!