Mrs Everybody reckons that even if you are working flat out, you can still pretend that you are enjoying a summer holiday at home. Ginger beer is traditionally brewed and consumed in the hot summer months. I can hardly think of anything more delightful that sipping this beverage on a baking hot day.
Children, grand children and adults no less, should learn all the arts of food and beverage preparation in order to gain more independence from commercial processed food industry. I estimate that some 90% of foods and drinks which are sold in supermarkets can be made at home in their truly healthy and more economical version. We should know how to make them all.
Ginger beer is a traditional fermented British drink, which is said to have originated in Yorkshire some 250 years ago. The deeper history of ginger beer remains elusive. In our country it depends more or less on the importation of dried ground ginger. Few records of importation of ginger into Britain are available until the reign of Queen Elizabeth, where it was valued for the manufacture of baked Gingerbread Men.
Ginger itself is very high in anti-oxidants, it said to boost the immunity, lower cholesterol and triglycerides (fats) in the blood, stimulate pancreatic cells, helps against aching joints and against nausea and motion sickness. Well unless that is you drink too many bottles, when you will most likely loose your footing.
The non-alcoholic ‘soft drink’ version of ginger beer is known as ginger ale and it is drunk alone are used as a mixer in alcoholic beverages. Many commercial ginger ales are artificially carbonated, contain artificial flavours, often artificial sugars and contain almost zero nutritive virtues. So we wont make this kind then! However it is possible to make a non-alcoholic ginger ale with the health-giving virtues of real ginger.
Back to authentic ginger beer. This can be made in three ways, either with Bread Yeast; a Beer Yeast, or with a SCOBY ( a symbiotic form of yeast and bacteria.) Enter the Ginger Beer Plant, a symbiote of bacterium Saccharomyces florentinus and Brevibacterium vermiforme plus other types of probiotic flora. So here I will present these 4 methods.
1/ Making ginger beer in a Demijohn with Beer Yeast.
2/ Making ginger beer in a Kilner jar and then in carbonated drinks bottles with Bread Yeast.
3/ If you acquire genuine Ginger Beer Plant culture (derived from a strain kept in a German ‘seed’ bank) then follow the vendor or donors instructions.
4/ Make non-alcoholic Ginger Ale
1/ Making Ginger Beer in a Demijohn with Beer Yeast
Of the two methods I have tried, this is my favourite recipe. The photo of the finished brew really doesn’t do it justice – it looks pale and slightly cloudy. But it does redeem itself with its champagne-like virtues. Enough said! I have made the recipe fairly flexible – you will already know your tolerance for ginger, lemon etc. The key to perfection to is record what quantities you use and the date when you start and proceed through the process. Then you adapt future brews as you like.
Airlock and bung
A large pan to boil 5L of water. Alternatively you could boil 2L of water and top up with cold bottled water, or even preboiled water.
A grater and a lemon juicer.
Something to stir the mixture.
All of your equipment needs to be scrupulously clean. Washing them with a cold soapnut infusion will leave your equipment sparkling and without residues.
1 demijohn of water
the zest of 1-1/2 washed lemons
the juice of 2-4 lemons
2-4 tsp creme of tartar (tartaric acid)
100-200g fresh ginger root
1 packet beer yeast
My aim is to produce ginger beer of the more intense flavour spectrum (hence 4 lemons, 4 tsp of creme of tartar, 200g of ginger) for 5L of beer. If your taste buds are more sensitive use the lower quantities specified. I leave mine in the demijohn for a week or two to allow most of the sugar to be converted into alcohol. It is very strong, so I would definitely caution driving or operating machinery after drink it!
1/ Bring your quantity of water to the boil.
2/ Meanwhile zest and juice the lemons. Place the zest and the grated ginger and the sugar in bowl. Add it all to the boiling water. Turn the heat off and put the lid on the pan.
3/ Activate the beer yeast. Add some preboiled and cooled water (it should be blood temperature, feeling neither warm nor cold) into a mug and add the yeast. No need to stir, just allow the yeast to hydrate. After a while the surface will foam a bit, then the mixture goes cloudy. So far so good.
4/ Let the pan of boiled water with the lemon zest, sugar and ginger, water cool – I keep the lid on it and stand it in a sink of cold water otherwise it takes ages to cool down! Or if you have boiled just some of the water top up with your preboiled and cooled water or bottled water now and the mixture should be more or less the right temperature to add the yeast.
5/ Add the creme of tartar and the lemon juice and mix, then add the yeasty mixture and stir or even whip to get plenty of air in the mixture.
6/ Using the funnel and sieve, transfer the mixture to a demijohn. Fit the air lock with some preboiled and cooled water in the lock.
7/ Allow the ginger beer to ferment in the demijohn. In the summer just normal room temperature is sufficient. I keep mine in a room which maintains a stable temperature. Today it is 25 degrees Celsius. I always get so excited when I see the first bubbles emerge through the air lock and fermentation bubbles at the neck of the demijohn.
As I like to bottle and condition beer in glass. I wait until just one bubble per minute emerges from the demijohn air lock.
8/ Bottle the ginger beer when it has neared the end of its fermentation process. In this way the natural carbonation, produced by the remaining viable yeast builds up in the bottle and the flavours meld and balance.
You have several bottling options, 2 L plastic mineral water bottles, much safer for new brewers; empty and cleaned crown cap beer bottles or flip top beer bottles if you can get them. If you are bottling in crown capped bottled you would need crown caps and a lever operated crown capper, but please don’t ask me to say that after I have been sampling the ginger beer!
9/ Keep the bottled ginger beer at room temperature. If you have bottled in plastic you will need to release the caps every day to stop the bottles deforming or exploding, wasting all of your efforts as the fermentation continues. Taste a little bit every few days to assess the flavour and level or carbonation. Once the flavour is just right, cap the bottles tightly to allow the carbonation to build up ( a day or two at this stage). Then cool the bottles slightly before serving the beer to encourage the yeast to sediment.
If you have bottled in glass, then after a few days or so of conditioning at room temperature, begin to test the ginger beer by opening a bottle. You should hear air escaping as the bottle cap is removed, the beer should not foam out of the bottle as this denotes too high a level of carbonation. You can always recap the bottle if the fermentation has been too slow, or be prepared to open or cool your bottles in haste if the fermentation has been to fast. Once the ginger beer has reached the right level of carbonation, move the bottled beer into a much cooler location. It will need to be consumed within a week or two to prevent explosions. The best way to avoid explosions and to sample the beer regularly. I keep my filled glass bottles in a cardboard box, that way if one bottle does explode the glass is contained.
The project demands a copious dollop of common sense but gives oodles of satisfaction.
2/ Making Ginger Beer in a Kilner Jar with Bread Yeast
This is a much more tame ginger beer and it is more suited for children and grandchildren.
A 1L Kilner jar
3 x 2L empty and clean carbonated plastic drink bottles
A fine sieve or clean muslin cloth
Make sure everything is spotlessly clean. I don’t use sterilizing agents for this quick maturing brews. I have found that the cold infusion obtained from soapnuts does a great job and leaves no residues. It is just a question of standing a handful of soapnuts in a bowl of water fro a few hours and squeezing the soapy liquid out of them.
It takes two weeks to make ginger beer from bread yeast. There are two stages – You make the mother culture in the first week and then make the ginger beer over the next week.
Making the Ginger Beer Mother Culture from Bread Yeast
1/2oz fresh yeast or 2 tps dried yeast (two sachets)
2 tps dried ginger
2 tps sugar
3/4 pint tepid water
1/ Mix the ingredient in the Kilner Jar.
2/ Leave for 24 hours.
3/ Once a day over the next 7 days, seed the mixture daily with 1 tsp ground ginger and 1 tsp ground ginger. You have now created the mother brew (the liquid) and the mother culture (the yeast in the bottom of the jar).
So pass the whole lot through a fine sieve, to separate the yeasty mother culture from the mother brew. You will use the mother brew (the liquid) to make the ginger beer. If you wish to make more than successive batches, then maintain the mother culture.
Maintaining the Ginger Beer Mother Culture
1/ Every two weeks, divide the mother culture in half and give one half to an interested friend.
2/ Place your 1 week old or half of your two week old mother culture back into your cleaned Kilner jar.
3/ Add 3/4 pint of tepid water to the remaining mother culture and feed daily with sugar and ginger as before. You are effectively repeating the earlier process.
Make the Ginger Beer from the Mother Brew
You need the liquid (mother brew) from the Kilner jar not the sedimented yeast.
2 pints hot water in which 1 1/2lb of sugar is dissolved. Use less if you prefer, but do record what you actually use so that you can develop your recipe and obtain ginger beer perfection.
5 pints of cold water
Juice of 2 lemons
1/ Mix this all together and bottles in plastic bottles. 2 L plastic drink bottles are ideal or large Kilner jars.
Fermentation of Ginger Beer made with Bread Yeast in plastic drink bottles
Ginger beer isn’t ginger beer until it has fermented, consumed much of the sugar and produced champagne like bubbles and this stage is less tame. It is a tiny bit feral so do remind and help children to care for the bottled ginger beer.
1/ After having placed the mother liquor in the bottles, place caps on the bottles and do them up loosely. Every day without fail, undo the caps to release the carbon-dioxide created by the yeast consuming the sugar. During the hot period we have had, I have had to release the caps several times a day and even then, sometimes the caps would shoot through my fingers!
2/ Mature for at least one week. I have had mine in the bottles for over three weeks and only now has the drink reached the right balance, i.e. not too sweet for my palette. The art of making excellent ginger beer is to attain the right balance between the sugar levels, the gingery-ness and the natural carbonation.
3/ Just today, most of the sugar has been consumed and the taste is nearly right, I will tighten the caps to increase the carbonation with the last of the viable floating yeast to prepare the bottle of ginger beer for chilling and drinking. Much of the exhausted yeast settles on the bottom of the bottle. Chilling the beer before serving it also allows any yeast to settle. Serve!
3/ Genuine Ginger Beer Plant Culture
The genuine GBP culture is derived from a strain kept in a German ‘seed’ bank. Obtain the genuine plant then follow the vendor or donors instructions. I have got some of the dried GBP – it looks like translucent crystals, but I haven’t tried it yet. There is a limit to the amount of ginger drinks than any one individual can consume! Also I do make ginger water kefir already, which has a greater range of probiotics than the GBP.
4/ Non-alcoholic Ginger Ale
Eminently suited to children and and health conscious adults. I haven’t made this one myself as I still have plenty of ginger beer to demolish, but it sounds like a sensible recipe.
2 x saucepans
Jugs or jars
1 cup (200 g) peeled, finely chopped ginger
2 cups (450 ml) water
1 cup (225 g) sugar
1 cup (225 ml) water
1/2 cup (115 ml) club soda (per glass)
A few drops of lime juice
Lime wedges (for garnish)
1/ Place 2 cups of water in a saucepan. Add the peeled and finely chopped ginger. Gently simmer the ginger in the water for 5 minutes.
2/ Turn off the heat and let the pan sit for 20 minutes.
3/ Strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer and discard the ginger pieces. reserve the gingery liquid in a jar.
4/ In a separate pan, dissolve 1 cup granulated sugar into 1 cup of boiling water. Once this has colled, transfer to a jar.
5/ To make ginger ale, mix 1/2 cup of ginger water with 1/3 cup of the syrup (or to taste) and 1/2 cup of club soda for each glass. Add a few drops of fresh lime juice and a lime slice to each drink. Serve chilled and enjoy!
As you are in charge, you can control the level of alcohol and flavours exactly how you like. I am certain with a few trials and further research you can make a tastier and healthier drink than those you can commonly buy.
Mrs Everybody will blog on this important topic of mead production soon and I am hoping that you will soon be able to make nearly all of the beverages you enjoy consuming at home.