Food, Recipes

…and lashings of ginger beer

Every now and again I get a craving for an ice-cold sugar rush with a kick of heat and spice. So I’m having a go at making my own ginger beer. So far, it’s as easy as (eating) pie.

I remember Mum making it when I was a kid, using a bug a friend had given her, feeding it and tending it daily like a sourdough starter.

The recipe I’ve found seems to involve considerably less faffing about. As you’d expect from Alison Holst. And to prevent the other thing I remember – random bottles exploding in the garage, it’s decanted into used plastic softdrink bottles rather than glass.

for 4 1.25l bottles
1 teaspoon dried yeast granules
2 teaspoons sugar
half a cup of tepid water

5cm piece of fresh ginger root
1 large or 2 small lemons
half a teaspoon of citric acid
2 cups sugar
2 litres hot water
2 litres cold water

Stir together the first three ingredients in a glass and leave them to stand in a warm place while you get everything else ready. The yeast will start fizzing during this time, so you can be quite sure it’s active.

Cut up the root ginger roughly, skin and all, and put it in the food processor with the zest of the lemons, removed with a potato peeler, the citric acid, and half the sugar.

Process, using the metal chopping blade, until very finely chopped, then add the lemon juice.

Measure out the hot water. Tip some of it into the lemon mixture, then tip the lemon mixture into a clean bucket. Use the rest of the water to rinse out the processor bowl. Add the remaining sugar to the hot lemon mixture, stir well, then add the cold water, to bring the temperature of the liquid in the bucket to lukewarm.

When you have checked that the mixture is lukewarm and cannot possibly kill the yeast, stir in the yeast mixture. Cover the bucket loosely and stand in a warm place for 24-48 hours. The beer should bubble during this time. Leave longer in cool weather.

Mine didn’t seem to bubbling at all, and it is winter, so I left it five days. The finished brew tastes great, but was so fizzy I lost a third of it down the sink. So I guess it doesn’t need to be too bubbly after all. Though… the fizziness could also have been due to me forgetting to strain it at the decanting stage – I don’t recommend you do the same. Chewy.

Strain into four thoroughly clean 1.25l plastic softdrink bottles, topping each bottle up to within 3cm of the top with extra cold water. Put 1 teaspoon water of sugar in each bottle and screw on the well-washed tops. Shake to dissolve sugar.

Leave to stand in a warm place until the bottles feel absolutely rigid when you squeeze them. This will take from 1-5 days, depending on the temperature, yeast etc.

Refrigerate the bottles for at least two hours before removing the lids. Plan to drink all of the brew within 3-4 weeks.

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