As with years past, the pressures of work, priorities in the garden and the need to improve my golf handicap have taken me away from my recipes in the summer months. However, the Bank Holiday weekend is upon us and as there are no more Olympics to watch on the TV, I’m feeling in an experimental mood. A glut of Cucumbers has forced me down the route of culinary desparation – pickles. But more of that later. First of all, I just fancied dabbling in a little ‘home brew’ . Good quality Ginger Beer is something I love – A traditionally British drink, although probably the best I’ve tasted came from a holiday in Corfu. I’ll look to more traditional routes in the future, setting up a ‘Ginger Beer Plant’ for exponential production capability, and dabble in the ‘alcoholic’ version of the beverage, but for now I wanted something a little more straightforward.
Not a lot of effort, ready to drink in 2 days!
Makes 2 litres
- 1 Lemon (unwaxed)
- 275g Granulated Sugar
- 50g Root Ginger, grated
- 2 ltr Bottled Water
- 1/4 tsp Dried Bread Yeast
- Grate the zest off the lemon and set aside. Cut off the white pith and slice the remaining flesh into thin slices.
- Tip the 2 ltr bottle of water into a pan and bring to the boil.
- Add grated ginger, sugar, lemon zest and flesh into a large glass or plastic bowl, and pour the boiling water over the top. Stir well to dissolve the sugar and leave to cool.
- When the liquor cools to ‘blood temperature’, sprinkle the yeast on the surface. Stir briefly and cover with a cloth.
- Place in a warm place (an airing cupboard is good, but empty it first!) overnight or for a few hours, until the yeast activates and bubbles are rising to the surface.
- Pass the liquid through a muslin or fine sieve before decanting into your plastic bottle (please use a funnel for this…). Leave at least 1″ gap at the top.
- Loosely put the cap on the bottle, then squeeze the air out. This deforms the bottle and provides a visual indicater that the fermentation is still working. Tighten up the cap and put the bottle somewhere warm for a few hours.
- When the bottle is hard, the liquid is suitably carbonated. It’s time to stop the fermentation (before the bottle explodes). Put the bottle in the fridge for a few hours to chill, then drink!
Tips & FAQs
- Q:- What is the best way to get the juisce out of the Ginger? Could I use a food processor, or just chop it up?
A:- You could blitze the ginger in a food processor with a little liquid. Chopping is less effective. I find that using a coarse Microplane grater is the best way to grate ginger and zest lemons – well worth the investment (but go for the ‘professional’ or ‘gourmet’ versions rather than the ‘home’ versions with the plastic frames, as these are inclined to crack with heavy use)
- Q:- Why use bottled water?A:- This is optional. If you have good tap water, this will probably be fine. However, remember that you need an appopriate bottle to put everything back into, and a 2l plastic water bottle will probably be a good bet at withstanding the pressure build up without exploding.
- Q:- Can I use any bottles?
A:- Your bottles need to be sterile, and must be able to withstand high pressures. I would recommend reusing carbonated drinks bottles and washing these out with hot soapy water. I wouldn’t recommend using glass bottles, just in case…
- Q:- Exploding! This sounds dangerous – why is this and how can it be prevented?
A:- Remember that you are following a brewing process, and what’s more, unlike say wine, you are bottling up before the yeast is exhausted to generate the Carbon Dioxide in the bottles to make your GB fizzy. As long as the environment is suitable and there are sugars for the yeast to feed on, CO2 will be produced. There will come a point when the pressure buildup will be too great and … BANG! Sticky Ginger Beer all over the walls, flour, children, dogs…. To prevent this you need to stop the fermentation before the pressure buildup in the bottles is too great. The instructions above provide good guidelines but temperature plays an important role here so timings are only indicative. When the bottle is very firm, put it in the fridge to stop the fermentation process. You can’t prevent the bottles from exploding – if there is a weakness or the fermentation happens faster then you tink, then you’ll have a problem. I tried to contain any explosion by putting the bottle into a bucket with a lid, just in case.
- Q:- Great. So the fermentation has stopped forever?
A:- No. Below around 10oC, the yeast will stop acting. Raise the temperature above this and it will start again. Don’t leave your bottles out of the fridge for too long!
- Q:- Why use Bread yeast? Can I use brewer’s yeast?
A:- Simple answer – I always have bread yeast in. Research seems to show that Bread yeast provides better CO2 production but a stronger ‘yeasty’ taste. I suppose this indicates that is a little more active or aggressive than brewers yeast. You could use brewers yeast if you prefer.
- Q:- Can I use fresh yeast instead of dried?
A:- Yes, try mixing 1-2 tsp fresh yeast with a little liquid instead.
- Q:- Can I make it more or less gingery?
A:- Entirely up to you. I like a very gingery ginger beer, so I think 50g is quite strong enough. If you prefer a milder brew, try half this quantity.
- Q:- Can I use Ground Ginger (powder) instead of Root Ginger?
A:- Yes, but you’ll need to experiment with quantities (please let me know what works)
- Q:- Does this have any alcohol content?
A:- This is not a full blown fermentation process and is suppressed after a short period of time, but the yeast will inevitably convert a proportion of the sugar into alcohol. You’ll need to invest in a hygrometer to measure the alcohol content, but it is likely to be no more than 0.5% ABV. I’ll be looking at a more alcoholic version later – apparently GB can get up to 11% under the right circumstances…
- Q:- Can I increase the alcohol content using this method?
A:- Theoretically, yes. HOWEVER, I really wouldn’t recommend this. The only way to do this is to ferment for longer, converting more sugar into alcohol. This will lead to a less sweet drink. You could leave the mixture longer before you bottled it, although I’d prefer to use a sealed fermenation environment to stop the mix going off; or you could leave the bottled mixture for longer before you put it in the fridge, and risk them exploding all over the house. As I say – I can’t recommend this! Proceed at your own risk…
- Q:- Why use lemons? Can I leave these out?
A:- Lemons sem to be quite traditional in Ginger Beer. My favourites always seem to have a high lemon content, and for this recipe I’ve used zest and flesh to provide extra lemony punch. I wouldn’t recommend that you leave the lemon out, but you could just add the juice instead to reduce the impact. Alternatively you could try Lime or other citrus (… let me know how this works!). If you choose to exclude lemon entirely – BEWARE! for the yeast to work effectively, it must be in an acidic enviroment. I would strongly suggest that in this case, you include some Cream of Tartar (Tartaric Acid) – say 1 tsp.
- Q:- I didn’t see any bubbles forming – what happened?
A:- Could be a number of things. Your yeast may be off. Or if you put your yeast into the mixture when it was too hot (above 40-50oC), you’ve probably killed the yeast off. There’s probably nothing more you can do other than start again. If you put your yeast in when the mixture is too cold (say less than 30oC), it’s probably working, but very slowly. Be patient, it may take a little longer. Ensure that the mixture is kept at a reasonable temperature (a warm airing cupboard is good).
- Q:- Do you have more accurate timings?
A:- I heven’t given timings because these are very dependent on your own envirnmental conditions and the yeast that you use. I’m afraid you’ll need to experiment, and remain vigilant for the first couple of attempts, but I’m told that once you’ve got into a routine, you could have a batch in the fridge within a day of starting…