I warn you right now that in the following documentary photos you will see no sign of any added sugars. This is morally wrong that I am trying to hide the truth behind this horrendously sugary homemade ginger beer, possibly alcoholic – or here’s hoping at least.
So I think this is Ginger Beer Batch 5 version 5. As some of you may have noted, and hopefully a little lust in your eyes, I have been making my own ginger beer ever since I moved into my new garden flat. Each time I have tried a different recipe, trying to perfect the flavour and refreshing hit factor.
I’ve made ones that need to be bottled for four weeks and ones that only need bottling overnight. And it is true, time does create a better, deeper, more meaningful flavour.
So this time I decided on a similar recipe to one that I have made before, but this time substituting raw ginger for what was originally dried ginger. And I decided to add a bit of cayenne pepper to increase that hit factor a bit more.
So while I give your eyes a feast I will describe what steps I have taken.
This is what you start with…
…raw ginger. And you chop it up and crush it (or bruise it if you prefer the term) in a mortar and pestal.
You throw it in about 200mL of boiling water, add a bit of cayenne pepper for the kicks…
…and some of that horrible nasty sugar stuff. (I used a mixture of castor, raw and brown sugars – this affects the colour and the taste – you may like to try agave, honey or golden syrup as a substitute in yours.). Add some yeast to it – if you can find it, use the yeast specific for beer and wine making. I got some champagne yeast for mine.
You sit back and wait a little while and it should start bubbling. This is the yeast eating the sugar and pooping out carbon dioxide and hopefully a little alcohol. I sometimes let mine breath just by covering it with muslin cloth, other times I seal it completely with cling wrap. Not sure it matters.
The next day you cut up and pulp some more raw ginger. My original recipe was calling for two teaspoons of dried ginger a day so I added approximately the same amount, maybe a little more, of raw ginger.
I also added four teaspoons of that wonderfully it’s-so-bad-for-you-it’s-good sugary stuff each day. Give it a good stir and let it sit again. If you want to cut down on the gas a little, you could try alternating the ginger and sugar each day rather than adding both each time.
I even added a couple of sultanas – I heard they may help with the fermentation process by bringing some of their own bacteria to the game. Who knows, it’s worth a try.
So you repeat that for a week – just adding the raw ginger and sugar each day, giving it a stir and sit back and let it do its thing. It takes time, and I can see you tapping your finger on your wrist watch as you gaze outside at that lovely summer day and dream of yourself sitting and sipping geer in the backyard with your feet up. But all good things take time, so be patient and your patience will be rewarded tenfold.
Ok so fast forward a week.
You want some nice plump lemons, get the organic ones. I know organic fruit is usually the ugly fruit but I picked up these good looking babies at my local overpriced mediterranean cafe a few doors up the road.
And because those lemons looked so damn good I have included a few more pictures of them. Because by the end of this I want you feeling all summery and refreshed as well.
Get about four or five and squeeze all the goodness out of them into a large pot that’s got two pints of boiling water in it. My recipe said to dissolve one kilogram (!) of sugar into the water but I couldn’t bring myself to do it – I probably put in about 600g, and like I said, a combination of different types of sugar.
And here are those lemons again.
Then you get a bucket. Now don’t just grab a bucket from your dirty dusty back shed. You go buy yourself a clean bucket. And after you make this batch you clean it and put it on top of the fridge where it stays until you make another batch of ginger beer. This is THE ginger beer bucket. Not a gardening bucket, not a painting or DIY bucket…a dedicated ginger beer bucket.
You put eight litres of water straight from the tap into it and strain your pot of lemon, ginger and sugar into it. You’re meant to use a piece of muslin cloth but I’ve never seen muslin cloth in any cooking store I’ve ever been in so I just get an old bit of material. Now you may want to be quite specific about the type of water you use. As they do say things like bagels should never be eaten anywhere except NYC (because of the water), I think it is important you use good water. The water straight out of our tap here in Brighton is probably the best-tasting water of anywhere I’ve lived so I am quite happy to use that. However if you live somewhere like Perth where the water has quite a different taste, I’d probably recommend you go buy yourself some bottled water. I hate the idea of buying bottled water but this ginger beer is your baby so you want to raise it the right way.
Give the stuff in the bucket a good stir. It should be smelling pretty damn good. And you’re probably thinking you can go drink that stuff now. Well no, keep your dirty mitts off it, finish what you started, okay?
Get your very clean bottles, get a funnel and pour the ginger beer in. I had to strain it again as I’d failed on my first straining attempt. In regards to bottles, be careful what type of bottle you use as they come under a lot of pressure. With my first batch I used big plastic 1L drinking bottles. These are good as you give them a bit of a squeeze before you bottle them and you can see how much gas has been created by how much they bulge in a week or so. You can also let a little gas out of them as well. This time I used a few old olive oil bottles with the attached lids plus some old beer bottles that I’d reserved for the purpose.
Make sure to leave a bit of an air space at the top.
For the beer bottles I capped them properly using something I picked up last year. I found it a bit strange that here in Brighton there is only one home-brew shop that sells this sort of stuff. Funnily enough it’s not even a proper home-brew store, it’s actually half a bicycle store and half ahome-brew store. At first I thought that was a real funny combination but then I realised it actually made a lot of sense. But only one store in Brighton?? I guess with the abundance of pubs here and the tiny houses people have, home brewing just ain’t really the thing to do around here.
Once it’s all bottled up, wipe the bottles clean (you don’t want ants crawling all over it) and put it in your back shed. Put it somewhere where it’s warm but not too hot. Put it somewhere that if it explodes it won’t destroy too much. I’ve not had one explode on me yet but I can rememeber exploding bottles when I was a kid on the farm, and that meant the end of making ginger beer then as it was just too dangerous.
Leave it in the shed for a month. I probably won’t have that much patience and will try a bottle at the three week mark. If you do get greedy and need to try some early – just remember to be careful when opening them. I nearly lost my left eye two years ago with my first batch. I took the bottle cap off in an uncontrolled manner and it hit me pretty hard just above the eye. Lost my senses for a while but a few sips of the remaining ginger beer (the stuff that didn’t spray all over the garden) helped me regain them.