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Recipe: Ginger Beer

Ginger is a spice perfect for autumn weather. Its fragrance can perk up everything from chai tea to apple pie. This humble root can also add a gentle kick of heat to stir-fries or soups.

The natural yeasts in the root can also be used to kick start a bubbly ginger beer. Give it a try!

The following recipe is from Wild Fermentation: The Flavour, Nutrition and Craft of Live-Culture Foods by Sandor Katz. Published by Chelsea Green, the book is available through all good high street and online retailers, RRP £17.99

rootginger

glass

This Caribbean-style soft drink uses a “ginger bug” to start the fermentation. I got this idea from Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions. The ginger bug is simply water, sugar and grated ginger, which starts actively fermenting within a couple of days. This easy starter can be used as yeast in any alcohol ferment, or to start a sourdough.

This ginger beer is a soft drink, fermented just enough to create carbonation but not enough to contribute any appreciable level of alcohol. If the ginger is mild, kids love it.

TIMEFRAME: 2 to 3 weeks

INGREDIENTS (for 4 litres):

  • 8 cm or more fresh root ginger
  • 400 gm sugar
  • 2 lemons
  • Water

PROCESS:

1. Start the “ginger bug”: Add 2 teaspoons (10 ml) grated ginger (skin and all) and 2 teaspoons (10 ml) sugar to 250 ml of water. Stir well and leave in a warm place, covered with cheesecloth to allow free circulation of air while keeping flies out. Add this amount of ginger and sugar every day or two and stir, until the bug starts bubbling, in 2 days to about a week.

2. Make the ginger beer any time after the bug becomes active. (If you wait more than a couple of days, keep feeding the bug fresh ginger and sugar every 2 days.) Boil 2 litres of water. Add about 5 cm of root ginger, grated, for a mild ginger flavour (up to 15 cm for an intense ginger flavour) and 375 ml sugar. Boil this mixture for about 15 minutes. Cool.

3. Once the ginger-sugar-water mixture has cooled, strain the ginger out and add the juice of the lemons and the strained ginger bug. (If you intend to make this process an ongoing rhythm, reserve a few tablespoons of the active bug as a starter and replenish it with additional water, grated ginger and sugar.) Add enough water to make 4 litres.

     4.  Bottle in sealable bottles: Recycle plastic soda bottles with screw tops; rubber gasket “bail-top” bottles that some premium beers use; sealable juice jugs; or capped beer bottles. Leave bottles to ferment in a warm place for about 2 weeks.

5. Cool before opening. When you open your ginger beer, be prepared with a glass, since carbonation can be strong and force liquid to rush out of the bottle!

Chelsea Green Publishing

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