11 September 2010

Home-fermented Ginger Beer

This Caribbean-style soft drink uses ‘ginger bug’ to start fermentation. I took my receipt from ‘Wild Fermentation’ by Sandor Katz, who in turn took it from Sally Fallon’s ‘Nourishing Traditions’. I have got to say that I have both these books and love them.

This ginger beer is a soft drink, fermented just enough to create carbonation but not enough to contain any alcohol. I love ginger beer. In fact I love anything gingery. I make fantastic ginger biscuits with sprouted flour, ginger – apple drink, ginger bun and if that is not enough I always use ginger among other ingredients to season my meat. I would probably eat if it was not so spicy.

Here is how I choose my ginger: 1) a root should feel heavy when you pick it up and weigh it in your hand, and 2) it should have as little ‘wrinkles’ as possible, which means it is juicy and not dry.

Ingredients for approximately 1 gallon (4 litres) of beer:

3 inches (8 cm) of fresh ginger root
1 ½ cups (400 ml) rapadura or any other type of sweetener you normally use
50 ml (around 7 times 2 teaspoons or less) white sugar (don’t get scared this is just to start the bug)
2 lemons
Filtered water

First you start the bug by adding 2 teaspoons (10 ml) grated ginger (unpeeled)

and 2 teaspoons (10 ml) of white sugar to 1 cup (250 ml) of filtered water. Stir the mixture well 

and cover it with cheesecloth to allow air circulation while keeping the flies out. 

Put it somewhere warm. I usually keep it on my kitchen counter not far from the stove. Add 2 tsp each of ginger and white sugar every day and stir until you can see bubbles on the surface.

The bubbles start to appear anywhere from 2 days up to a week. In summer mine started on the second day. Now that it is getting chillier it might take around 3-5 days. Sally in her book recommends throwing away the whole thing after 7 days if it did not start to bubble. Actually this is what I had to do with my first batch as in the attempt to avoid the much dreaded white sugar I used brown sugar, and also peeled the ginger. I guess we all learn from our mistakes.

Whenever you have the bubbles you can make your ginger beer. However, if you are not yet ready, e.g. do not have ginger or lemons or rapadura, that you ordered online a week ago still have not arrived (as it was in my case), then  just keep feeding the bug by adding the same amounts of sugar and ginger every day or every other day.

When you ready to make the ginger beer, boil 2 quarts (2 liters) of filtered water with all rapadura and 2 – 6 inches (5 - 15 cm) grated ginger root for 15 minutes. 

The amount of ginger root depends on how strong you want it to be. I would recommend starting with the smallest amount if you are not sure.  When it cooled strain the ginger, add juice from 2 lemons and strained ginger bug.  If you want to make the next butch straight away reserve a few tablespoons of the active bug as a starter and replenish it with additional water, ginger root and sugar. Adding the starter speeds the process up.

Add enough water to make 1 gallon (4 liters). Mix everything well and bottle up. I use Ikea bottles with stopper as you can see on the picture. They are just over 1 little, pretty cheap and fit perfectly into my fridge door.  Leave bottles to ferment for about 2 weeks in a warm place.

Before drinking the ginger beer put it to the fridge to cool down. In spite of Sandor Katz saying in his book: ‘When you open ginger beer, be prepared with a glass, since carbonation can be strong…’ I never noticed that with my ginger beer. I mean there is carbonation but certainly not enough to rush the liquid out of the bottle. But then again this might depend on the length you leave it to ferment and probably the quality of the water. 

My son loves this drink. 

It is sweet and sour and is very refreshing and thirst quenching. Home-fermented ginger beer tastes nothing the store bought and have loads of benefits for your health about which you can read here.

Little PS: For Christmas/New Year Celebration I left the beer to ferment  for 5 weeks and guess what, the bug eat away all the sugar and the beer became alcohol and VERY carbonated - like champagne. I can not tell how strong the alcohol was but it tasted exactly like dry cider. REal nice and got me a bit tipsy after one full glass. So here, I am not buying any alcohol any more for New Year!