With the hot days of summer coming up there’s nothing more refreshing than an ice-cold ginger beer to pick you up when you feel like you’re melting to the ground. Ginger beer is either a flavored soft drink or a spicy alcoholic beverage. While both are delicious, we’ll be learning how to make ginger beer like your ouma, the soft drink version obviously.
A Little History About Gingerbeer
Ginger has a refreshing, zippy taste and is one of the oldest spices known around the world. In fact, it dates all the way back to 500 BC when it was used in India and China as a flavoring, food, and medicine. The Western world has commonly used ginger to spice drinks up.
Until the Victorian Era began beer was England’s drink of choice. They preferred spiced and herbal “small” beers that contained low-alcohol like ginger beer. Most people were probably introduced to ginger in the form of ginger-ale, as it’s a common cure for stomach ailments.
Ginger Beer Recipe
It’s important to mention that while the drink does have the word “beer” in it, it is non-alcoholic and a great beverage for children. It’s loaded with vitamin B, vitamin C, and an excellent cure for nausea or simple queasiness. Your kids will probably even enjoy helping you make it!
INGREDIENTS (MAKES JUST OVER 1 GALLON)
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 2 pieces of fresh ginger about the size of your thumb
- 1 cup (250ml) of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 5 raisins (a few more if you prefer)
- 3 cups (750ml) of white sugar
- 1 gallon of warm water
- 10 grams of instant yeast (dried)
- 3 pieces of whole dried ginger (each about the size of a grape) - optional
- Using a fine tooth cheese grater or a citrus zester, add the lemon rind to a large bowl or plastic bucket. The container you use will need to hold at least 1 gallon of water. Also be sure to avoid the white pith of the lemon, as this will make your beer bitter.
- Next, grate the fresh ginger into your container. It works best to use a grater with coarse teeth for this step.
- Add the raisins, sugar, and freshly squeezed lemon juice to the lemon zest and ginger mixture. You can also add the whole dried ginger if you are using it.
- Pour about 1/4 gallon of hot water into the mixture and stir well for about 3 minutes, or until the sugar is completely dissolved. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Add the rest of your warm water into the container. Be sure to closely monitor the water temperature, as it should be warm but not too warm.
- Next, sprinkle the dried yeast on top of the water and let it sit for 5 minutes, or until it is completely dissolved.
- Stir your mixture well.
- Cover the container with plastic wrap and put in a warm place (not directly in the sunlight). Allow it sit there for 4 or 5 hours, stirring it once or twice. During this period you will notice that the raisins will begin to spin in the water and the mixture will gurgle softly. Once the raisins are floating on the top, your ginger beer is ready for bottling.
- Using a sieve, scoop out the lemon rind and floating pieces of ginger and discard them. Next you will use the sieve to strain your ginger beer into a large jug. If you are using a small jug this may need to be done in batches. Just be sure to place newspaper or a towel on the counter beneath because spillage will occur.
- Gently pour the strained ginger beer into plastic bottles that are rinsed and clean. Fill each bottle until the liquid is about 7 centimeters below the top. Place a single raisin in each bottle and screw the lids on tightly. Place the bottles on the counter at room temperature. The bottles should not be placed in sunlight or in a place that’s too warm.
- Leave the bottles overnight, or for a minimum of 8 hours. While it sits, the mixture will develop a slight fizz.
- The last step is to open each bottle carefully. You’ll want to unscrew the lids slowly so the gas can escape in small puffs. You should notice the liquid inside begin to fizz. After the excess gas is released, screw the lids tightly on the bottles again and place them in the refrigerator. The cold will preserve the drink while stopping the fermentation process. It will keep in the fridge for up to one week.
- After your ginger beer is completely chilled, serve it with lots of ice and a lemon slice. If you prefer an alcoholic version you can add a shot of gin.
SPECIAL THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
- Be sure to measure your lemon juice exactly. It generally takes six lemons to reach a full cup of fresh lemon juice. If you prefer your ginger beer a bit more tart you can add a teaspoon of tartaric acid to the lemon juice.
- While using dried whole ginger is optional and not necessary, it does add something special to the taste of the drink. If your local grocery store doesn’t carry dried ginger, you can substitute by using two teaspoons of powdered ginger.
- The perfect types of bottles to use during this process are fruit juice bottles that you purchase at your local grocer. You can also use large water bottles, but be careful of the ones with long necks because they can create a volcano when you release the gas. Avoid using milk jugs because their lids are not air tight and glass bottles because they can explode.
- If your ginger beer has no fizz or bubbles, you may need to throw the entire batch out and start over. This occurs when your yeast is stale or the water you used was too cold or too hot for the yeast to activate properly. You’ll know if your ginger beer is flat when you go to release the excess gas. If you cannot hear the gas escaping, your ginger beer will be flat.
Ginger beer is a great summer drink that’s refreshing and always great to keep around, especially if you suffer from stomach ailments. Do you have other tips or secrets to make ginger beer even better? Don’t forget to comment below and share with everyone!