“I made some ginger & lemon beer over the weekend” said I, oh-so-casually to A., as we lolled about and watched the dogs in the park.
“We did that once, when I was a kid” said he, pausing for a sip of lemongrass, ginger & honey tea. “One of the bottles exploded.”
“It what?” said I, glad that I had let the mixture develop slowly in the fridge, and not under the house as others before me had done.
“Exploded. Sticky ginger syrup everywhere.” said he, knowingly, as the blue skies faded to cloudy grey and the first drops of rain started to fall.
I’d heard of ginger beer bottles exploding before.Â “Only one out of the ten I made blew up this time” one website would say. “I’m still cleaning the residue off the underside of our house” said another.
But I, oh I was determined. Because, well… Ginger Beer.
I remember being younger and watching my parents (my dad, really) play tennis with his friends. Sunday afternoons at the Ryde tennis courts in the late 80s early 90s (clearly I’m pre-remembering!). There were sweat bands. And bright yellow balls. Dunlop junior racquets for the kids. We’d play from after-lunch until the first hint of darkness.
And afterwards, tupperware jugs filled with water. Sometimes a sports drink (though the relativeÂ expense of flavoured water restricted this practice somewhat in favour of frugality). And, on the rare occasion, when somebody had a surplus of something wonderful, there were bottles of ginger beer.
Short and stout. Dark brown glass. Little yellow ring pull tab lids that came off with a satisfying pop.
We’d share a bottle between the family. “Oh no, it’s ok. One is enough.” we’d say, grateful to whoever had supplied it.
A small sip. That zesty, spicy flavour and then a tingle that would warm my chest and send shivers down my spine almost simultaneously. All mixed in with the thrill of having had an unexpected and utterly undeserved treat.
I remember being thoroughly disappointed, as an aside, when I was somewhat older and had my first taste of beer of the hoppy variety. It was was nothing like its gingery counterpart. Dark and bitter and malty. An utter disappointment.
(Though I’ve rather adapted to it now and and rather enjoy bit of the light and dry).
I’d planned to make regular ginger beer – though after tasting homemade, you’ll realise this is anything but regular – only, well, I my rather embarassing habit of buying lemons every time I see them had other thoughts. A kilo net bag here, another there, and suddenly the fruit bin in the fridge is full of golden yellow beauties and it seems I can’t use them up quickly enough.
Though, apparently, I can as by the time it came to take photos of the ginger beer, I’d used the very last one. Two kilos of lemons in a week! I must be mad. Or coming down with a cold. Or, and this is the most likely of the lot, the Bean has spotted them. She eats them like oranges. It’s horrifying and intriguing in equal parts. I was so drawn in by her utter enjoyment once that I dared to pop a segment into my mouth.
I’ll not do that again any time soon.
But I digress. This drink, it’s like ginger beer on steroids. So spicy from the fresh ginger that it’ll startle you into awareness. We’ve taken to drinking it over a mountain of ice in whisky glasses, such is its potency. (And also because there is but one-quarter of the bottle remaining in the fridge, and we are all loathe to drink the last of it. I’d make more, but I’ve run out of lemons. Again.)
ginger & lemon beer
you will need:
a fat 10cm root of ginger
1/2tsp ground ginger powder
5C (1.25L) boiling water (cooled slightly)
3/4C white sugar
1 tsp dried yeast
how to do it:
(I’m sorry for the lack of pictures. I made the brew in a big orange bowl and it all looked like, well… murky pond scum in a big orange bowl. Please use your imagination!)
1. Grate the ginger into a big bowl. I used a microplane and grated it skin and all. You might want to remove the skin – it’s up to you. Zest the lemons into the same bowl. Add the sugar and ground ginger.
2. Pour the boiling water into the bowl and stir to dissolve the sugar and to brew the lemony zest and ginger.
3. Let the mixture cool until it is just warm to touch and then stir the yeast in. Cover the bowl loosely with cling wrap, pop a tea towel over the top and leave it overnight to ferment.
4. By the next morning, you should have bubbles clinging to the side of the bowl. Bubbles! Hurrah! Squeeze your lemons and add the juice directly to the bowl.
5. Wash out an empty soft drink bottle or two and funnel the mixture into it, zest, juice, yeast, ginger and all! Try to make sure you some sediment at the bottom of each bottle. (Some filter the solids out at this stage, but I rather liked the kick, and the extra bubbles, that developed as a result of leaving it in). Make sure you leave some room (1-2cm) at the top of the bottle to make sure there’s some room for the gas to develop.
6. Pop your bottles in the fridge to store. If you can wait, turn the bottles upside down once a day for a week to stir up the solids and the bottom & encourage more bubbles. You’ll feel the pressure in the bottle building up gradually over the course of the week. And then drink it. Savour it. Scull it and feel the burn in your throat. Make some more. Bliss!
(as a side note, if the thought of carbonation seems all a little bit too much, the lovely Lisa of spicyicecream has a recipe for ginger ale which looks divine)