Over the past few months Leland and Tatyana and I decided to take over a stagnant culture club group on facebook and change it into the 'culture' club. (feel free to join, btw) In this new and improved club, instead of going to operas and watching old films, we make cheese. Yoghurt. Ginger beer, and all things 'cultured'. It has been a blast, and although we had maybe as many failures as successes (with the cheeses anyway) we managed to have a lot of fun and enjoy some great homemade ginger beer as well. Here's a few of our very loose recipes we cobbled together and some of the websites we pulled from.
the basic recipe for ginger beer is surprisingly simple and very rewarding. Variations (a must for all curious chefs such as ourselves) came naturally and usually yielded equal or better results.
the beer is carbonated using baking yeast, you know the kind often sold in packets at the supermarket. The longer you let the yeast do its thing, the more carbonated, and eventually more alcoholic the beverage becomes. More on that later.
Here's what you need:
-bottles that can be sealed (probably the best are the ones with wire down corks. We used left over french lemonade bottles sold at sunflower market)
-lemon juice (we squeezed our own as we liked the pulp)
-a grater for the root
the formula that we used is found here at Jeffrey Morgenthaler's Blog http://www.jeffreymorgenthaler.com/2008/how-to-make-your-own-ginger-beer/
the formula is simple, and is a ratio that can be used to produce as large a batch as you have space and/or appetite for.
1 0z ginger juice
2 oz lemon juice
3 0z sugar water
10 oz water
the sugar water is a 1:1 water:sugar mixture.
we first grate the ginger into a bowl and then squeeze the mush with cheesecloth or (in true boyscout fashion) with our bare hands, which produces a very very pungent juice that we discovered induces coughing and crying if drunk. Then (or often simultaneously) we squeeze lemons to produce twice as much lemon juice as we have ginger juice ( we liked it with pulp). Put the two juices together in a jar and then add sugar water until the total mixture has doubled in volume. The sugar water is made by combining one part water one part sugar in a pot on the stove and stirring over heat (medium? low?) until completely dissolved. This can be saved and used for future ginger beer experiments as well) Adding more sugar water means sweeter beer, more ginger means more bite and more lemon (we discovered) generally meant more flavor, which we liked. Put this all in a corked bottle and then fill the rest of the bottle with warm tap water. Now add '25 granules' of yeast. This is not very much, and I would wager we usually ranged anywhere from 75-200 in our various attempts at '25'. The more yeast the faster it carbonates and ferments, so keep that in mind. Then cork and shake the mixture together and let stand in a warm dark place for about 2 days. (I used the boiler room in my apartment, and leland's basement also worked fine) We varied the time a bit, but 2 days seemed to produce a strongly carbonated, not yet alcoholic ginger beer.
okay, some variations we enjoyed:
-adding fresh squeezed blood orange to the mix. Amazing fruity taste and dark red color. We found that when adding other fruit juices, it was best to add them in addition to the lemon juice, as the lemon juice really provides the kick in flavor that most fruits do not.
-Lavender. we were fortunate enough to have a member of our group from california with lavender growing under a lemon tree in his yard. :-) we just broke up the fresh herb and added it to the mixture before carbonating. This was probably my favorite of all our variations. (although you may want to strain it afterwords to avoid lavender in your teeth)
-replace the sugar water with honey (always a good idea) also I used cane sugar or brown sugar to make the sugar water cause I feel better about it that way.
-use yoghurt whey instead of yeast to ferment the beer. This was interesting, but easy and not un-rewarding. Just add the whey off of some live yoghurt instead of yeast to the beer and then let it sit. Whey carbonates slower than yeast, so let it sit for longer. We did a week, and it may have been a little too strong, so try maybe 4-5 days. Here's a link with some more reliable info. http://www.instructables.com/id/Lacto-fermented-Ginger-Ale/
I hope this may help some of you interested in making ginger beer from scratch, and inspire you to experiment with other fun culture projects!