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Two weeks ago I did a post on making ginger mojitos using homemade ginger beer…. I should have started with a post on how to make the ginger beer followed by a post about making ginger mojitos.  Well, this is a bit out of order, but here it is…

I my younger days I was one of those gals that always had a diet soda in my hand. In my late 30’s I limited my consumption to 1-a-day, like that was a good thing. “Good” really isn’t the right word, it was at least better than several cans a day, but there came a point as I learned about the harmful affects of aspartame and other ingredients where I stopped drinking soda and needed to look for other more healthy alternatives.  There were a few other things that motivated me to make the switch. I was starting to simplify things in the kitchen by getting away from boxed and pre-package food. Making my own beverages just fit right into that plan and at that point everything just came together. I have been making ginger beer for about 3 years now and haven’t looked back.

I didn’t “invent” ginger beer, nor am I the first to talk about it in the blogging world. What really caught my attention (along with the money I would save and it being a healthier option) is it is a naturally fermented drink that is full of beneficial enzymes that are good for your digestive system and all around good health.

There are only a few  ingredients you need to get started.

  • Ginger – either ground ginger or fresh ginger
  • Sugar – I use organic sugar (use what ever works for you)
  • Water – filtered. If unfiltered, let sit for 24 before using
  • A few Golden Raisins (also known as sultanas)
  • A small pinch of dry yeast (optional)
  • Lemon Juice (need towards the end in 7 days)
  • Cheesecloth or butter muslin – something to cover jar and also to strain it later.

Start with a quart canning jar (any glass jar will work) and fill it with 10 ounces of water. *Add a spoon full of sugar and a spoon full of ginger… what is a spoon full? For me, it is the cereal spoon out of the kitchen silverware drawer. Roughly, it is about 1 -1 1/2 tsp. Stir your liquid really really well. You want the sugar to dissolve and the ginger (if using ground) to break up. This is the point where you can add a pinch of yeast to speed up the process, or leave out the yeast and let the natural wild yeast in the air do its job. You will only add this pinch of yeast once. This is also the point where you would add a few golden raisins. I did this when I first started making ginger beer. There is wild yeast on the outside of the raisins that helps with this process. It is funny, I had forgotten about the raisins all together until I dug out my recipe to read it over to write this post and realize that I have not used the raisins in quite a while.

Cover your jar with a tightly woven cloth. This could be cheese cloth, butter muslin or in my case an old nylon stocking (it was brand new, never worn, but I did wash it before I put it into kitchen duty.) When I initially started making ginger beer I used cheese cloth, but the holes were just too big and I had fruit flies in my ginger mixture! UGH! Even doubled, the cheesecloth wasn’t enough for those nasty little flies. That is when the nylon came into play. It works. You will have to find out what works for you and if you have fruit/vinegar fly issues, you may need to secure your cloth with a rubber band.

*Repeat this for the next 6 days (7 days total) – add sugar and ginger and stir.

I label my jar with the day I am going to strain the mixture

After a few days, you will begin to notice little bubble forming at the top of the liquid along the edge. This is great! It’s working! You may even notice some volcanic activity at the bottom of the jar. As the enzymes eat the sugar it is turned into carbon dioxide. And it is a cool little science experiment going on in your jar. In my area, I will get the bubble forming in a few days, but won’t notice any volcanic eruptions until around day 4 and 5. They are pretty amazing and fun to watch. If you have kids, they will get a kick out of that part. I keep showing it to our cats, but they really aren’t interested.

On day 8, you are going to strain your liquid. You can keep the ground ginger mixture to start another plant, or toss it in the compost. If you use it again, you still need to add sugar and ginger each day, but your next batch of ginger beer will have a deeper flavor. It’s up to you.

I use my nylon for the straining part – you can use what ever works for you. The reason for using a fine strainer or tightly woven fabric/towel is that you are trying to keep as much of the ginger mixture out of your final drink for a clearer beverage. It never works that way for me and I really don’t mind if my ginger beer has sediment at the bottom or not.

Once you have strained your liquid you want to add the juice from two lemons. Yup, lemons come in all shapes and sizes. You are looking for around ¼ – ½ cup of lemon juice.

Take 3 cups of sugar and dissolve it in 20 cups of water. I used to use 3 plastic 2-liter bottles I had and divided the water/sugar up equally between 3 bottles. The 2-liter plastic soda bottles worked great. I put a mark on the side of each bottle for the water measurement and then added 1 cup of sugar in each bottle. As I have moved away from plastic I have been experimenting with glass and will share more on that later.

Once your water/sugar is dissolved pour in your ginger mixture dividing it equally between your bottles. Lightly cap your bottles. You are almost done…

You will need to let your capped bottles sit out on the counter for a few more days. They will continue to ferment and build up natural carbonation. In the cooler winter months, that takes a little long for me because our house is kept rather cool, but in the summertime, 1-2 days is all I need. There is no way of knowing how much carbonation will develop. Each day I squeeze my bottles to see how they are doing. If they are firm, I need to release some of that carbonation that is building up, if not, I let them sit a bit more. Even though they are from the same batch, keep in mind that each bottle will be different. Now that I am experimenting with glass, it gets a bit tricky. If too much pressure builds up you can wind up with a shattered bottle. I don’t care to experience that on the counter or inside the refrigerator, so I tend to release the gas a few times a day to be on the safe side. I would like to try using a cork that is lightly inserted in the bottle. I figure if the gasses build up too much, then the cork will pop. Not sure, just a thought and I need to find some corks that will fit my bottles.

After a few days you can put your ginger beer into the refrigerator. It will slow down the fermentation process, but it will not completely stop it. The longer it sits and ferments, to more the alcohol content goes up. I never brew ours with the intention of making an alcoholic drink and it never lasts that long around our house anyway. Also, the longer it sits the more carbonation builds up. Beware: just because your bottle doesn’t feel full and tight, when you take it out of the refrigerator, doesn’t mean that it isn’t carbonated. There have been a few times where there is a delayed reaction and as I uncap bottle and start to pour – BAM – geyser. This leads to a very sticky mess to clean up, but it is amazing when it happens.

You can see a little volcano eruption at the bottle of the jar.

Enjoy your ginger beer over ice or at room temperature.

According to wikipedia, ginger beer originated in England in the mid-18th century and reached the peak of its popularity in the early 20th century. I would guess that over the past decade it has gained popularity again through blogs on the internet as people want to learn more about how to make things at home that are healthier options as well as less expensive. I have been thrilled to learn how to make a lot of things at home. I know exactly what ingredients are in each thing and know they are healthier options that what I used to purchase in the stores. Ginger beer is just another item I am happy to make on my own.

Just a few things you can make on your own:

For some other homemade soda recipes, check out Jennifer’s post from July of 2012 here at NDIN on making soda pop.

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

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