Monday, September 16, 2013

Homemade Wild Yeast Ginger Beer

I don't like buying soda.  Too much sugar and too much crap in it.  The Hubby could drink it all day everyday.  But since I do the grocery shopping, we don't have soda in the house very often.  We only have it if we're getting take out.  I know...he's so deprived, blah blah.
So I decided to start making ginger beer...ginger ale...I don't know exactly the difference is.  What I do know is that it's incredibly easy to make and tastes a million times better than store bought stuff.  I use a recipe from Sandor Katz who is a huge proponent for the consumption of fermented foods.  I'll blog about his new book, The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from around the World eventually because it is a fascinating read.  But back to the point.
For the Ginger Bug
  1. I put a cup of filtered water into a mason jar.  I let it sit over night so the chlorine and what not will evaporate out.  I don't know if that's necessary, or if it works, but it's what I do.
  2. Then I add a two teaspoons of sugar and ground up fresh ginger.  (I threw a bunch of ginger in the food processor, skins and all, ground it up and keep in the fridge.)
  3. The I stir it up, or put a lid on the jar and shake it, which I think works better.
  4. Everyday I add another teaspoon of ginger and sugar and shake.  Keep the jar covered with a cloth so you can let air and natural, wild yeasts in but dust and fruit flies out.
  5. My mom leaves hers in her warm garage and it starts to bubble in a day or two.  I leave mine in my kitchen and it takes three days to a week.  It won't look like the picture above, I just shook the jar before I took that pic.  But if you stick your ear on the jar, you will hear the bubbling.
Now to Make Ginger Ale

  1. Once your Ginger Bug is bubbling, strain the liquid for the ginger and squeeze the ginger to get all the liquid out.
  2. Then boil about 2 liters of water (technically 8.45 liters) with the ginger you saved (if you want it more gingery, use more ginger...duh), plus sugar.  Now, most recipes say use a cup of sugar.  That was too sweet for me and a half cup wasn't sweet enough.  Three quarter cup was perfect for us.  I read somewhere that the yeast continue to eat the sugar, so in the end you still wind up consuming much less sugar than what you put in.  Let this boil for 15 minutes, then let it cool down to room temperature.
  3. Now there's a big debate on what type of bottle to use and I am always trying to stay away from plastic, but in the end, I didn't want to risk exploding glass bottles, so I went with plastic.  Pour the cooled down mixture into the washed and dried out 2 liter soda bottle, along with your saved ginger bug and the juice of 2 lemons. 
  4. Close the cap very tightly and leave it in a cool spot undisturbed.  Depending on how strong your ginger bug is, you'll start feeling your bottle go from squishy to hard in about two weeks.  Once the bottle is rock hard, you should be able to drink it.  I've left it in there for well over three weeks and the fizz you get is crazy.  Obviously, refrigerate before you drink one likes warm soda...
So how's that for easy?  Some notes:
  • You can buy commercial yeasts, but I'm cheap, and I like the idea of using naturally available wild yeasts that are in the air.
  • You can buy special glass bottles meant for bottling beer.  I don't know...the idea of glass shattering and bottles exploding doesn't do it for me.  Plus ying and yang over here are happy to have soda whenever possible, so I already have a handful of used soda bottles laying around waiting to be repurposed, so I just use them. 
  • Some people sterilize everything.  I do not.  I've been making ginger beer for over six months, and we've survived.  Knock on wood.  Reading The The Art of Fermentation has made me less anal about sterilization.  But that's certainly your call.
  • It might seem like your ginger bug will never bubble, but it will, be patient.  If you put your ear on top of the jar as if it's a sea shell and your trying to hear the ocean, you will hear the popping, bubbling Rice Krispies...after a few days.
  • It might seem like your soda bottle will never get hard, but be patient.  It will in time.  Sometimes it takes longer than others.  I make one bottle every week so we always have some available and ready to drink.
  • I did try using 2 cups of water when I started my ginger bug.  I was able to keep it going for a month or two, but then I got a film of thin, white mold.  I tried scraping it off but it came back right away so I threw it out.  Now I just do a cup at a time.
I'm no expert on making ginger beer, but feel free to ask if you have any questions.

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