What could be more environmentally friendly than making your own soft drinks without any plastic or chemicals!
Once you have tasted real Ginger Beer, made with nothing other than fresh root ginger, water, sugar , lemon juice and cream of tartar, along with the extaordinary substance known as Ginger Beer Plant, or GBP for short, then you may never want to buy a commercially prepared soft drink again!
It really started for me in October 2017.
My son was changing jobs, and was put on Gardening Leave for 3 months. He came back home and was kicking his heels rather, and decided he wanted to have a go at making Ginger Beer. I groaned, remembering the sudden nocturnal explosions which came from my father’s wine cellar around 45 years ago caused by the various failed attempts at brewing by my very young brothers who had had the same idea. The first attempt in October was made using a commercial champagne type yeast. The results were palatable, although the end-product was deeply unstable and very gassy. I insisted that all filled bottles had to be kept in an outhouse. We managed to avoid any major explosions, but I decided to do a little more research into matters. It was whilst looking up on the internet, that I came upon the GBP. There is an awful lot of information out there, its history ( think Victorian!) and properties. Basically it is a wonderful symbiosis of a particular bacteria and yeast combined, which makes for a living, granular sort of organism, and which easily produces that wonderful authentic Ginger Beer, which looks cloudy, and tastes a little soapy. Even better, you can use it time and time again like any sourdough starter that you might have come across for breadmaking, and requires even less attention than your average houseplant. I am most grateful to the Ginger Beer Plant organisation who supplied me with my first sachet of dehydrated GBP. They can be found on http://www.gingerbeerplant.net. I believe that there are many other mail order companies worldwide selling a similar product.
If you decide to get some GBP and have a lot of really good fun, then here are my own tips on making this delicious drink.
I am not at all sure of the exact amount of alcohol in this drink, as so much depends on how much sugar you use, and how much of the sugar is turned to alcohol. You can test it with a hydrometer if you feel the need. At a rough guess, I think my way of brewing may sometimes reach the dizzy heights of 2%, but certainly would qualify as a dry January tipple, and would be nearly impossible to make you too drunk to drive. I would certainly allow children to have a glass or two as a treat.
Follow the accompanying detailed instructions to the letter when you are reconstituting the GBP for the first time! Of course, you may be able to get some already living if you have a friend or neighbour who makes it too. The GBP will grow quite big in time, so can easily be shared around family and friends.
It will take a couple of brews for you to get the hang of it, but it is really child’s play after that. Furthermore, you can play around with it to suit your taste by adjusting the sweetness, tartness, length of fermentation time and overall gassiness!
Ideally get yourself 12 flip top 500 ml clear glass bottles , and a glass demijohn which will hold a gallon for the fermentation. There is no need for an airlock, simply cover the neck with kitchen towel or muslin, secured with a rubber band, to prevent dirt or insects getting in, but which will allow the gases to escape whilst it is brewing. These are readily available from your local home brew store, or online. Also make sure you have 2 large glass jugs, and a plastic funnel for straining and filling the bottles. If you purchase only one sachet of dried GBP, then you will only be making around 2 litres a session of Ginger Beer, until your GBP has grown into around 3 tablespoons worth, when you can then make around a gallon, or 4 to 5 litres at a time. My GBP has grown to this size in 3 months. If you are wary of splashing out on any equipment until you know that this will be a successful venture, then by all means just use some washed PET plastic drinks bottles, and a large basin covered with muslin for the fermentation.
There really is no need to use any chemicals to sterilise everything, just copious amounts of scalding water, or a dishwasher on hot cycle. It goes without saying that your kitchen hygiene should be exemplary, but for goodness sake, don’t use any antibacterial products or the like, or else you will kill the GBP!
Once you have reconstituted the dried GBP as per the instructions, then follow the recipe below as this is what I have been doing with great success.
The recipe below is for one gallon, or 4.5 litres of Ginger Beer. Simply adjust everything proportionately for differing quantities.
Buy some fresh root ginger, at least 250g or half a pound, and , dependent on your taste, going up to 500 g or 1lb for every gallon of brew. Make sure you also have one large lemon, around 500 g or 1lb of granulated sugar, cream of tartar, around a gallon , or 5 litres ,of de- chlorinated water- this is achieved by leaving it out overnight to evaporate the chlorine, or by using the water from your plumbed-in fridge with up to date charcoal filter.
1. Put the GBP , of at least 3 level tablespoons worth ,together with any associated liquid ,into your chosen fermentation vessel.
2. Add de- chlorinated water. 1 gallon, or 4.5 litres .
3. Add the strained juice of one large lemon.
4 Add 1 level teaspoon of cream of tartar.
5. Add 500 g or 1 lb of granulated sugar.
6. Peel the fresh root ginger. Grate it coarsely onto a clean chopping board, and then , with scrupulously clean hands, squeeze balls of it into a conical sieve ,which is placed over a bowl ,to catch the precious juices. Or you can place the grated ginger into a clean muslin square and wring out the juices that way. When all the ginger juice has been extracted, then add that juice to the mixture, and discard the remaining ginger pulp.
Stir everything well, or give the demi-john a really good swirl to dissolve the sugar etc.
7. Cover with a clean , but air-permeable , cloth to exclude insects and dirt, and leave for 3 to 5 days, depending on how warm the environment is. My kitchen is 18 degrees in Winter, so at least 5 days is normal. Taste it every day to check that the yeast is doing it’s stuff and is quite fizzy.
8. After around 5 days , then carefully bottle it. Strain it into a large jug or two, and mix both jugs if you can. Put a small nylon sieve or teastrainer over the jugs to catch any of the precious GBP granules which should be put back with the main body left in the fermentation vessel. I then use the same strainer over a plastic funnel to pour the Ginger Beer into the bottles.
Leave the filled bottles at room temperature for a day or two, before placing in the refridgerator where they should keep for a week or even a fortnight. It is after bottling that you must be very aware of how gassy your Ginger Beer is. Some bottles may be quite explosive, and others quite flat. That is why it is good to mix the brew well after the initial straining. You will see a sediment forming after a while, but this can just be left in the bottle when pouring a glass. When you first start, I think it is a good idea to open a test bottle or two each day before you put them in the fridge. That way you can gauge how gassy it is. These brewing bottles are quite strong, although you should open them carefully over a sink until you get the hang of it.
9. You can leave the GBP in the fermentation vessel and proceed immediately with another brew, or you can carefully swill the dregs out into a clean jamjar and put it in the fridge , having fed it with a sloosh of water, a teaspoon of sugar and the juice of half a lemon. Make sure you leave the top loose, and not screwed down, as it will go on fermenting slowly when in the fridge. I often go 2 to 3 weeks in between brews, but make sure I feed it in the fridge at least once a week with a teaspoon of sugar and a squeeze of lemon.
HAVE FUN and SAVE THE PLANET FROM PLASTIC WASTE