Monday, 22 November 2010

Ginger beer

This ginger beer is made from a "plant" which is a yeast culture that you feed for a week. The recipe assumes that you received the plant as a gift from someone else. (The recipe for making the plant from scratch can be found in another post).

You will need:
  1. A jar with lid, holding about 1/2 pint of liquid
  2. Strong bottles with screw caps or swing stoppers, designed for holding fizzy liquids under high pressure, a total of 8 pints worth (you'll need a supply of these every week). Preferably they should be glass bottles, but plastic ones are easier to acquire.
  3. A large pan or a new clean bucket capacity more than a gallon.
  4. A large measuring jug, preferably 2 pts/1 litre.
  5. A square of muslin or a clean hankie
  6. A strainer
  7. A lemon squeezer
  8. A funnel is also useful if you have one
  9. Containers for the plants you will give away (see below)
Part A: feeding the plant.
  1. Put the starter sludge into the jar, and add about half a pint of water, leaving some space in the top of the jar.
  2. Feed it with one tsp of sugar and 1 or 2 tsp ground ginger (according to how strong you want the beer to be), and stir.
  3. Repeat step 2 every day for a week.
Part B; making the beer.
At the end of seven days, make sure you have two lemons and 1 lb of sugar.
Then you do this:
  1. Wash out the bottles (8 pints) with very hot water (boiling water is best if they will stand it).
  2. Boil a kettle of water.
  3. Put 1 lb of sugar in the large pan or bucket.
  4. Add 2 pts boiling water and stir to dissolve the sugar.
  5. Add 4 pts tepid water (if the water in the tap is very cold, combine it with some hot water from the kettle). 
  6. Squeeze two lemons and strain the juice into the water.
  7. Clean the strainer and put it over the measuring jug. Spread the square of muslin over the strainer. Pour the contents of your plant jar into the muslin. Gather up the corners of the muslin and let the liquid strain out into the jug. Squeeze it gently to encourage it.
  8. Put aside the muslin with the sludge in it, and add cool water to the strained liquid in the jug to make it up to 2 pts.
  9. Add this liquid to the pan (check first that the water in the pan is not hot but only mildly warm).
  10. Stand each bottle to be filled in the sink or a basin. Using the measuring jug, scoop the liquid out of the pan and pour it into the bottle, using a funnel if you have one. If you strained the lemon it should not be necessary to strain it at this stage.
  11. Screw the cap on gently (leave the cap loose overnight).
Part C: Dividing the plant
  1. Empty the contents of the muslin gently back into the jar you used to keep it in. 
  2. Using a teaspoon, scoop out roughly half the sludge, and put it into another container (either a jam jar to give away, or a tiny sherd bag like the ones the spare buttons come in when you buy new clothes).
  3. Make up your own plant with water, and feed it with sugar and ginger in the usual way. Carry on for the next week, as above.
  4. Give the second plant to a friend, along with these instructions.
  5. If you have no more friends, you can throw the second plant away (it's compostable).
Part D: Storing and using your ginger beer.
  1. After about twelve hours, tighten the caps on your bottles and put them in a cool (but frost free) safe place.  Beware of exploding bottles.
  2. Leave them for about two weeks, and then test one for goodness. Open it carefully like a very fizzy water bottle. It should smell good on opening. If it smells off, discard the contents. If it is too sweet, and has no fizz or pressure, it has failed to work. If it has too little fizz and is too sweet, it is not ready yet.
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