Ginger beer

by Alissa

After the colossal failure of the “olive” curing project, we’ve had a little fermentation success lately. Ace gets full credit for this one: a zippy homemade ginger beer.

Not true beer, but a nice fizzy ginger drink fermented at home.

Not true beer, but a nice fizzy ginger drink, fermented at home with extra ginger and a hint of lemon. I’m trying to resist planting the perky green ginger root adjacent to this glass of goodness. We’ll see if I get to it before Ace uses it for the next batch.

He used a recipe from Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation: The Flavors, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods, which is a truly empowering cook book/manifesto to encourage the proliferation and use of the helpful microorganisms all around us. I’m not quite ready to give up on using a refrigerator yet, but the beauties and benefits of natural food preservation are awesome. WF has inspired many batches of sauerkraut and kimchi in my past. It’s ridiculous, I know, but I keep waiting for cabbages to cost less than $2.50 a head to make kraut here. Sending a small sigh in the direction of the St. Jacobs Market, where cabbages and fresh kraut were so accessible, and a large sigh toward the pickled things of the markets of Budapest–where advent activities are also in full swing right now. We seem to be in a DIY kraut country here in Oz. Katz has a new book out, The Art of Fermentation, which my parents are bringing for me when they visit in March. Can’t wait!

In the meantime, I’m delighted that Ace is in the kitchen, feeding his ginger bug.

As we’ve shared the drink with friends, we’ve discovered that making ginger beer is something of a teenaged rite of passage here. Note: to prevent exploding wine bottles in your mother’s laundry room, use bail-top bottles. After shopping around, Ace decided the best bottles for the money are Grolsch beer bottles. Could the beer inside have influenced this decision? Perhaps.

All in all, making ginger beer is a pretty flexible and rewarding process. Try something this at home.

To make ginger beer you will need:

At least three inches of fresh ginger

2 cups of sugar

2 lemons


Grate a couple of teaspoons of ginger, add an equal quantity of sugar and a cup of water. Stir well, cover with cheese cloth and leave in a warm place. Keep adding sugar and grated ginger every day or two until the ginger bug starts bubbling (2 days to a week).

Once your bug is active, boil 2 quarts of water, add a few inches of grated ginger root (more if you like it really strong), and 1 1/2 c. sugar. Boil for about 15 minutes and cool. Strain out the ginger, add lemon juice and the ginger bug. Add enough water to make a gallon. Bottle and leave to ferment for a couple of weeks. Chill and serve.

In our kitchen, Batch 2A is slated for some kind of brewer’s yeast, which may yield an alcoholic version. Batch 2B will host an array of mulling spices and maybe some apples, for Christmas punch.