One of the things I pride myself on is my ability to ferment anything. In a fashion similar to restaurant storage larders everywhere, there’s a little corner of my kitchen shrouded in darkness where muslin cloth-topped jars of different kinds huddle around and share breathing space, allowing for good natural lactofermentation to take place. Some people keep gardens and nurture those, but I like to ferment things, really let them go bad to taste so good, and always get excited when those fast bubbles begin to form inside the jars-a sure sign that the magic is just beginning.
My most recent brush-in with good bacteria was when I made a batch of mildly alcoholic ginger beer at home for no rhyme or reason that tasted like sweet-tart gingery kombucha. At a recent potluck with friends, Anisha Oomen from The Goya Journal made us all a batch of gin and kombucha cocktails that tasted incredible and I haven’t stopped thinking of it since. I plan on spending my weekend pouring this over gin with some simple syrup, kicking back and enjoying my Holi weekend in front of my screen, fittingly for the old man I’m slowly turning into.
Making ginger beer is a lot like making sourdough. Takes a bit of patience and some amount of feeding, but the results are truly amazing. Plus, to think that you can make it using just ginger, water and sugar is astounding. These are ingredients that are easy to work with at any time. Make this your weekend project-get started today.
Homemade Ginger Beer
Yield 2 litres
A fun project to take up this week that's way simpler than getting started on a sourdough, this homemade ginger beer tastes delicious on the rocks, or with gin, sugar syrup and some fresh mint leaves.
Ginger 500g, unpeeled, sliced thinly when using
Lemons 3-4, juiced
Water 2 litres
Honey 4-5 tbsp
Ginger 300g, sliced unpeeled
Water 1 1/4 cup
You will also require a super squeaky clean jar for your starter and muslin cloth. In addition, keep 4 empty 500ml Bisleri bottles ready too.
To begin, take a transparent jar enough to accommodate 200ml of liquid. This is for making your starter. To this jar, add 2 tbsp ginger, 2 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp water. Shake it once to make sure everything is combined. Cover the mouth of the jar with a small piece of muslin cloth and place it in a dark corner of your kitchen.
Everyday after that for 3-5 days, keep topping this starter jar of ginger with 2 tbsp ginger, 2 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp water. Ensure that all the ginger is pressed down after you're done, packing it down each time. Cover again with the muslin cloth and let it continue to sit.
Your ginger beer starter is ready when there’s a layer of foam on top AND the bubbling activity inside the jar is nonstop.
To make the ginger beer, add 2 litres of water to a large vessel and bring it up to a gentle simmer. When the water is simmering, add in the 500g of unpeeled, sliced ginger and let the ginger infuse the water for 20 minutes on low heat.
After 20 minutes are up, let the water cool to room temperature with the ginger bits still in it. Then strain the ginger out, squeezing for as much juice as possible, then add in the juice of 2 1/2 lemons first and take it from there. You can add more acidity if you like at this point. I usually add 3 good sized ones because I like more acidity. Stir in the honey.
Strain the ginger starter, squeezing all the juice out and add all the water from there into the ginger beer mix. Stir and decant this liquid into four 500ml Bisleri bottles. Let the bottles stand bottled shut at room temperature for a few days checking everyday to see if the surface of the bottle has firmed up. This is a sure way of telling if the inside liquid has carbonated enough. Once the outside of the bottle has firmed up, transfer the bottle to a refrigerator and let it chill for a day.
When opening the bottle, open carefully over a sink taking care as it will be quite fizzy. Strain and enjoy on ice by itself, or in a cocktail with some sugar syrup and gin.