When I was in college, I nurtured a not very well hid obsession with Reed's Ginger Beer. I was living in Santa Fe, where health food-ish stores are what college students consider a fun afternoon outing. One day after a trip to Wild Oats, in my not-thinking-before-you-speak headspace I told my friend Ben, "Man, I love ginger beer even more than I love you," which, surprisingly enough, didn't go over so well. I can hope that I've gotten more tactful since then, and I moved away from Santa Fe 6 years ago; I also haven't had ginger beer in a long while (I've never seen it sold in South America, and I wouldn't count the occasional Canada Dry on the plane as ginger beer). Last month, however, I came across a homemade ginger beer recipe. It was uncomplicated and low-tech, and a batch was made immediately. And then another, larger batch was made the next week. All I can say is that my relationship with my loved ones will never be the same, though perhaps I'll keep it to myself this time.
The original recipe call for fancy glass bottles, but as pretty as I think flip-top bottles are, I don't currently have room for them in my budget; they also have the nasty habit of exploding if you get the carbonation off. Reusing a 2-liter plastic soda bottle works equally well, with the added benefit that you can tell when it's reached carbonation once the bottle is hard.
By the way...if you ever go to Santa Fe, make sure to check out The Teahouse (disclaimer: I used to work there) but more importantly Ten Thousand Waves (Japanese baths in the mountains). Oh and Harry's Roadhouse for mouth-searingly hot, ridiculously delicious enchiladas. Great, now I need a visit.
adapted from Jeffrey Morganthaler
6 oz. ginger (to extract ½ c. of ginger juice)
1 c. (8 oz.) lemon juice, from around 8 lemons, freshly squeezed and strained for seeds and pulp
1 ½ c. sugar
6 ½ c. (52 oz.) water
¼ tsp. active dry yeast
Heat 1 ½ c. water with the 1 ½ c. sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Turn off the heat and leave to cool. (You just made simple syrup.)
Peel the ginger-- I find it easiest with the edge of a spoon. If you have a juicer, juice the ginger; if not, grate the ginger, or process the ginger finely in the food processor. Press the ginger through a fine strainer (one side of a large tea ball place over the mouth of a cup works) or place the grated/processed ginger in a few layers of cheesecloth and squeeze as much juice as you can out. You are going to need a ½ c. of ginger juice.
Using a funnel, pour the syrup, the ginger and lemon juices, and 5 c. water into a clean 2-liter soda bottle. The liquid shouldn't be hotter than tepid; if it is, let it sit until it has cooled down. Add the yeast. Cap the bottle and place it in a dark and warm place (I put it under the sink). After 2 days, check to see if the bottle is hard. If it isn't, check every 12 hours until it is, then immediately refrigerate it. It carbonated itself! Isn't that cool? Drink ginger beer cold with ice, or add some dark rum to make yourself a Dark and Stormy.