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Author Notes: A fellow food52er - Linzarella - posted a home-brew root beer recipe that really caught my eye: http://www.food52.com/recipes/12151_classic_root_beer_float_from_scratch . I am not a fan of the flavor root beer, but the "ginger bug" process she described made me think home brewed ginger ale was a possibility. I consulted some ginger brew bloggers - Dr Fankhauser at http://biology.clc.uc.edu/fankhauser/cheese/ginger_ale_ag0.htm and someone named aaron at http://blog.amhill.net/2008/10/04/the-ginger-bug/ . So the following recipe is an amalgam of the three sources listed above.I also found this link interesting; http://historicalfoods.com/diod-sinsir-ginger-beer-recipe . I will update in the future as I experiment more. - Sadassa_Ulna
Makes 2 quarts
- 3-8 teaspoons cane sugar
- 1 large fresh ginger root
- 1 cup filtered (or pre-boiled and cooled) water
- Fill a clean, dry glass jar (two-cup size or larger) with the water and one teaspoon freshly grated ginger (and the juice it makes). Some people say include the ginger peel and don't wash it so that you get natural yeasts. I chickened out and peeled mine first. Cover with fabric, cheesecloth or a paper towel and rubber band it. The first time I used the jar's accompanying lid and left it on but not screwed tight. This worked for fermentation but I read that this can cause a vinegar-y taste.
- Store jar in a darkish warm place. The ideal temperature is close to body temp but not much warmer than that. I put my jar in a cardboard box with a cheap drugstore heating pad in it and a towel over the whole box. I turn the pad on and off occasionally and definitely off at night. It is really hot so we have the AC blasting through our house, so the ambient air temp is pretty cool which would mean slow fermentation. In the winter I might be able to keep a ginger bug near a radiator. It is OK if the temps swing a little but too hot will kill it and too cold will slow or stop the fermentation, for now I am saying between 82 deg. F. and 100 deg. F.
- Every day after the first add one more teaspoon each of the ginger and the sugar. After day three you might start to see activity, my first try took me to Day 8.
- When you see bubbling in the jar your ginger bug is ready.
Tisane (the name might be a stretch but I like the word)
- 2 quarts minus 1/2 cup water*
- 7/8 cups cane sugar
- 1 lemon
- other flavors you'd like to add
- * You can measure your water by filling the intended container, pouring out for headroom, and then pouring out another half-cup. See step 9 below and sources in above headnote for bottling options. Bring the water to a boil in a large pot.
- Peel the lemon with a vegetable peeler and remove any white pith by scraping with a small sharp knife. Add peels and sugar. If you have other flavor ideas add them now. Lower heat and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes. Turn off heat.
- Juice lemon and add to liquid. Allow to cool to 100 degrees F or to room temp; strain into a large glass container and add the ginger bug.
- Cover with a towel. Linzarella advises stretching two long pieces masking tape over the container in a cross configuration to keep the towel from slipping if necessary. Store this in a warm place, same temperatures listed under ginger bug directions for two - four days. Or you can skip this step and go straight to bottling. One source tells me it will be fizzier if you bottle it right away.
- For my first time I chose to use one re-used plastic container. I used a clean, dry two quart plastic bottle (from Trader Joe's lemonade I think) and the accompanying lid. [The lid had no waxed paper disc, if it did I would remove it.] Fill bottle and leave 1" minimum headroom. You can staring before bottling or not.
- Leave bottle in the same warm location for 24-48 hours or until the bottle feels very firm. Refrigerate at once and keep chilled for several hours. Open very carefully.
- I will update this recipe as I try other flavors and bottling methods. This recipe is fairly dry but it does not have the strong bite of some Jamaican ginger beers I've had. More ginger could be added to either the bug or the tisane if a hotter ginger flavor is preferred. If my math is correct this recipe has between 1/4 and 1/3 the amount of sugar in commercial ginger ale. Some recipes call for twice the amount of sugar; those probably have the sweeter taste of commercial ginger ales. I love the idea of using honey, maple syrup, or other less refined sugars and I will update if I get good results. Last, about flavorings, I have found some people like to add cayenne, vanilla, lime, or other flavors. Again, I will post any good flavor combinations I find.