My yard looks haunted, with sheets and towels and tarps covering all of my tender plants. I am afraid that my tomatoes may be beyond help. The basil is probably toast as well. They just don’t handle the cold wind we have been cursed with for the past week. In an effort to make it feel a bit more like summer around here, I decided to mix up a batch of ginger ale. It isn’t hard to do although if you are inherently sloppy as I tend to be, it can get sticky.
You probably have all of the ingredients in your kitchen and most of the equipment too although a bottle capper is handy. You can make an acceptable batch of soda in screw top plastic bottles although I have heard they are more likely to explode.
I used a recipe for Virgin Island Ginger Beer from another Storey book, Homemade Root Beer Soda and Pop by Stephen Cresswell.
You need to grate 2 1/2 ounce of ginger root into a pot. Add the juice of 1/2 a lemon, 1 2/3 cups sugar and 2 quarts of water. Bring this to a boil and simmer uncovered for 25 minutes. Remove it from the heat and let it sit, covered, for another 1/2 hour. Pour 1 quart of cool water into a gallon jug the add the ginger mixture. Top off the jug with more water, leaving a 2 inch head space. You want the mixture to be just lukewarm. I needed to add cool water to get the temperature right. Shake the jug really well. Put 1/8 teaspoon ale yeast into 1/4 cup luke warm water. I used wine yeast but even plain bread yeast will do in a pinch. Wait about 5 minute and add the proofed yeast to the jug and shake it up again. Now you can bottle the soda. You will need 11 12 oz bottles. I like to use Corona beer bottles. They are clear so I can see that they are really clean and they don’t have screw caps. Of course this means that my kids are drinking from beer bottles. The kids, of course, think it’s very cool but I can see why another parent might have a problem with it. Just pour the soda into a cup if you do. You will need to use a funnel and a strainer to do this. A piece of cheese cloth in a funnel works too. Now cap the bottles and you’re finished. I bought a bottle capper and a large supply of caps at a wine and beer making supply store. You can get one from Lehman’s but it is a lot more expensive. Now comes the hard part. Patience. You need to wait 36 hours to check for fizzies. If it’s warm, that may be long enough. In this weather, with no heat on in the house, it may take 72 hours to ferment. When you see bubbles, put the soda in the refrigerator or down in the basement to keep it cool. Otherwise the fermentation will continue and the bottles may burst. That has never happened to me. My kids drink it up as soon as it’s ready.
The question I am often asked is, “Why bother?” Soda is cheap enough and this is a lot of work for 11 bottles of pop. I could, after all, make a batch of lemonade and have it ready in 5 minutes. The easy answer is that I just like knowing how to do things. It is fun to try something and have it be sucessful. It’ s actually fun to try something and have it bomb, then go back to the drawing board and figure out where I went wrong. I like knowing that if I had to, I could manage to make do with very little and still have a good time.