Sunday, October 18, 2009

Ginger beer #1

2 1/2 oz coarsely grated, skinned ginger
Juice of one medium lemon
1 cardamom seed, broken
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 qts water
root beer dregs

Boiled flavorings and half the water for 30 minutes before diluting and bottling.

My first attempt at ginger ale/beer from scratch turned out pretty much as expected. It has a satisfying effervescence, and a pretty intense spicy ginger bite, definitely a Caribbean-style ginger brew. The batch carbonated much faster than the "cream soda" I made at the same time. Cardamom can be overpowering, so, as usual, I was cautious. It only contributes a faint hint, so I definitely want more next time. I'm in favor of more lemon too. The bit of root beer that provided the yeast didn't hurt the flavor at all. It's completely satisfactory, but I'm hoping for more.

For the past couple years, from time to time, I've been turning Trader Joe's Lemon Ginger Echinacea juice into super-easy ginger ale. If you are at all curious about brewing your own soda, this is where you should start. Open a bottle of the TJ juice, sprinkle in 1/8 tsp of yeast, seal and shake. (I've used champagne yeast, but I'm sure regular bread yeast is fine, and will probably go faster.) Loosen the cap, and let it sit on the counter for a couple days. Seal the cap and let the plastic bottle harden under pressure (an afternoon or overnight, probably.) Chill in the fridge, and enjoy! (From what I've been reading about making soda in 2-liter bottles, you could probably just seal the bottle from the beginning, but I haven't tried it.)

What I really like about starting with the TJ juice is that instead of water and sugar, it contains white grape and apple juice (100% juice!) and honey, yielding a pretty complex flavor with ease and consistency. I suppose it's really ginger wine or ginger cider, rather than ginger ale. (There's also "natural flavors," vitamin C, and echinacea extract.)

This time, I wanted to try a totally straight-forward ginger beer, and using the fresh ginger gave a stronger bite, but I'll probably take some inspiration from the back of the Trader Joe's label for the next batch.

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