Saturday, January 8, 2011

GInger Beer, The Blob and a Happy New Year.

Happy New Year,  I know its the 7th day but I figure you've got one week to wish people Happy New Year before you start to sound hopelessly behind so I have just made it.  I started my New Year with a long list of cooking resolutions as I figure they are the easiest ones to keep and the other type of resolutions never change anyway, you just pick them up from where you dropped them last year.  

I guess they're not really resolutions just lists of things I'd like to cook.  If I ever edit it down from the 5,000 things that are on it at the moment I may post it here.  I did get a little overwhelmed when I realised it would take me about two and a half years to work through the Indian cookbook I got for Christmas but then I took a little breath and regrouped.

That said, the first week of my revved up cooking hasn't been all that stellar but it is hot and I am on holidays.  I should have factored those factors in when I got all revved up in the first place but I guess the enthusiasm of  the fresh New Year overtook me.

New Years Day I got it into my head to make ginger beer.  I don't know why, I think because it didn't involve any application of heat and I had all of the ingredients and it didn't involve leftover ham in any shape or form.  It also involved very little work - all up it had a lot going for it. 

My Mum used to make this when we were kids and then put it under the house to brew/ferment/mature I'm not sure of the correct term.  Very often the bottles exploded but this only added to the excitement of the whole procedure -  the fact we were drinking something that could go off like a bomb in our hands!  Don't think it was that dangerous but there were a lot of us and we had to make our own fun. 

To make ginger beer you first have to make a ginger beer plant.  Don't worry, it's not as complicated as it sounds.  I'm now embarassed to admit that I have put off making this before because it sounded like too much of a palaver.  "I can't be bothered doing all THAT!" says I.  Like I was splitting the atom.  Turns out all THAT involves is getting a jar, putting some yeast, sugar, ginger (ground) and water in it and then everyday for 8 days you add some more sugar and ginger to it.  That's it - that's your plant.  I'm not really lazy but that does makes me sound like I am.  

Anyway, what happens is that you get a bit of a fermentation process going and quite frankly the contents of your jar do not look or smell very pretty but don't worry cause that's how it should be. They actually start to smell a bit like a brewery - albeit a very small brewery, you do have to put your nose right in the jar to smell it.   The instructions say to cover the jar with some muslin but I don't possess any so I used paper towel and an elastic band. 

Don't be like me and think well what's wrong with using the lid because after a few days you get a bit of a build up from the fermentation and the lid will pop off.  In your face.  I make the mistakes so you don't have to.  Also the reason for the porous cover is so that the contents of the jar can pick up the micro organisms from the air and increase the fermentation process.  It's a living thing.  Don't tell kids that - you'll scare em.  Mr PMG thinks I am growing The Blob in our kitchen

There are thousands of recipes for ginger beer on the net, all very similar.  I used Margaret Fulton's recipe which my Mum says is practically the same as the one she used to make.

Margaret Fulton's Ginger Beer

Ginger Beer Plant
1/2 teaspoon dried yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup warm water

Mix yeast and sugar in a large jar and add the water, stir well to combine then add the ground ginger and stir again.  Cover the jar with whatever you have and add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of ginger to the jar every day for 8 days.

4 cups sugar
6 litres warm water (24 cups)
1/2 cup strained lemon juice

Make the syrup after you have fed your plant for 8 days.  Heat sugar and 6 cups of water, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Remove from the heat and add the remaining water and all of the lemon juice.  Strain the ginger beer plant through 2 layers of paper towel, chux whatever you have, into a bowl.  (You can keep this sediment to start another plant but I can tell you now I won't be doing that because I think it will look disgusting and I would have to restart it right away and I wouldn't have the clean jars ready and there's just too many reasons why it would just be easier to start another one from scratch.) 

Add the strained liquid from the plant to the sugar syrup and stir really well.  Pour into plastic bottles (old soft drink bottles)  to the base of the neck and seal.  You can use glass, you know the risks, the choice is yours.   Don't screw  the lids on too tightly because this increases the build up of gas in the bottle and they might BLOW UP!!  Of course you can do this in the name of science or if you're looking for a bit of noisy fun.  Just make sure you're not the one who has to clean up the mess.

Store them upright in a cool place if you can for about 5 days.  If it's hot they might be ready in about 3-4 days.  The longer you leave them the more they have a tendency to blow up so don't put them away then go on holiday for 2 weeks.  That's advice from my mother who thanked her lucky stars the bottles were under the house and far away from washable surfaces.

Bottling day is tomorrow and there will be pictures in the next day or so.   I think it should have been today but I forgot to feed the plant for a day - good thing I don't have any pets.  Am looking forward to my first brew and hope that it tastes as good as I remember.

Since reading more about home made ginger beer I've discovered that  it's a teensy bit alcoholic.  Some people would probably refrain from giving it to kids  for that reason.  I don't recall any such restrictions being placed on us - probably a sure fire way of getting the 7 of us to sleep! 

Slainte, here's to a Happy New Year.