Real ginger beer is produced by the ginger beer plant, a creamy jelly-like substance which is a complex mixture of yeasts and bacteria, not a plant. As with many home brews, it is fascinating to watch the fermentation process.
The ginger beer plant (GBP) is a pretty resilient creature but it is safest to make sure everything is clean in the kitchen.
Tie the grated ginger in a small piece of muslin.
Place it with the sugar, lemon juice, cream of tartar and water in a large jug.
Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the GBP. Cover with a cloth and fix in place with an elastic band, or just a lid if there is one.
Leave to ferment for about 5 days (or until it tastes just a little sweeter than you would like the finished product to be), then carefully pour into plastic swing-top bottles using a fine sieve or muslin cloth and a funnel.
You will find a larger GBP in the sieve than you started with.
Remove the muslin and rinse the GBP in fresh water; use it to make another batch.
Your ginger beer will be ready to drink within 2 or 3 days, though it will be fizzier after a week.
The low activity of the yeast and small amount of sugar used means that explosive levels of carbon dioxide are not reached, but it is worth checking a test bottle every now and then by loosening the lid just to be sure.
Chilling will stop any further fermentation if you are happy with the fizz and sweetness.
- 5-7cm piece of root ginger, peeled and grated
- 250g sugar
- Juice of 1 lemon
- ½ tsp cream of tartar
- 2 litres chlorine-free water (a large pinch of ascorbic acid i.e. vitamin C or the juice of a lemon will remove the chlorine if you are unsure)
- About 1 tbsp ginger beer plant (GBP)
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Beer, Cider and Spirits
Raise a glass to delicious drinks and traditional methods, with a day of booze brewing and infusing at the River Cottage Cookery School.