Real Ginger Beer

Photo by nycnosh/flickr

It's best to make this soft drink for an occasion when you know there will be a number of people around to help finish it off, since it has to be consumed before it builds up too much fizziness.

Makes about 18 glasses.

Ingredients

300 g/10 oz ginger root (preferably tender and young)
2 or 3 stems lemon grass
or finely peeled zest of 1 lemon
5 litres/10 pints water
1 kg/2 lb sugar
1 whole nutmeg, broken into pieces
few blades of mace (optional)
5 cm/2 in cinnamon stick
whites and shells of 2 eggs
2 limes or 1 lemon, sliced and seeds removed
juice of 3 limes or 2 lemons
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sultanas (golden raisins)


Directions

Wash ginger well and scrape away any tough skin. Cut into thin slices. Discard tough outer layers of lemon grass and the green leaves. Use only the tender white lower stem, cut across into thin slices. Soak ginger and lemon grass overnight in the measured water. Next day bring to the boil in a large pan, add sugar and spices and bring to simmering point. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Add the crushed egg shells and the whites which have been beaten until frothy but not stiff. Whisk and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, add slices and juice of limes or lemons and leave until cold. Strain through muslin.

Dissolve yeast in a little of the liquid and stir in. Have clean bottles ready, preferably those with clip-on tops. Put a few sultanas into each bottle and, using a funnel, three-quarters fill the bottles with the ginger mixture. If using bottles with corks, tie the corks securely with string. Leave at room temperature for 24 hours, by which time the ginger beer will have a nice fizz and be ready to drink. Chill well and if ginger flavor is too strong, dilute with iced soda water when serving. Serve within 36-48 hours.

 

Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998)