Denise is a devoted organic gardener who challenges herself to live as sustainably as possible in her home in southeastern Pennsylvania. She is a professor in the Department of Communication and Media at West Chester University with a Ph.D. from Kent State University. Her teaching and research areas consist of sustainability, close interpersonal relationships, integrating work and family, and conflict resolution.
A visit to any market in Amazonia reveals a rich array of locally grown fruits and vegetables including a variety of fragrant, flavorful spices. Included will be the widely popular ginger root. Ginger, Zingiber officinale, known locally as “jengibre” is not native to Amazonia but widely grown there for its culinary and medicinal properties.
In the northern hemisphere, as temperatures cool with the onset of autumn, ginger beverages, with their warming nature, make the perfect accompaniment to the cooler weather. If you’re a fan of the cocktails Dark n Stormy, the popular Moscow Mule, or simply enjoy a good ginger ale, you’re going to want to read on. Why purchase ginger beer for them when you can make your own? Ginger beer is a delicious homemade soda. To clarify, ginger beer typically is more robust than ginger ale. If you’re trying to reduce your (or your kids’) commercial soda intake, ginger beer is a good alternative (I’m not advocating offering them a Moscow Mule!), and children tend to like the mild gingery flavor. Like any fermented beverage, it has a trace of alcohol but not enough to consider it an alcoholic beverage. A tight sealed jar and a longer length of fermentation time will increase the alcohol content, so be mindful if you wish to minimize alcohol content.
Ginger has a myriad of health benefits, and many extend to ginger beer. For example, ginger can relieve nausea, improve digestion, is antibacterial, is anti-inflammatory, is loaded with antioxidants (which help prevent damage to DNA), and the list goes on. Oh, did I mention that it tastes delicious?
One day, as I was looking for additional fermentation recipes for my repertoire, I came across this one for ginger beer. To make it, you’ll start by making a ginger “bug.” (No, not that kind of bug!)
Here’s what you need:
3 inches ginger root (more, if you like it zippier)
2 C sugar
2 Fresh lemons
What you’ll do is grate about two teaspoons of skin-on ginger. I just finely mince it. Add the ginger in a jar with one cup water and two teaspoons sugar. Stir and leave covered loosely (to keep out the dreaded fruit flies) in a warm spot. Add the same amount of ginger and sugar daily and stir until the bug starts bubbling, usually a couple days to a week.
The first time I made ginger bug, after a week, I still didn’t see any bubbles – certainly not vigorous bubbling to suggest fermentation. I read up, and the culprit seemed to be that I didn’t use organic ginger root (because I couldn’t find any). I lamented to a friend, who told me that he’d started drinking organic ginger juice and offered me some. I added a couple ounces daily for a few days. Bubbles! Note: I tried making a batch just with organic ginger juice and wasn’t as pleased with the results. The bottom line is — use organic ginger root if you can. Later, I found and purchased organic ginger at my growers market. However, instead of using it for ginger beer, I’m trying to get it to sprout, so I can propagate it, and have my own endless supply of ginger root. (You’ll get a future blog if it works).
Anyway, after you have bubbling, boil two quarts of water and add about two inches of newly grated ginger (up to six inches for intense ginger flavor) and 1 ½ cups sugar. Boil for 15 minutes. Cool. Strain out ginger and add the ginger bug and the juice of those two lemons. Add four quarts of water. Bottle in sealable bottles – either the bail-top Grolsch-like bottles, or plastic soda bottles. Leave to ferment for about two weeks in a warm spot. Cool it before preparing to open, or at least make sure it is room temperature. The carbonation may surprise you, and it may gush out, so you may want a beverage glass on hand. Sip and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
If you want to keep a continuous batch of ginger beer, reserve a few tablespoons of your bug before adding it to the cooled boiled mixture. Then, start the process of adding one cup water to the reserved bug and grating ginger and adding sugar daily. Also know you could make turmeric beer following the same recipe. It has its own health benefits.
Now that you’ve got your ducks in a row for the next round, Enjoy! Salud!