As of late last year, I became a paying member to Cook’s Illustrated online, one of the three big online (and print) cooking magazines from the America’s Test Kitchen family (the third one is called Cook’s Country). This allows me access to all kinds of recipes, of which you have already seen some examples (i.e. almost all of my holiday cooking). Don’t you love how I’m talking about my holiday cooking from Thanksgiving and Christmas when Easter is this weekend?
I follow their blog that updates daily with recipes and one of them that caught my attention was brewing ginger beer. And by caught my attention I mean, I was so excited I was hyperventilating. I LOVE ginger beer. Now, I don’t love raw ginger. I know this is kind of strange for someone with a Chinese food heritage, but it’s just a little unpleasant to the palate when it is naked strong and all up in your grill. I prefer ginger to be tempered with sugar or other spices, vegetables or fruit. And when fresh ginger is in gingerbread cookies and ginger beer? It’s tasty to the max. Ginger beer is a delicious ginger treat of which my palate fully approves.
I was introduced to the Dark ‘n’ Stormy by my prep school friend with a background in sailing with her family (mainly from the East Coast to Bermuda). It’s a drink that’s really popular in port cities, the islands and probably most of New England. The cocktail ingredients: ginger beer, rum and lime. It’s so good on a hot Summer day–super refreshing. Ever since I took the British boyfriend down the slippery slope of Dark ‘n’ Stormy drinking, he’s been obsessed. By chance, we happened upon a ginger beer tasting at the local liquor store and we discovered that our favorite ginger beer is Fentiman’s. Sadly, good ginger beer is hard to come by–Fentimans isn’t available everywhere. And when you can find it, it’s expensive since it’s imported from Ye Olde Land. Additionally, if you happen to be British, i.e. a high functioning alcoholic, you will consume lots of drinks meaning you need lots of pricey ginger beer. Lack of good ginger beer availability resulted in his poor man’s Dark ‘n’ Stormy which is comprised of rum and ginger ale. Does that sound gross to you? Totally makes sense because it’s completely disgusting.
Thus the stage was set for my adventure into the land of flash fermentation beer brewing. I made this round of ginger beer back in November 2011. (I’m so top of my blogging.)
I don’t know if I’ve outed myself on my blog about this but…I am a hoarder. A hoarder of bottles and containers. Anyone in my family can tell you that. I have lots and lots of empty containers stored in every place imaginable. I’m vaguely certain that this tendency is genetic because my dad also hoards well designed and possibly useful containers. It just seems very wasteful to throw them away. Knowing this you can imagine my glee when I realized that I had in my house a handful of perfect containers to brew ginger beer in–namely, used but clean Lorina lemonade bottles. I love Lorina lemonades but they are super expensive and I only buy them for parties where I know there will be some teetotalers. I had a couple of clean bottles which I washed again and kind of sanitized/sterilized them with boiling water. (PEDANTIC NERD ALERT: usually in your kitchen you are sanitizing stuff. You area almost never sterilizing anything unless you’re baking something for 8 hours in a homemade autoclave. Sterilization is for manufacturing processes, hospitals and scientific research. Sanitizing glass bottles and jars is what you do when you brew your own beer and can your own tomatoes.) After sanitizing everything, I made up a triple batch of the recipe. Enough to fill three bottles.
Oh, totally easy, right? Follow the recipe but just multiply times 3? Well for those of you in the readership who are indeed the sharpest knives in the drawers you will realize that recipe on the website is for enough ginger beer to fill a 16 oz bottle and those glass mother fuckers that I have are 25.4 oz. I didn’t realize this until after I made and filled them. Luckily, I was both supremely stupid and genius.
Like I mentioned earlier, I like the sharp bite of Fentimans. And because I didn’t know what this recipe would taste like, I decided to make a science experiment out of it and tested out varying amounts of ginger. You can kind of see the ginger concentration in this next picture. The lowest concentration is on the left with a more clear opacity, while the 3x concentration is on the right and it is much more yellow. I only changed the amount of ginger, everything else remained constant and was made from a master mix of lemon juice and sugar water. (Gotta be a responsible kitchen scientist.) It should be mentioned here that you need a lot of elbow grease to grate that ginger root. Whew. What a workout.
I filled them up and because each bottle receives a pinch of champagne yeast for carbonation and a tiny bit of fermentation, I made sure to secure each rubber stopper as much as possible with string. I didn’t want any eyeballs to be damaged in the making or drinking of ginger beer. Then they went up into the spare room (my sister’s old room) for 48 hours because that room is the warmest room in the house, aka incubation chamber.
After 48 hours of fermentation and a chill down in the refrigerator, it was time to taste test the varying amounts of ginger.
Lo and behold what did we find? The recipe that contained the CORRECT amount of ginger for 25.4 oz (aka, 1.5x recipe) tasted the best! So score one for the recipe from America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Illustrated! The next time I made this, which was for a Super Bowl party that I had in February, I made 1.5x recipes in two bottles. It was delicious even though the water I used was too hot and I killed the yeast. The drink was not appropriately carbonated, but it tasted great. Note to self next time: stop being so impatient and let the boiled water cool down! Sorry for killing you, yeast.
Is that a whale measuring cup? Yes. Yes it is.
So there you have it. Delicious homemade ginger beer. Just add rum and lime. I can’t wait to make this in the summer!