Fortune blessed me recently with a serendipitious juncture of gingers. We'd visited the Mercado Medellín, in Colonia Roma Sur, México, DF. This is a very nice mercado in an upper middle class area of the city. Along its well-ordered aisles, I found at least two stand selling fresh ginger, at the reasonable price of $42 MXP a kilo.
I brought it home and it wasn't until several days later, while browsing the fun-filled forums of the Thorny Tree Refuge Stuff It! branch, that I saw a post by "Bixaorellana" on making ginger beer. That was intriguing, but the recipe used ground ginger, and I knew it had to be better made with fresh. A quick Google turned up a very easy way to make Fresh Ginger Beer.
I got right on it. The process is astoundingly simple. The primary caution involves gas. The rapid build up of CO2 may result in rupture of the soda bottle, unless you refrigerate it as soon as the fermentation has peaked. Grolsch Beer bottles with resealable stoppers would be better, but there's some extra expense involved, unless you are already a Grolsch drinker. My bottle simply erupted in a fountain of ginger beer. Providentially, I'd placed the 2.5 liter Coca Cola bottle into a larger, institutional food dervice container.
The brew was very pleasant although lacking a rich depth of ginger flavor, as well as looking too pale. I'd even substituted light brown sugar for the white sugar in the recipe, and increased the amount of ginger from the original recipe.
Concurrently, I made a rather thin-bodied but zesty ginger syrup out of the rest of the ginger.
After sampling the ginger beer, I dosed the rest with some ginger syrup, and put it out for a second fermentation. That took place in less than 12 hours. This time, I carefully captured the spewings of ginger fountain, and recycled them back into the bottle. The double-fermented brew was much better, and with more days in the fridge, it improved even more.
At any rate, this may become a regular item in my repertoire. I bought more fresh ginger at Superama in Morelia, and although not as nice as the Mercado Medellín stuff, it's more than satisfactory.
I have started a new brew, a Sichuanese style Spiced Ginger Beer made from a syrup base with piloncillos, dried Mandarine peel, cinnamon stick, star anise, a couple of cloves, allspice berries, Sichuan Peppercorns, and a dried red chile, as well as copious amounts of grated fresh ginger and some lime. It's steeping now. That will be strained and filtered, then uses in judicious quantities to spike the regular ginger beer. Results should be in in about 2 days.
Here's a recipe for Ginger Syrup for Home-Style Ginger Ale (etc)
from "Better Than Store Bought", by Wittie and Colchie, Copyright 1979, Harpers and Row, publishers. (I highly recommend it, if you can find a copy.)
4 ounces fresh gingerroot, approximately
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
Peel and finely chop the ginger; you should have about 3/4 cup
Bring the ginger to a boil with the water in an enameled or stainless-steel saucepan. Simmer for 5 minutes, then let stand for 12 to 24 hours, covered with a cloth.
Strain the pulp through a sieve lined with two layers of cheesecloth; squeeze the pulp in the cloth to extract all the juice.
Return the juice to the pan, add the sugar, and bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring. Boil gently for 5 minutes, skimming off any froth.
Cool, strain into a bottle, and refrigerate.
Use about 1 tablespoon of syrup mixed with 6 ounces of chilled soda water to make a gingery drink.