Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Ginger Binger

My fondness for ginger has deep roots. I've loved it especially in the candied or crystallized form. Fresh is nice, too, when used in cooking. Ground is fine for baking cookies and moist, molassesy ginger breads. There was once a great Ginger Ice Cream offered at Howard Johnson's, but no more.

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.


Steve Cotton said...

"My fondness for ginger has deep roots" was worth the price of admission. Nice line. And interesting post. Almost like a science project gone right.

Don Cuevas said...

I started another 2+ liters of Ginger beer today. This one will be double-fermented by plan. The first brew is pretty much the recipe given by Giles Paterson. The second fermentation will be dosed with "Sichuan Golden Dragon Ginger Syrup", and more water. I imagine I'll be needing to use two, 2.5 liter Coke bottles at that point. That means I'll have to make room in the fridge, so I'd better drink the last of the old batch today.


Steve Cotton said...

The sacrifices you make for your art.

Theresa in Mèrida said...

When I have grown ginger or run across very young ginger,I've candied it. One of the by products of candying ginger is ginger syrup. I've used the syrup in various ways, but maybe the thing to do is use it in ginger beer? I love ginger beer.
Thanks for the idea.

Don Cuevas said...

Theresa, my wife used to make candied ginger. It's a lot of work. Now we buy it when we are in the U.S.

I have a recipe for Preserved Ginger in Syrup that I may try soon.


Anonymous said...

Hi, Michael! Read your piece on ginger beer, and the comment on Grosch bottles. Make sure you wash the little rubber rings well - sometimes they crack and dry out, especially if they've been sitting too long, just like the ones on old canning jars. You can get new rings through homebrew suppliers. Sincerely, tony guinn

Don Cuevas said...

¡Que milagro! Tony Guinn! (NOT the baseball player, folks, but an amiga from a past life.)

Yes, yesterday, a friend gave me two, empty Grolsch bottles. I washed them and this morning bottled some rather weird looking tepache in them. The Ginger Beer is fermented and stored for now in a 2.5 liter Coke bottle. (Plastic.)
I somehow doubt that we have home brew suppliers here, but I don't know.

Do you have our email address, Tony? You can get it from Susan Z if you need it.