A few weeks ago, my Dad gifted me something wonderful.
A Ginger Beer Plant.
And while most people might not be so thrilled with a gungy jar of goodness-knows-what, that looks like it has been scooped up from a stormwater drain, I was delighted!
Because homemade Ginger Beer is delicious.
This recipe is adapted only slightly from The Country Women’s Association Cookbook and is for non-alcoholic* Ginger Beer.
BUT, despite consulting a few brewing experts, (including batch testing!) it was a reader, Michael, who alerted me recently (May 2020) to the fact that beer is most likely MORE alcoholic than I have otherwise been led to believe! Even better, he has done the science and the math…
This will almost definitely be alcoholic. The only way it won’t be is if it contains acetic acid bacteria in the yeast and bacteria colony. And if that is the case, it will taste lightly vinegar sour. That recipe means you’re bottling roughly 10-11 Plato sugar syrup. Sucrose is 100% fermentable so 10 Plato with 100% attenuation can create 5% ABV. Even if it is only 50% attenuated (the putting in fridge early as you mention), it will still be ~2.5% ABV. 10 Plato would produce roughly 4 volumes of CO2 if left to completely ferment out. 4 volumes CO2 is explosive carbonation, like you talk about. Again, even if you refrigerate when the bottles feel hard, bottles start to feel hard at around 2 volumes CO2. Which again will still leave 2.5% ABV.
So I must urge you, it appears it is most likely that an alcoholic beverage is produced when you follow these instructions. If you don’t want to ingest alcohol, avoid this recipe, and if you do go ahead, don’t give it to kids or people who are avoiding alcohol.
I love this recipe because you don’t need any fancy brewing equipment, or yeast, it’s so easy. And while it may appear to have quite a bit of sugar, that sugar is food for the plant and is converted into carbonation.
Preparing your First Ginger Beer Plant.
You will need…
- 9 sultanas (preferably organic and preservative-free)
- Juice from 2 lemons
- 1 teaspoon of lemon pulp
- 2 teaspoons of ground ginger
- 4 teaspoons of raw sugar
- 2 cups of water (tap water left for a day to evaporate the chlorine off is best)
Mix all ingredients into a large jar. Put on the lid on and give it all a good shake to incorporate everything.
Then, leave the jar undisturbed in a warmish, dark spot to ferment. (Around 25 degrees Celsius is ideal.)
Depending on the temperature, the start of fermentation can take from three days to a week.
ALWAYS leave the lid of your Ginger Beer Plant ajar, not closed tight! Cover it with a clean tea towel to keep bugs out, but still allow it to “breathe”.
Otherwise, it will explode, likely giving you a fright and surely making a sticky mess.
You know your Ginger Beer Plant is fermenting when a froth forms on the top of the liquid and you can see champagne sized bubbles rising from the sludge at the bottom of the jar.
Once this appears, you need to feed your plant two teaspoons of ground ginger and four teaspoons of raw sugar every day, for seven days in a row.
Miss a day and you risk the plant dying and having to start again from scratch.
My kids love to “feed” the plant, as when you add the sugar, the solution can fizz.
After a week, you are ready to bottle your first batch!
If you get no fizz and instead, find mould growing on your Plant or it smells foul, discard it and start again.
Preparing the Ginger Beer for Bottling.
You will need
- 4 cups of raw sugar
- 4 cups of boiling water
- 28 cups of water (again, tap water left for a day to evaporate the chlorine off is best)
- Juice from 4 medium lemons
- Contents of your Ginger Beer Plant
- Muslin cloth and a sieve
- A new 9-litre bucket or brewing bucket.
- Enough plastic bottles to bottle about 8 Litres of Ginger Beer
- Bottle washing/sterilizing solution (Found in either the brewing section or baby bottle section of the supermarket.)
Firstly, Rinse your clean bottles and bucket with the sterilizing solution, following the instructions on the pack.
Add the sugar to the bucket, and stir in the boiling water with the sugar until it’s dissolved.
My “bucket” is a half-size brewers kit, with the handy tap at the bottom. I found them on Gumtree, $30 for two 28 litre buckets. They are perfect for Ginger Beer. Juggling a garden bucket and funnel to fill your bottles is much trickier. Allow for spillage!
Add the 28 cups of room temperature water and stir. Add the lemon juice.
Line a large sieve with a few layers of cheesecloth and strain the entire contents of your Ginger Beer Plant into the bucket. You can gather up the cloth to twist all the remaining “juice” from the Ginger Beer Plant.
Set aside the solid residue from the Plant, this will be used for your next batch of Ginger Beer.
Stir your finished Ginger Beer solution and bottle into plastic screw-top bottles, leaving a 3cm gap at the neck of the bottle.
I used plastic screw top, 740ml amber bottles from my local BigW, this recipe makes 14 bottles. Alternatively, find cheap litre bottles of mineral water at the supermarket, clean and sterilize once emptied of their original contents. Apparently, glass bottles are more likely to explode than plastic.
Screw the caps on tightly and store for 7-10 days in a cool, dark place. When the bottles are resistant to a squeeze, they are ready to be consumed. Store in the fridge.
Splitting your Ginger Beer Plant for the next batch.
Split the muddy-looking contents of the strained Ginger Beer Plant equally into two sterilized jars. Add two cups of water to each jar, and resume feeding your Ginger Beer Plants with two teaspoons of powdered ginger and four teaspoons of raw sugar each plant, every day for the next 7 days, until you are ready to bottle again!
Frankly, we don’t manage to consume 8 litres of ginger beer a week. I have split my plant a few times over, each time giving the “twin” away to a mate who is willing to give homemade Ginger Beer a go.
But if you don’t want to end up surrounded by multiple Ginger Beer Plants, just compost half the residue instead of starting a new Plant. That said, I’m going to give freezing a Plant a go.
As the Plant “matures” over the months, I think the flavour becomes more pronounced and more complex. The colour also appears to deepen.
Finally, a word of caution!
When opening your bottles, do so very carefully! If you open the Ginger Beer quickly, you’ll be enveloped in a mushroom cloud of fizz. I open mine over the kitchen sink, because no matter how cautious I am, I seem to get spills. A slight turn on the cap until you hear the air expelling is enough. If the Ginger Beer fizzes everywhere, quickly close the cap and try again when the bubbles have diminished. It might take a few minutes to detonate a bottle of Ginger Beer so it’s safe enough to pour into a glass!
The best thing about this ginger beer is that you can make it 100% organic!
Check out the A Farm of Your Home Subscriber Resource Library for our Ginger Beer Mocktail Recipe download!
Five delicious cocktail suggestions, including Manila Mule, Ginger and Grapefruit Glow and more to try with your delicious homemade Ginger Beer!
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So I hope you give Ginger Beer Plant a try! Do let me know how you get on, won’t you?
* UPDATE: Please see my caution above. While I previously stated that “some minute amounts of alcohol is produced in this process, and from what I have gathered from this recipe and extensive research, it is less than 0.5% which is about the same as what you would find in a ripe piece of fruit. The legal level allowable in a soft drink for it to be labelled as a non-alcoholic beverage is 0.5%.” It would appear now that this brew is indeed likely alcoholic and should be treated as an alcoholic beverage