ginger beer

The oldest recipe in existence is a collection of ancient tablets in the Sumerian language describing the making of barley into bread which was used to make a drink. Its quite possible that this drink was a form of beer as it is said to have made the consumer feel blissful and exhilarated. Another early form of beer was mead, a simple fermentation of honey and water, enjoyed by the Vikings, Saxons, Celts, and even the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. In those days, mead was celebrated as a nectar of the gods, a mind-expanding potion that brought on euphoria and wove together the primitive worlds of science and magic. In Scandinavia, it became a symbol of romance and fertility. It is commonly believed that the origin of the word "honeymoon" refers to the Nordic belief that if mead were consumed for one month (one moon) after a wedding, the first child would be born a male--a prized addition to a clan of warriors. Ironically, this primitive superstition falls in line with modern science that has revealed that the PH of a women's body at the time of conception can help to determine the sex of a child. The introduction of exotic spice to Medieval Europe made an immeasurable contribution to their enjoyment of food and beverages. Not only did spice enhance and mask off-flavors, it was valued for its medicinal properties. Water was often contaminated from widespread diseases which led doctors to prescribe beverages of fruit juices and spices. Ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg were used to flavor metheglin, a spiced mead. Another variation, ginger beer, was made from fresh ginger root, honey, water, and a mysterious "plant".

Ginger root plant, the source of fermentation of early ginger beer, is a misnomer. Its not of the green, leafy variety, but a naturally occurring, self-propagating organism similar to gelatinous lichen. This anaerobic starter culture resembles various sized knobby grains that must be activated in sugary water and can be recycled, or used over and over. It consists of many microorganisms living together, two of which are vital to producing ginger beer; a fungus Saccharomyces pyriformis and a bacterium Brevibacterium vermiforme. Together, these form carbon dioxide and alcohol. The origin of the ginger root plant is unknown and was not identified until the late nineteenth century-- yet another testament to the interminable will of man to explore the wild and strange world of nature. Ginger beer was brought to North America by the British colonists where it was brewed locally in homes and taverns. After the civil war, it was commercially produced and transported to new markets, mostly in western New York State, where breweries cropped up along the Erie Canal. In the US, production was abruptly halted by Prohibition. Today, industrially-produced ginger beer is but a shadow of its predecessor. Only occasionally can it be found as an alcoholic beverage. Most often, it comes in the form of a soft drink that is not fermented, but carbonated with pressurized carbon dioxide. It is enjoying a resurgence in the cocktail arena as a component of the cocktails Dark 'N Stormy (a blend of dark rum and ginger beer), Shandy (beer or ale and ginger beer), and the Moscow Mule (vodka, ginger beer, and lime). An authentic and worthy ginger beer can effortlessly be brewed at home with a few basic ingredients. The hard part is waiting two days for it to ferment. The finished product is delightfully fizzy, brightly flavored, minimally sweet, pleasantly dry, and only slightly alcoholic (about 0.4%). Unlike pressure carbonized ginger beer or soda, this product remains carbonated for extended periods, even after multiple openings. The beauty of this method is that the only essential ingredients are water, yeast, and sugar (to feed the yeast), the rest is flavoring. What that represents to me is a blank liquid canvas on which to paint with flavor. And that is where the parade begins....passion fruit beer, watermelon beer, coffee beer, popcorn beer, pumpkin beer, celery beer, parmesan beer, jalapeno beer...and can we make milk beer...or brown butter beer (please, oh, please)? And what could these fermented products be used for? Can they be added to breads or baked goods to add or reinforce flavor and make them lighter? What would a fermented soup taste like? The parade marches on...
ginger beer Be sure to use a plastic bottle when making ginger beer for two reasons: 1) You can easily tell when the beer is ready by pressing on the bottle. It will be rock hard like an unopened bottle of soda. 2) You don't want to be anywhere in the vicinity of an exploding glass bottle. Trust me.

114g (4 oz) fresh ginger juice 114g (4 oz)fresh lemon juice, strained 171g (6 oz) granulated sugar .8g (1/4 teaspoon) granular bakers yeast Place all ingredients in a clean 2 liter plastic bottle. Fill with cold, fresh water to within 1" of top of bottle. Cap tightly and shake gently to distribute contents. Set aside in a warm (70F)

spot for up to 48 hours. Begin testing after 24 hours. When the bottle no longer yields when pressed, place bottle in the refrigerator to retard fermentation for at least 4 hours before opening. Slowly release cap. When fizzing stops, re-cap and shake gently. Store remainder in the refrigerator, carefully releasing cap each time that you open bottle. Enjoy!

Posted on January 07, 2009 at 10:06 PM in around the world, beverage, foodscience, recipe, technique | Permalink Digg This | Save to del.icio.us