Friday, November 12, 2010

Ginger Beer - first attempt

I bottled my first batch of Ginger Beer last week.

So, make the plant, feed it for a week, bottle it, give it a week to carbonate, refrigerate and eventually drink. In other words, at least 2 weeks before you can actually drink it. This makes it a little hard to make modifications to the recipe.

So I've had a dozen bottles sitting there hoping that they'll have carbonated. I was thirsty last night and there's nothing in the house so decided to open a bottle. It didn't give a sound that would indicate that gas was escaping it.

I was half expecting that anyway. The recipe I used didn't use yeast or even sultanas (sultanas having yeast on the skin which also means you don't have to go out and find a brewers yeast in order to avoid that yeasty flavour). Since then though, instead of discarding half of the silt on the bottom of the plant (I'll explain what I mean by this in a little bit when I post the recipe I used here) I decided I wanted 2 dozen bottles a week, not 1, so left it as it was and doubled all of the proportions.

Is there anyone here who has brewed their own ginger beer? I ask because I'm looking for advice. I suspect I've gotten small bits wrong. Anyway, the recipe I used was (From here):

In a large preserving jar add:

1 dessert spoon of sugar
1 dessert spoon of ground ginger
A squeeze of lemon juice
2 cups of water.

This will be your plant…put on the lid and store it in a cool dark place.

The next day, add 1 dessert spoon of ginger.

On the following day, add 1 dessert spoon of sugar – continue to alternate these ingredients for the rest of the week, till you end up adding ginger on the 7th day.

Now, later on the same day, you’re ready to bottle.

In a large pot, or preserving pan, add 2 cups of sugar and 4 cups of hot water.

Stir till all the sugar is dissolved. Add the juice of 2 lemons. Gently strain in the liquid off your plant.
Then add 12 cups of cold water.

Mix well and filter through a fine tea strainer into bottles…makes about a dozen 340ml bottles.

Halve the sediment left in your plant jar, add 2 cups of cold water, 1 dessert spoon of sugar, 1 dessert spoon of ginger, a squeeze of lemon and continue as before for another week…and so on…

Keep your bottled ginger beer for a week or 2 before you drink it, so it has a little time to ferment.

What I'm tasting of it, I quite like. It's dry. Other recipes I've seen use double the sugar to the ginger. So I'm thinking of dropping a couple of sultana's into the bottom of the plant and seeing if that makes a difference.

So I guess I'm wondering, should the plant be air tight? This is one of those differences I've seen between different recipes - though my own experience with breads suggests that airtight generally works a little better. Should the bottles be stored in a dark warm place or a dark cool place?

Oh - I was supposed to talk about costs.

Funnily enough, the expensive bit was the bit which loads of people have growing in their back yard - lemons. Last week I spent $3 on 3 lemons. Just plain extortion if you ask me.

For the rest of it, $4.95 for 500 grams of ginger (should last me a while), a bag of sugar that's been sitting in the pantry for ages, the cost of the water (it really can't be that much can it?) and if I were to add in the cost of sultanas... Looks like I'm going to the bulk bin again.

So that's sod all for the 12 bottles, but then we'd have to factor in the time. The biggie is the washing of beer bottles. I also sterilized them (dumped them into boiling water along with the caps) before starting. I think it took me about an hour to wash 12 bottles - removing the labels, a good going over with a bottle brush and the result being horribly pruny hands. About 15 minutes to sterilize them (sitting there with tongs fishing out bottles from a large pot) and probably about 15 minutes bottling. So really, not that much time.

So if we were to say, 2 hours a week. (Possibly 3 for 24 bottles?). If the average hourly wage is around $25 / hour (taken from here.) that's $50 - $75. And the cost of a bottle of ginger beer? About $2 a bottle? So $24-$48 worth of ginger beer. So a little creative trading and perhaps doing it in bigger quantities (if I were to do 48 bottles, the added time being on bottles - probably another hour or so - $100 of time spent, $98 of value in the ginger beer) and I'd easily make up that value.

Of course, I'm not stopping with Ginger Beer. I've been trawling the net for recipes for bread. I'm planning on doing a White Vienna (a milky version) and a Ciabatta. In fact, for Christmas this year, I'm hoping all of the food can be home made rather than that mad rush to the super market.

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