Tuesday, February 08, 2005

A recipe

Ginger Beer (non-alcoholic)

Obtain a one-gallon glass jar (e.g. Whole Foods apple juice) and the following ingredients:

1 hand-sized piece of ginger root
1 tbsp. whole cloves
6" of cinammon stick
2 c. sugar
1 g. filtered water
1/16 tsp. baker's yeast
1 c. filtered water at about 100-110 degrees (i.e. warm to the touch)

Peel the ginger and whir it in a food processor or blender with 2 tbsp. of water. Pour the resultant slurry into a large pot with the gallon of water, sugar and one-half of the cinammon and cloves. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the other half of the cinammon and cloves and boil for another 5 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and place in a sink filled with cold water.

Rinse the apple juice jar with tap water or, if paranoid about potential contaminants, with boiling water. Add the yeast and 1 c. of warm water. Put the lid on tightly.

When the ginger beer mixture is cool, unscrew the jar lid. You should hear the rush of escaping gases, which signifies that your yeasts are alive and well. If no gas emerges, you may wish to proof the yeast again. Place a funnel lined with cheesecloth into the mouth of the jar and add your ginger beer mixture. Top off the jar with filtered water until only about 1-1.5 inches of air remain in the bottle. Cap tightly and put out of the way.

In about 1-4 days you should see bubbles begin to emerge from the sediment at the bottom of the jar. When the little pressure button in the lid cannot be depressed, the "beer" is ready to be enjoyed. Recap after pouring and it will likely continue to carbonate. If you wish to halt or slow carbonation, place the jar in the refrigerator.


Very briefly, for those who may not already know this, the yeast in the beer mixture is added to carbonate it. Yeast releases carbon dioxide and alcohol as a bi-product of its metabolization of sugar. Baker's yeast is used here instead of brewer's yeast because it will produce very little alcohol and leave lots of sugar. In beer brewing, a yeast that did this would be said to have low degree of attenuation. In this recipe, it produces a virtually no-alcohol brew with very little residual yeast flavor. Even better, because the jar is air-tight, the carbon dioxide remains in solution in the brew, thus carbonating it.

I added the cinammon and cloves because they are flavors I like. You could, however, add any number of things to the mix, including:

  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar (to reduce acidity)
  • coriander seeds
  • cardamom seeds or pods
  • star anise
  • lemon juice
  • brown sugar (instead of white sugar to give a darker color)
  • all spice
  • honey (instead of sugar)
  • pepper corns
  • ground chili pepper or cayenne pepper