By Martin Isark
When I was small, bottles of home-made ginger beer lined the pantry shelves – and the thirst quenching pleasure of its peppery ginger notes still lingers on. Today, the supermarket shelves are loaded with various styles and brands of ginger beer, but nothing gets close to the satisfaction of making your own from a ginger beer plant.
Ginger beer plants, as they are known, used to be sold at Women’s Institute stalls and local markets, but it has been some years since I saw any. They’re not pretty – a glass jar containing an inch of sandy sludge covered with a cloudy liquid – but they’re so easy to make, and all the family can enjoy the experience.
Recipe for the making of ginger beer plant:
You require a container – large jam jar or kilner jar
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
1 teaspoon of granulated sugar
15 grams of brewer’s yeast
1 cupful of cold water
Combine the ingredients in the jar. Each day, for the next seven days, add one teaspoonful of ground ginger and one teaspoon of granulated sugar.
Recipe for the making of the ginger beer:
Containers: 6 bottles (champagne or sparkling wine bottles are best – some restaurants will be delighted to give you their empties); and new wine corks are available from Boots.
3 cups of sugar
5 cups of boiling water
12 cups of cold water
the liquid from the plant
Squeeze the juice of the lemons into a large bowl. Add all the sugar, pour in the boiling water and stir until dissolved. Then add all the cold water. Strain the liquid of the plant through muslin and add that too.
Pour liquid into the bottles, filling to around two inches below the top, and put in the cork. Screw-cap bottles can be used, but there is a greater risk of them exploding.
Store the bottles for seven days in a cool place and you will have delightful, sparkling ginger beer at a fraction of the cost of commercial ones.
Now divide the remaining plant in half, put it back into the jar, and you are ready to start the process again. The other half can be given away to another ginger beer lover.
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Fentimans Traditional Ginger Beer
Fentiman’s is one of the premium brands on the supermarket’s shelves. The sniff reveals a real whoosh of peppery ginger notes, the palate and swallow are clean and fiery. If the style, size and price fits – put a bottle or two in the trolley. Tasted by Martin Isark
Not forgetting barcode: 5029578001085
Old Jamaica Ginger Beer
This drinks well. A harmonious balance on the palate between the ginger notes, fiery heat and sweetness. The finish is of clean, peppery ginger that lingers long after the swallow. If the style, size and price fits – put it in the trolley. Tasted by Martin Isark
Not forgetting barcode: 5000169037133
Waitrose Fiery Ginger Beer
This certainly delivers hot ginger flavours and will wake up any jaded or sleepy tastebuds. Well worth a punt if the price fits. Tasted by Martin Isark
Competing Brands: D&G, Old Jamaican & Fentimans
Not forgetting barcode: 21166006
Asda Ginger Beer
This Ginger Beer delivers a pungent and fiery ginger aroma and taste. If the style, size and price fits – put it in the trolley. Tasted by Martin Isark
Competing Brands: D&G, Old Jamaican & Fentimans.