If you’re already familiar and experienced in keeping cultures and fermenting beverages this recipe is a breeze. If the world of fermentation is totally new to you, I’ll try to make it easy enough.
The basic recipe is as follows:
1-3 inches ginger (depending on how spicy you like it)
1 cup sugar (I tried substituting syrup here once and I’ll explain why NOT to do that below)
1 gallon water less one cup
1 cup “ginger bug” juice
Juice of 2-3 small limes (optional but adds good flavor)
1 tbsp maple syrup (essential for flavor and added minerals)
Mince ginger and boil in a gallon of water with sugar and maple syrup until ginger aroma is very apparent and fills the area. Allow to cool.
Add lime and ginger bug and pour into gallon jug with airlock.
Wait a week. After a week of brewing in the gallon jug there should be some visible fermentation going on. You’ll be able to notice tiny bubbles traveling in your jug and bursting as they reach the top.
Bottle off into “grolsch” style, flip top, or other air tight bottles/containers for carbonation.
Wait another week to two weeks depending on how warm the area is that you’re storing your bottles (I wait the full two weeks in my apartment in winter but have had bottles over carbonate in summer). I’d recommend popping open a tester bottle after a week and deciding if you’re happy with the flavor and level of fizz.
This recipe takes some experimentation at first but after your second of third batch, if you’ve made notes of what you’ve adjusted, you’ll be proud to bring some of your homemade ginger beer to share with friends!
How to make and keep a ginger bug
*Ginger contains natural yeast on its skin so avoid peeling and source organic when possible.
Add a tbsp minced ginger and a tbsp white sugar to one cup water in jar with tightly fitted lid with room.
Add another tablespoon of both minced ginger and white sugar until bubbles and pressure are clearly building up.
That’s it! You’ve nursed your own starter culture to health and it’s ready to use. When you begin to use your ginger bug to make fermented beverages you can avoid the week or so restart time by saving some of the white residue that sits at the bottom of the jar and use that to “feed” your next batch, just refill with water and add a bit more ginger and sugar between uses.
Now that you’re set up for success in brewing delicious maple ginger beer (which I would recommend serving with a good whiskey on the rocks garnished with a lime wedge), I’ll let you know what NOT to do with your next batch.
There are a lot of reasons why we should be limiting our intake of white sugar and a lot of places we can identify to cut back, but replacing the conventional sugar in your ginger beer with a whole cup of maple syrup is not the way to go about it.
I’ll tell you that the actual flavor was amazing; the brew tasted great! What wasn’t so great was the texture. It was like slugging back honey, thick enough to run but not the refreshing effervescent soda you were hoping for. I had basically created a fermented syrup that was too thick to carbonate naturally on its own. What I did end up doing with the remaining bottles I didn’t have the courage to drink was cooking my morning oats in the ginger syrup which turned out pretty darn tasty.
I started a new batch with the same recipe as above but with maple SUGAR, not syrup, and no white sugar involved except in feeding the ginger bug.
We’ll see in a couple weeks how this batch turns out. Experimentation is good fun and can turn out surprisingly well (and weird at times), but there’s also something to be said for the tried and true.
Happy fermenting folks!
*If anyone tries the recipe and has questions, comments, trials and tribulations, shoot me a line in the comments! I’d like to hear how it goes.