Itís a refreshing favourite during the Christmas season but not everyone can handle the burn of a classic ginger beer. Some people like the drink strong, they canít enjoy the full flavour unless it has a pepper-like aftertaste. Others prefer a light version of the drink, sweet and mildly spicy. Then there are those who want a fermented version of the drink, a version so hot you can feel your chest burn with every sip.
How do you make ginger beer? Itís surprisingly easy requiring minimal effort but if you want a stronger beer, caterer Arlene Johnson gave a few tips to achieve the maximum strength. ďThe most important part of the process is the ginger you choose to make ginger beer. Always pick ginger that is firm with smooth skin and a strong gingery scent. If the root is cracked or withering, leave it alone. Itís always best to use fresh ginger for ginger beer but if you have to buy it in advance, wrap it tight in napkins or paper towels and keep it refrigerated.Ē
After the skin is scraped off, the ginger can be either grated or, for those pressed for time, blended. ďI find itís better to grate the ginger because I have to add liquid to the blender to get the ginger mashed properly. When I grate the ginger, itís more potent and I like the smell it gives off,Ē Johnson said.
Itís always best to work with a glass jar because plastic affects the flavour of the drink. ďDuring the fermentation process when the ginger beer has to be in the sun, a glass jar keeps the flavour intact. Sometimes plastic when it gets heated gives off an unpleasant taste,Ē Johnson explained.
So in a glass jar or bottle, put your grated ginger, water, cinnamon, lemon juice or lime juice and a few clovesóJohnson said to go easy with the cloves because they can change the flavour of the ginger beer from spicy to sour. ďI like to use lemon juice but a year I couldnít get lemons or limes so I used grapefruit juice instead and it came out just as nice,Ē Johnson shared. Set the jar/bottle in the sun or in a warm area of your house for at least one hour.
ďThe next step is to strain the ginger beer. A trick Iíve learned that works for me to give the clearest ginger beer is to put a good quality paper towel like Bounty in the bottom of your fine mesh strainer to take out any particles. When youíve finished straining the ginger beer, add sugar to taste and if you want a really strong drink, you can put it back in the jar and put it in the sun for another hour or two. After that you should refrigerate it but some people like the fermented taste, if thatís the case, you can leave it out but use it within two days,Ē Johnson said.
All thatís left to do is pour the drink in a glass of ice, sit back and enjoy.
Arleneís Ginger Beer Recipe
4 large, fresh ginger roots
Juice from 2 limes or 1 small lemon (1/4 cup of grapefruit juice if neither is available)
1 cup sugar (more if a sweeter taste is desired)
4 whole cloves and a small cinnamon stick.