by Stefan Gates
My mom always had a few bottles of ginger ale brewing, and every now and then one would blow up, with an impressive KaBOOOM. If you want to avoid explosions, it's simple: use plastic carbonated drinks bottles, which are made to cope with tremendous pressure.
This recipe takes only 20 minutes or so to make, but the ginger ale needs to be left to brew for a couple of days before it's ready to drink. You'll need 5 quarts' worth of bottles and a large saucepan that will hold 5 quarts of beer.
Makes about 5 quarts
• 2½ cups superfine sugar
• 2 lemons, thickly sliced
• 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
• 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
• 1½ teaspoons active dry yeast (breadmaker's yeast is fine)
Measure 1½ quarts of water into a large saucepan and add the sugar, lemon slices, ginger, and cream of tartar. Bring to a boil, stirring the liquid to dissolve the sugar. Simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat, and add another 3 quarts of cold water. Sprinkle in the yeast, stir it through, and put a lid on the pan. Place the pan in a cool place and leave it overnight.
In the morning, wash the bottles in very hot water. Strain the beer through a strainer to catch the ginger, then pour it into the bottles, leaving 2 in of air at the top of each one. Screw the lids firmly onto the bottles and put them in a cool place to brew. It's this fermentation process that makes the beer fizzy and it will take 12--18 hours, depending on the temperature, for it to develop the right amount of fizz.
AN INSTANT VARIATION
If you feel you can't wait 2 days, try making this instant version. Mix together 1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated, 1/3 cup unrefined sugar, and the zest and juice of 2 lemons. Leave to rest for 30 minutes, then strain and mix with sparkling water to taste. It's nice, but it's a different beast than the fermented version.