I’ve become somewhat of a ginger ale connoisseur in the recent months; after having decided that alcohol just makes me feel icky and tired of being the lame-o who only orders water. Now, it’s ginger ale. And you’d be surprised at the varying qualities of ginger ale available today. Many restaurants are, to my delight, serving up homemade ginger ales or artisan ales in place of the watered down, you-can-barely-taste-the-ginger stuff. From now on, I’m totally going to judge a restaurant by the quality of the ginger ale.
My absolute favorite so far? The house-made ginger ale from Locanda in San Francisco. So. Dang. Spicy. I loved it and haven’t stopped thinking about it since.
The memory of that cool glass of goodness is perhaps one of the reasons why I’ve decided that this month we’ll be tackling homemade ginger ale! And I’m not talking about machine-carbonated here, so put away the SodaStream and club soda. Nope, we’re going to get our bubbles the old fashioned way: with yeast.
Well, technically (as per Serious Eats) REAL ginger beer is fermented with something called a ginger beer plant (say what?!) but similar results are achievable with yeast. Do note that one by-product of this process IS alcohol, but depending on the method the actual amount varies from negligible to maybe a few %. Not that your kids would WANT to drink something this spicy, but, still, something to consider.
I won’t try to argue the differences between ginger ale and ginger beer, because, honestly, I don’t really know the true definition. Some say ginger beer is spicier and more gingery, but I’ve had some diabolically spicy ginger ales. Others say ginger ale is carbonated with C02 like soda and ginger beer is fermented with yeast.
You could say this month’s challenge is a wee bit easier than April’s macaron challenge that gave us all so much grief. Although rest assured, the explosive potential of this challenge (literally) keeps this recipe well within the ‘challenge’ classification.
- No explosions, please. FOLLOW YOUR RECIPE to know exactly how long you need to let the beer ferment. I might also use plastic bottles instead of glass, just in case. Otherwise, you may end up with a kitchen covered in sticky ginger juice and shattered glass. No good. Also, if you have a spare bath tub, use it.
- Yeast. Some recipes I’ve seen call for Champagne yeast instead of your regular old bread yeast. Not sure what the differences are, but Champagne yeast can be found at any beer/wine-making supply store, or online.
- Ginger. If you’ve got a juicer this will be a breeze. Otherwise, I’m guessing the act of grating (use a microplane grater) and straining all that ginger is not going to be quick work. Although I have heard a blender works too.
While I haven’t decided which recipe I am going to follow just yet, the good news is there are plenty of options and they all seem fairly straightforward:
- Serious Eats: Interesting use of Champagne Yeast here instead of usual bread yeast. Lots and lots of ginger, plus lime juice.
- Alton Brown: A simple recipe with ginger, sugar, and lemon juice.
- Jeffrey Mogenthaler: Nice in-depth recipe, with links to ingredients and equipment. Scale the recipe to your heart’s desire.
- Chow: This recipe goes as far as making your own “wild fermented ginger” which is, I think, what the “Ginger Beer Plant” actually is. Interesting, for sure, but takes a lot longer, a total of 14 days for the entire process. Serious bonus points to anyone who attempts this (and let me remind you it IS called Kitchen Challenge after all…)
If you’re up for the challenge, make a batch of homemade ginger ale/ginger beer by Wednesday, May 22nd. Send me a photo of your results. I’ll document my experience and also share the images/links to those who’ve taken the challenge as well. This challenge is simply about getting in the kitchen and challenging yourself to make something new; you aren’t required to have a blog to participate, nor are you required to post about it if you do. However, if you do have a blog and post about the challenge, you are more than welcome to use the above graphic if you’d like to spread the word! (Please upload it to your own server.)
Ready, set, carbonate!