Grandma’s Ginger Beer


It’s important to remember and record near-forgotten skills, and pass on the precious inherited wisdom of previous generations. Hermione Winters, Garden convivium leader in Ireland shared with us a special recipe she learned from her grandmother as a child, and has since passed on to her own children.

“This recipe involves making a ginger beer ‘plant’ by fermenting ground ginger and sugar with yeast and water for about a week. The result is a delicious ginger beer, a sweet ginger-flavored carbonated drink that is very popular with children!

My grandmother taught me this as a child and I thought it was great fun and a tasty treat for the summer school holidays. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this recipe also taught me patience, how to nurture and how to share.

Recipe (makes 4.5 l)

1 cup (250 ml) water
5 1/3 tbsp (50 g) fresh yeast OR 2 tbsp (17 g) dried yeast (not the instant variety in sachets)
12 tsp (60 g) fresh ginger (peeled and crushed) or ground ginger
12 tsp (50 g) sugar

After 1 week:
juice of 2 lemons
2¼ cups (500 g) sugar
2 cups (500 ml) boiling water
cold water (around 16 cups / 4 l)

1 large jar
1 muslin or a tea-towel for straining
9 x 500ml empty, clean plastic bottles (or the equivalent totaling 4.5 l)

Starting Off
Make sure your work area and equipment are very clean as we are working with living organisms. Put the yeast in a large jar and add the cup of water, 2 tsp of the ginger and 2 tsp of the sugar. Stir well and leave overnight. It will froth up for a while and then flatten.

Feed It
Every day for the next 10 days add 1 teaspoon of ground ginger and 1 teaspoon of sugar. No need to stir. The liquid will froth up each time and then flatten. You will see your ‘plant’ growing each day.

Strain It
Strain the liquid through a piece of muslin or a tea towel into a very large bowl or jug, reserving the sediment to use later. Add the lemon juice, 500g of the sugar and the boiling water to the liquid. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add cold water to make up to 4.5 liters.

Bottle It
Put the ginger beer into the plastic bottles, leaving about a 5cm gap from the top. Leave open for 2 hours then screw on the caps. Store in a cool place, standing on wood rather than stone, for 7 to 10 days before drinking. You can chill it in the fridge to stop any further fermentation once you are happy with the level of fizz and sweetness.

Start Again
Here’s the fun bit. Divide the left over sediment in two and put into two separate jars with 250ml of water. Start again from “Feed It”. You now have two ginger beer plants instead of one! So now you have to decide whether to double your quantities or give one to a friend!”

Hermione Winters is Convivium Leader of the Garden Convivium.

Click here for more information on Slow Food Ireland.

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