01 February 2011

A really refreshing beverage

It's going to be very hot here today and an absolute scorcher tomorrow, with temperatures expected to be 40+ degrees so keeping cool is going to be a priority.

The awnings are down and all the windows, blinds and drapes shut tight.  The ceiling fans are on and at the moment it's actually quite cool in the house (it won't be for long though).  Everyone is inside until the sun goes down this afternoon, those doors won't be opened unless it's a life and death emergency (or we get unexpected visitors).  This house has to stay cool.

On a very hot day an icy cold drink is just the thing to cool you down. So icy cold that you can feel it travelling down your throat, through your oesophagus until it actually hits your stomach.  Making soft drinks from scratch is almost a lost skill. Years ago every housewife knew how to make a ginger beer, real lemonade and delicious cordials using the fruit from her own fruit trees.

Nowadays not that many back yards have fruit trees in them and even fewer people would know how to make cordial or lemonade. There may be a few more who know how to make ginger beer; it's icy tang and fizz is just the thing on a boiling hot summer's day.

There is always a ginger beer plant on the go on my kitchen bench, we love the stuff and during summer it's hard to keep up with demand we all love it so much.  I came across this recipe for Ginger Ale before Christmas and tried it because it's ready to drink in 24 hours, much better than the 4 weeks for ginger beer. It's a very simple recipe, easy to make and bottle and it's surprisingly good too.

It may be simple, but it is also very good, especially icy cold on a really, really hot day (like today). And because it is so simple and easy to make, and can be drunk almost immediately, it's a great stand-by to have while the ginger beer is maturing.

There is a saucepan with ginger, lemon juice, sugar and water simmering on the stove at the moment, I wish you could smell it, the fragrance is so good.  Another 15 minutes or so and I'll take it off to cool and make up. Then, because it's so hot, we'll need to keep and eye on the bottles. I definitely do not want any explosions to clean up.

Remember to use spotlessly clean, sterilised bottles (you don't want to get sick, or worse, make anyone else sick) and equipment when preparing the drink and the freshest ginger possible for the very best result.
Ginger Ale

90g piece of fresh ginger root
1/4 cup lemon juice
3⁄4 cup of sugar
3 litres water
1/8 tsp dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water

1.Peel the ginger. The easiest way to do this is to use a spoon and scrape it over the piece of ginger.
2.Grate the ginger and add to a medium saucepan with the lemon juice, sugar and  1 1/2 litres of water.  3.Bring to a boil then turn the heat down to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 30 - 45 minutes. The longer it simmers the stronger the ginger ale will be.
 4.Remove from heat and strain through a fine mesh strainer or a cheesecloth.
5.Add remaining 1 1/2 litres water. Allow to cool.
5. Let it all cool till it’s lukewarm.
7. Combine 1/8 teaspoon of yeast with 1⁄4 cut warm water and allow to sit for 15 minutes until frothy.
8. Add the yeast solution to your lukewarm ginger brew.
9. Let the brew sit for 10 minutes.
10. Bottle in sterilized plastic screw top bottles.
11.Let the bottles sit at room temperature for 24 hours. Squeeze the bottles to see how the ginger ale is brewing. Once they are hard  to squeeze they are ready to drink. Put them into the refrigerator to chill.

*Use raw sugar for a nice twist.

*Watch the bottles carefully for maturing, especially on very hot days like today. This is a very fizzy drink and it can be inclined to explode if it gets too hot. If you can't fit them all in the fridge after 24 hours, move the bottles to a cool spot until you are ready to refrigerate. I have had bottles go off with a bang, and believe me they make a big mess!

*Make sure your bottles are scrupulously clean. Wash the bottles and tops in hot, soapy water then rinse in hot, clean water and allow to air dry before using them.

*I use 600ml homebrew bottles. You can buy them from Big W or Kmart or homebrew shops and they are re-usable. You can also re-use 1.25 litre or 2 litre soft drink bottles and caps. Just be sure the caps are screwed down really tightly.

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