Tag Archives: fermentation

Homemade Ginger Beer

beautiful gingerale

The first recipe I tried from my friend Emma’s book True Brews was her ginger ale.

You don’t have to buy her book to try this recipe because she’s posted it on The Kitchn for you: Soda Recipe: Homemade Ginger Ale

But I totally recommend you buy her book because it’s worth the shelf space it takes.  I promise!

ginger beerI followed her recipe roughly but was really lazy and sort of ad-libbed a number of things.  It still turned out fantastic!  First of all, I doubled (maybe even tripled) the amount of ginger.  I used less sugar and a lot less lemon.  Normally I take notes when I’m making things like this and I wish I had since the result was so amazing.  However, my friend Sharon made ginger ale using Emma’s recipe too and hers, though different, was also really good.  I love a recipe that works well with all kinds of variations.

I used a dry champagne yeast for my batch.  A number of things almost went wrong.  I peeled my ginger and then let it sit in the fridge for a week.  I didn’t do on purpose.  I just kept not making the soda.  Just before I lost my window of opportunity I pulverized it in my food processor and cooked it.  You know, to kill any mold that might be setting up secret house in my ginger.  But then I left it on the stove for two days.

yeast in actionSo I had to boil it again.  It hadn’t gone bad and had the sugar already added to it which is a preservative, but I’m sure some of my friends would be scared of it at this point.  Not me.  Ultimately, if I’d left it out long enough it would have started fermenting rather than molding.  I mean, fermenting IS a form of controlled rot.  I finally realized that I was being a very bad urban homesteader and finally filled my bottles with my ginger/sugar/lemon/water mix.  And added the yeast.  Fermentation should be complete between 24 and 48 hours depending on amount of sugar and warmth of the space it’s fermenting in.  Guess how long I left it out to do it’s thing?

gingerale frothingYeah, at least 3 days.  Maybe 4.  I opened the bottles and heard a satisfying HISS of pressure being released and smelled the slightest bit of alcoholic fermentation going on.  For soda the ideal is ferment only just until the carbonation is complete, not so that the soda starts turning into alcohol.  Which it will do.  I figured I’d failed.  I put it in the fridge anyway.  I didn’t have the guts to try it for several days because I didn’t want to confirm that I’d messed it up.  So what a lovely surprise when I finally poured myself a taste.  Damn!  So refreshing!  It was super spicy, as I’d intended, and not too sweet, with just the smallest hint of lemon.  Everyone who’s had a taste of my first batch absolutely loved it.  LOVED IT.  It’s total magic.  So easy.  Accommodating to lazy-asses like myself.  If you really do it right you can have tons of ginger ale in two days.  I call mine ginger beer because of the big spicy bite in every sip and the lower sugar amount.  I want to try this with lime next.

Oh yeah, and please buy my book if you haven’t already!

Farm to Fermentation Festival

Emma demo

Emma Christensen giving a soda making demonstration.

I am so behind on posting what I’ve been up to I hope you will forgive me for backtracking.  In August Philip and I went to the Farm to Fermentation Festival here in Santa Rosa where my good friend Emma was giving a talk on how to brew your own soda.

Emma and friendEmma with a friend.

Emma serving samplesEmma giving samples of her ginger ale, watermelon mint and strawberry soda.

Emma soda samplesYou should have been there to taste them!

serving samplesEmma’s book is a great resource for people like me who are new to brewing.  Her recipes are solid and her directions are clear.  If you want to buy her book you can click on this button:

Emma and Kefir guyEmma with the kefir dude.  There were samples of non-dairy kefir drinks and I really liked one of them but the beet one was a little weird and the chocolate-ish one was awful.  The ginger and honey one was really delicious.

philip tasting kefirPhilip tasting kefir drinks.

fermented goods

Naturally fermented pickles.  The pickled green tomatoes weren’t very good but the cucumber pickle was good.

pickling displayI can never resist taking pictures of produce.

colorful potteryI covet the pickling crocks in all the pretty colors.  They’re out of my price range (most pickle crocks are) but when I have some money this is what I will probably splurge on.

cider applesCider apples.

great ciderThe cider guy.  We lurked in this booth a long time.  The cider is really good and Philip has always been interested in making some cider.

tilted shed ciderThis is the one I really liked.

sour beerSour beer.  I don’t really like sour beer.  I think it’s the kind of thing that could grow on me if I let it.  Not literally grow on me, because that would be really gross, but if I drank it enough I might develop a taste for it.  But as with eating cheese rinds, I don’t see any reason to suffer through unpleasantness in the hopes that eventually I will like it.

Philip and the meaderyI hate mead.  HATE IT.  Philip, however, likes it and enjoys brewing it.  So it was cool that there was mead being represented at the festival.  I’m attracted to mead from a historical standpoint.  It would be  cool to stand around drinking mead from goblets while chewing on the leg of a pig or something.

The fermentation festival definitely got me excited to try some new fermentation projects.  Spending the geeking out over crocks and pickles and beer with friends was so much fun.

Fermentation Fail: witness my moldy pickle

It was time to check up on my fermenting pickles.  The cloudy water was not encouraging.  When I opened up the jars the smell was: garlicky dill with a hint of food-gone-bad.  It almost smelled right but really didn’t.  I suppose that they might be safe to eat when you consider that people have been burying fish to rot them for eating joy for hundreds of years.

But I am not a person who buries things until they’re rotted just-so.  My dog does this.  There is nothing finer to her than to bury a bit of rawhide in a good rainy spot, let it acquire a strong odor of dead body, and then dig up the blackened delicacy to eat at my feet.

I don’t know what I did wrong.  The cauliflower I fermented two years ago never went bad.  I had it in the cupboard for months before we finished it off.  I was completely confident in it and we enjoyed eating it.  I followed essentially the same process.  An acquaintance of mine has suggested they got too warm.  This is a very real possibility as September and part of October was pretty hot and there isn’t a truly cool spot in the house to store pickles.

I’m disappointed, obviously.  Such a waste of pickling cucumbers.  But as with all skills – there is a learning curve and some failures are expected.  My olives seem to be doing alright still and I can start a new fermentation project using winter vegetables like cauliflower, carrots, and possibly some greens.  My friend Cam suggested fermenting mustard greens like her mom did when she was growing up.  She says she’ll see if she can get the recipe for me.

On the bright side of the food preserving front – last night I didn’t want to make dinner.  I was too tired.  But hungry.  So I pulled a jar of my tomato sauce from the pantry and whipped up a super easy and quick marinara sauce and had spaghetti with roasted cauliflower and it was so good!  This is why I do all the canning work I do.

Have any fermenting tales to share?  I want to hear them!