The following is an excerpt from "How to Make Your Own Drinks" by Susy Atkins (Mitchell Beazley/Octopus, 2011). The excerpt is from the chapter titled "Honey and ginger drinks."
Makes just over 2 quarts; keeps for 7 days in the refrigerator
Some home-brewers swear by a ginger “plant”—a concentrate made with sugar, ground ginger, and yeast, which can be divided and used again and again—but I rarely bother with the rest of the “plant” after making just one batch of beer. This quick and easy recipe, using fresh ginger, does away with all that malarkey and makes a tasty ginger brew in two or three days. A word to the wise (and parents): this is, of course, mildly alcoholic. And please note all the cautions about exploding bottles.
1½ tbsp fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
7 oz (1 scant cup) granulated sugar
½ tsp cream of tartar
2 quarts cold water
½ tsp fast-action baker’s yeast
1. Put the grated ginger, sugar, cream of tartar and 1 pint of the cold water in a large saucepan. Bring it to a boil.
2. Cut the lemon in half, squeeze the juice of both halves into the pan, then add in one-half to boil, discarding the other (the lemon flavor is too strong with both).
3. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
4. Add the remaining 1½ quarts of the cold water and let the liquid cool until it reaches room temperature.
5. Sprinkle on the yeast, stir it in, then leave the mixture for several hours covered well with a clean dishcloth.
6. Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve or strainer, pressing down the ginger pieces in to extract any last bit of flavor.
7. Using a funnel or thin-lipped jug, pour into two 1-quart sterilized, plastic soft-drink bottles, leaving a little room at the top for the carbon dioxide to take up room. Make sure the last, yeasty-thick drops of the liquid are divided between the 2 bottles.
8. Seal and store in a cool, dark place for 2-3 days, loosening and resealing the tops from time to time to release the pressure of the gas. The ginger beer should be ready after 3 days.
9. Open with extreme caution at all times: the beer will be under pressure from the fermentation process, especially in hot weather. Never point a bottle at someone’s face (including your own).
• Never use glass bottles while ginger beer is fermenting, just in case they shatter. Once fermentation has died right down (after several days), you can decant to a prettier flip-top bottle if you like, but continue to treat with caution.
• Use your ginger beer as a mixer with spirits and with elderflower cordial, or simply add some bruised mint leaves and loads of ice.
• Cold ginger beer is incredibly refreshing on a hot day, and washes down mildly spicy seafood, such as stir-fried shrimp perfectly. Try it with quiches, too.
• You can also make a hedonistic ginger liqueur by mixing grated fresh ginger with vodka. Leave the mixture to steep for 5-6 days, strain into bottles and then, for each 1½ pints of vodka, add a solution made from 1 cup of water and ½ cup of sugar, shake and serve. Delicious!