Ginger beer , you either love it or hate it. It’s impossible to be indifferent about this feisty, fiery beverage, and most South Africans generally have at least one relative who claims to have the best ginger beer recipe in the world. But where did ginger beer come from? Why is it non-alcoholic? How long have we been drinking ginger beer? Why is it such a South African thing? You’ve got questions and we’ve got answers- hopefully working up a thirst that should have you asking how to make ginger beer, next.
How would you explain ginger beer to someone who has never tried it?
First of all, ginger beer and ginger ale are not the same thing. In case things weren’t confusing enough, ginger beer doesn’t actually contain any beer, nor are the two beverages brewed in a similar fashion. That’s right! If you’ve been avoiding ginger beer because you thought it was alcoholic, you’re in for a treat.
Now that we’ve established what ginger beer is not, how would we describe what it is? Ginger beer is a bubbly, sometimes fizzy fermented drink that has a powerful ginger flavour and a spicy afterburn. Ginger beer has been traced back to England in the mid-1700s – a beverage concocted from sugar, ginger and water along with a starter culture commonly called the ginger beer plant – which is probably where the drink derives its name, not from the fact that it actually contains any beer.
Let’s take a side break to talk about the star of the show: ginger.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is one of the world’s most popular and widely used spices, and has been a sought after commodity as long as humans have engaged in spice trade. Its distinctive aroma and pungent taste is used in the flavouring of both savoury and sweet dishes and has long been used as a medicinal botanical in the treatment of fever, nausea, pain and stomach ailments.
It is unclear exactly where in the world ginger originated, but it is speculated that it originated from Southeast Asia. It makes sense that somewhere like modern Indonesia’s Maluku Islands — which was historically referred to as “Spice Islands” — is the idyllic botanical environment where wild ginger made its first appearance. All it took was for humans to develop an appreciation for its flavour and they soon learned how to cultivate, harvest and store ginger. This lead to the plant’s spread throughout China, India, and neighbouring countries.
Nothing beats homemade ginger beer.
You won’t need any fancy equipment to do it – making your own ginger beer at home isn’t that complicated, but you will need a little bit of patience to achieve the results you’re after. Here are two of our favourite recipes – one traditional and one with a twist – we hope you enjoy them!
So, how to make ginger beer – Pro edition.
Vuyi Qubeka’s recipe on ginger beer that appeared on the Getaway Magazine blog:
- 2 litres water
- 2 tbsp Robertson’s ginger powder
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 tsp cream of tartar
- Handful of raisins
- Skin of a pineapple
- 1 tsp of yeast
- Melt the sugar with a little water.
- Simmer the ginger, raisins and the rest of the ingredients (except the yeast) for 20 minutes on a low heat.
- Allow the pot to cool for an hour or two, then add the yeast.
- Leave to stand for 10 to 12 hours.
- Taste the mixture and once you are satisfied, pour the ginger into a bottle through a sieve.
- Serve well chilled.
This pineapple ginger beer recipe that appeared in Woolies’ Taste looks superbly fiery, just like its creator, Siba!
- 200g white sugar
- 8 cups water
- 2–3 tsp ground ginger
- 75g fresh ginger, grated
- ¼ tsp tartaric acid
- ½ tsp cream of tartar
- 2 fresh pineapples, peeled and diced
- ½ lemon juiced (optional)
- Heat the sugar and 1⁄2 cup water in a saucepan, stirring continuously until the sugar has dissolved without coming to a boil.
- Add ginger, tartaric acid and cream of tartar and bring to a simmer.
- Simmer for 5–10 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened and is slightly golden in colour.
- Mix the syrup with the remaining water and transfer to a 2 litre plastic bottle and add pineapple.
- Place in a warm place for two days, opening the bottle every 12 hours to allow the gas to escape.
- Strain, chill and add the lemon juice.
- Serve with fresh pineapple slices and crushed ice.
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