The Oven has baked its last loaf. This blog is no longer being updated.

My cooking videos appear at

I write on food at

Live Ade

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
This ginger beer is from Nigel Slater's Classic Ginger Beer recipe which appeared in The Observer. I didn't think you could make fizzy drinks from scratch at home, and was pleasantly surprised to see the bubbles. It happened a couple of days after it was brewed and the source of the effervescence is yeast, an ingredient I never thought would be used in making ginger beer.

What I didn't reckon on was the alcoholic content in this homemade brew!

But of course! I make bread, I should have realised that yeast reacts with sugar and creates carbon dioxide and alcohol. No wonder I felt woozy after gulping down a whole glass, expecting it to be just like any other refreshing fruitade.

It's not potently alcoholic, but for someone who hardly imbibes, it went straight to my head.

In Toast, Nigel Slater talks about waiting for the man who sells pop and that his second favourite drink is cream soda. I can't remember if he mentions ginger beer in his memoir, but if cream soda is like drinking a sponge cake, as he says, this ginger beer is like drinking Asia ­­– ginger, lemongrass, cloves...

This recipe does not involve toil and trouble or burning fires under cauldrons: Place lemons, fresh ginger, cloves, cream of tartar and sugar in a large bowl; pour in boiling water. Wait till the mixture cools down enough to add the dried yeast. Leave overnight before straining and bottling. Allow to mature for two or three days.

Mr Slater suggests the option of adding lemongrass, which I did. That gave it an extra level of tang. He didn't say to squeeze the lemons before straining, but I did that too. The result was a lemony flavour together with the ginger and lemongrass. I won't do that next time ­­– the taste of ginger should dominate.

One addition that I think is necessary is salt. Pour yourself a glass of ginger beer and add a pinch of salt to it ­­– it's subtle but I think you will be able to appreciate the difference in taste. There are people who like to add a pinch of salt to their Coke, swearing that this makes the drink fizzier. I just think salt, even a small amount, makes anything taste good. My mother doesn't call me Salty Mama for nothing.

1 comment:

  1. A few years ago, my husband started an experiment to make homemade soda using active dry yeast, and it was commendable, but awful. More recently, he found mention in a magazine called Indian Country Today of how fermented blueberries help lower blood sugars and other good things, so we found a recipe online for fermented blueberry soda. We followed this recipe, though we halved the quantities, then let it ferment for a full 7 days before bottling. The next day, we refrigerated our 5 or 6 bottles. The first one opened had a vaguely vinegary taste, but we drank it anyhow because this was an experiment in medicinal food, and besides, fancy fruity vinegars are high dollar, so we definitely weren't going to throw away all this effort.

    The subsequent bottles opened in the next days were mellower, and the flavor (and color) of blueberry was very appealing--best enjoyed in a kind of smoothy with a little yogurt, and a little fresh fruit besides. Fizzy and very enlivening!

    We will likely make it again, and might ask my diabetic father-in-law to try our last bottle.

    I recommend trying such a fermented soda, Jane, maybe with a fruit that is easy to come by in Malaysia. Wild yeasts, I am learning, are really fun to cook with, and so easy!


Your views are welcome and appreciated. Have a nice day!