TRAXCOOKX or should it be TRAXBREWZ?
Grandma Gray’s ‘Back Country’ Ginger Beer
The Ginger Beer that my grandmother used to make when I was very young. Grandma’s ginger beer was a prized item. Gran had a reputation for making a potent and explosive brew which she would make along with another old bush drink called ‘Horehound’. She would go into the laundry, lock the door and make it there. It was only when she was very old (in her late ‘80’s) that she ever shared her recipe. When the stuff was made up, we had to be careful not to shake the bottles. The ones sealed with ‘Crown’ seals were reasonably safe, but the corked ones would ‘pop’ and propel the cork for many metres. A few shakes were all that was needed to propel the cork.
Grandma Gray is no longer with us, she died in 1965 at the age of 93 and we have tried to make a collection of her best bush recipes. Her Ginger Beer recipe is featured in this issue. It is one that I have used to make but have not done so for many years. Be warned, it’s best not to keep it for more than a few weeks before drinking. The pressure has been known to burst the bottles and on one occasion one of my bottles of brew nearly killed my sister-in-law (thankfully still alive and living in Bundanoon and can testify to her fortunate escape!)
Please note that Ginger beer is not considered an alcoholic brew so it can be shared by the family as an enjoyable drink. It is, like most drinks, enhanced if it is kept cold. Bur CAUTION!!! Open it very slowly. The older it is, (i.e. more than 4 weeks), the slower it should be opened or you may think that you have just opened a foam fire extinguisher! The ultimate problem is that because it contains so much sugar then if you don’t follow the above advice, then the foam, can cause either discolouration of the paint on your kitchen or dining room walls, or worse still it will begin to grow excellent mould on them. (That may be great if you are intending to produce Penicillin, but not if you have to repaint the dining or living room walls. Be warned!!!)
The Ginger beer ‘plant’.
(Not a plant like in the garden but a ‘brew’ that becomes the base syrup for your Ginger beer production.)
- 2 cups of slightly warm water * 8 -10 sultanas, (raisins will do almost as well), just make sure that they are not too dried up. * 2 teaspoons ground ginger – (You can buy this from one of the supermarkets or any ‘health food’ store.). * 2 tablespoons sugar (White or Raw.) * Juice and zest of one lemon. * Combine all these together, and place the mixture in a screw top jar and leave in the kitchen near the sink (so you won’t forget to feed it, for 7 days.
Feed the plant 2 teaspoons ground ginger and 1 tablespoon white sugar each day for the next seven days. The brew may create some bubbles on the top.
To make the Ginger Beer.
- In a very large bowl or saucepan mix 3 cups sugar with 5 cups (about 1 quart or 1. 3 litres of boiling water. Stir until everything is dissolved.
- Strain the ginger plant through cheesecloth or similar (My grandma used pieces of old shirts or bed sheets cut up). Gently squeeze (not too hard) to get all the juice out of the plant. Add this juice to the sugar mix and discard half of the remaining solids in the cloth. (Keep the other half – see ?below.)
- Add the juice of 3 lemons and about (8 litres) clean water. Bottle in really clean bottles with screw top lids (Grandma sometimes used corks – less dangerous, as they will ‘pop’ out if the pressure gets too high!) Alternatively, you can use ‘crown’ seals (the name of the lids on older drink bottles. The sealing device and tops can still be obtained from hardware stores – especially country ones.) Allow at least 5cm space in the top of each bottle for expansion. Wait at least 5 days before drinking. Store and open carefully! To vary the flavour, you can reduce the amount of lemon juice and add Pineapple juice. (As well as – not in place of the lemon juice
***Use the remaining half of the ‘plant’ mixture as a base to start the new mix. When making the new and subsequent mixes you will only need 1 cup of water into which put the saved remains from the last batch and then each day add the ground Ginger and sugar as listed above.
Enjoy! – Neil Flower
Thanks to ‘Jo’ of Westprint maps for stirring my memories of this recipe with a similar one that was published in the Westprint Friday Five weekly enewsletter.