It is remarkable how my diet changes with the seasons. The things I am interested in eating, the amount of food and even the preparation. We had a few days of warm weather last month and I instantly adopted a summer palate. I was interested in salads and simple meals. I also wanted bright, refreshing things to drink.
At a recent dinner at Longman & Eagle I had a whiskey drink with ginger beer that was pretty outstanding and got me wondering about ginger beer. I’ve heard it used to describe a variety of beverages, some containing alcohol, some not, some carbonated, some not. A little internet research seems to confirm that the term is applied to a range of liquids and the only common component is, well, ginger. I was interested in a non-alcoholic version that I could use as a mixer with soda or something a little stronger and decided to give making my own ginger beer a go.
You’ll need a lot of ginger. Two and a half pounds of it, to be precise. I was worried that I wouldn’t even be able to find that much ginger in one place, but by some amazing stroke of luck I came across this gorgeous piece of ginger that fit the bill. The ginger, some sugar and some lime juice make their way into a pitcher and chill in the fridge.
Man, this is some strong ginger beer. I couldn’t tolerate it on its own but I really loved it with soda and lots of ice. It mellowed out and was exactly the type of refresher I was looking for. It also plays very well in cocktails, so if you’ve been craving a Dark & Stormy, this is for you. Santé!
Jamaican Ginger Beer (from jam it, pickle it, cure it by Karen Solomon)
- 2 1/2 pounds fresh ginger, roughly peeled
- 4 cups water, divided
- 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (from 8 to 10 limes)
- 2 1/2 to 3 cups of sugar
In a blender or food processor, liquefy the ginger and 2 cups of the water for 3 minutes, then strain the juice into a large bowl or pitcher. Transfer the ginger pulp back to to the blender or food processor, add another cup of the water, and liquefy again. Strain again, adding the liquid to the first batch. Again transfer the pulp along with another cup of water, liquefy again, and add to the liquid. Press on the solids as much as possible to squeeze out as much of the juice as you can.
Once the ginger has given up all that it’s got, discard the mashed solids. Add the lime juice and 2 1/2 cups of the sugar. Mix well and taste. Add more sugar, a little at a time, until it reaches your preferred sweetness.
Refrigerate up to 3 weeks. Shake before serving.
Makes about 8 cups.