Sunday, April 19, 2015

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #22: Sweet Sips & Potent Potables

The Challenge:
Whether it’s hard or soft, we all enjoy a refreshing beverage! Pick a historic beverage to recreate - remember to sip responsibly!

     As the sun warms the earth and the world is awash in color, my thoughts turn toward the beverages that refresh our summers. I just had to bring out a favorite, ginger beer.

Ginger Beer:
From: Directions for Cookery, In It's Various Branches by Eliza Leslie, 1840, page 391.

 --Break up a pound and a half of loaf-sugar, and mix with it three ounces of strong white ginger, and the grated peel of two lemons. Put these ingredients into a large stone jar, and pour over them two gallons of boiling water. When it becomes milk-warm strain it, and add the juice of the lemons and two large table-spoonfuls of strong yeast. Make this beer in the evening and let it stand all night. Next morning bottle it in little half pint stone bottles, tying down the corks with twine.

The Date/Year and Region: 
1837-1865, Mid Atlantic

How Did You Make It:
I halved the recipe. It now reads:
0.75 pound of sugar (or about 1.75 cups)
1.5 oz. ginger
1 gallon water
1 lemon, grated peel and juice
1 large tablespoon of yeast (one packet proofed in .25 cup water at 110*)

Prepare the grated items, peeled ginger and lemon peel.

Bring water to a rolling boil.

Add sugar, grated ginger, and grated lemon peel to a large bowl.
Pour on the boiling water and set aside to cool.

Squeeze and strain the lemon juice.
Prepare your ginger beer fermenting bottle. (I'd recommend a plastic bottle for the fermenting process, then a stone bottle for period aesthetics. Ask me how I learned this valuable lesson.)

Once the mixture has cooled sufficiently, proof your yeast.

Strain the grated bits from your mixture.

Add your lemon juice to the strained mixture.
Add the proofed yeast to your fermenting bottle.
Add the mixture to your fermenting bottle.
Set the fermenting bottle aside to cool thoroughly.

Cap the fermenting bottle lightly and place in a shady place overnight.
The next day, it should have a fizz... that is from the fermentation process and means it has a slight alcohol content.
Decant your ginger beer into ginger beer bottles and enjoy!
Store in the fridge from this point to stop the fermentation process. Your ginger beer is good for about two weeks.

Time to Complete: 
Active: about one hour, Inactive: overnight

Total Cost: 

How Successful Was It: 
Definitely a fresh burst of sunny flavor. Hello, Spring!

How Accurate Was It: 
The biggest inaccuracy was the use of powdered yeast. Others include a plastic fermenting bottle and modern kitchen equipment.

Absolutely No Alcohol Version:
Proceed through the steeping to the point "Strain your mixture."
Add the lemon juice to the mixture.
Decant into your stone bottles.
For fizz when you drink, add several spoonfuls of mix from your bottle to carbonated water.

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