How to Grow Your Own Ginger Beer Plant
The true Ginger Beer Plant dates back to around the 1700's and is not actually a plant at all, instead it is a living organism, best described by a man called Harry Marshall Ward as being "a composite organism consisting of a fungus, the yeast Saccharomyces florentinus (formerly Saccharomyces pyriformis) and the bacterium Lactobacillus hilgardii (formerly Brevibacterium vermiforme)." This organism forms a gelatinous cluster which moves about within its jar naturally, and used correctly can allow you to make a lifetime's supply of authentic, naturally fizzy alcoholic Ginger Beer that used to be commonplace in most UK households.
There are many recipes on the Internet for the so called 'Ginger Beer Plant', but most of these call for the use of brewers yeast, which therefore results in fermentation, but NOT an authentic Ginger Beer Plant. Traditionally at the end of each batch of Ginger Beer the 'plant' would be halved, and the second half given away to friends, family or neighbours in order for them to start their own Ginger Beer Plant, whilst the remaining half would be used to make the next batch of Ginger Beer. These days it is incredibly difficult to get hold of an authentic Ginger Beer Plant, and it is widely assumed that this is because it virtually died out during the rationing in World War II. It is not impossible however, and there are suppliers on the Internet selling the authentic plant, although you need to be sure this is what you are buying as there is no legislation governing the description of the Ginger Beer Plant. As I understand it there are some reliable links on Wikipedia which lead to authentic Ginger Beer Plant suppliers.
How to Make Your Own Ginger Beer Plant
Using this method you will see there is no brewers yeast added to the recipe, the fermentation happens naturally within the jar once the ginger root and sugar are left together for a week or so and the 'Saccharomyces florentinus' yeast is naturally produced.
Producing a Ginger Beer Plant naturally is very difficult and it is highly possible you may not achieve success at all. In all honesty you are probably better off buying a 'ready made' Ginger Beer Plant from a source such the ones I list in the links article at the end of this hub.
Dice a tablespoon of fresh ginger root into small cubes and place this into a sterilised jam jar three quarters full of dechlorinated or mineral water.
Add two teaspoons of white sugar.
Cover the top of the jar with some muslin to allow air flow but protect from debris or insects falling into the jar.
Leave the jar in an exposed place at room temperature, e.g. a kitchen shelf.
Every day for about a week add two teaspoons of sugar and two teaspoons of fresh diced ginger root.
If after one week the mixture is frothy with a pleasant odour it is ready to use. If it is mouldy discard it and start at the beginning again.
An Alternative Recipe Using Dried Yeast (Not a True Ginger Beer Plant)
Ingredients for the 'fake' ginger beer plant:
- Half a teaspoon of dried yeast
- 1 teaspoon of ground or fresh grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup warm water
Making the 'fake' ginger beer plant:
Mix ingredients in a jar and cover with a piece of muslin. Secure with a rubber band. For the following week, add 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of ground or fresh grated ginger daily.
Assuming you manage to either make yourself, or to find, an authentic supplier of Ginger Beer Plant you then have the ability to make some delicious, naturally fizzy ginger beer of your own in under a week. The only additional ingredients you will need are sugar, lemon juice, fresh or ground ginger and a couple of litres of chlorine free water, (either use bottled mineral water or leave tap water overnight to allow the chlorine to evaporate naturally).
Fermentation vessel capable of handling more than 2 litres of water (could be a bowl or proper beer fermentation barrel).
2 litre plastic bottle
Everyday kitchen equipment like a teaspoon, scales, fine grater etc
Saucepan if using fresh ginger
2 litres of chlorine free water
400g of sugar
Either a dessert spoon of ginger powder or a two inch piece of fresh ginger
Ginger Beer Plant
Next sterilise all of your equipment thoroughly. This is where sterilising powder can come in useful, or you could wash your equipment and then place in an oven at 100 degrees plus for 20 minutes.
Remember sterilising doesn't clean, it just kills. If you've visible dirt inside your fermentation vessel it will still contain bacteria.
Washing up liquid and hot water works just as well - this stuff takes less than a week to make and you'll be transferring it after two days anyway.
If using fresh ginger root you will need to scald it before using. The reason for scalding is to kill any bacteria. Wash the ginger root and then drop it into a saucepan of boiling water for a minute or so.
Remove the ginger root carefully and then grate it.
Add water to the fermenting vessel.
Juice the lemon, you can also grate a bit of the zest into the grated ginger. Put a teaspoon or two into the water.
Add the ginger and lemon zest into a square of muslin cloth. Pull the sides together and secure the corners into a bundle with your elastic band.
Add the sugar to the water and stir in.
Now comes the time to add your Ginger Beer Plant to the mixture along with the grated ginger muslin parcel.
Seal the contents of the fermentation vessel with a lid and assuming this is now airtight add an airlock to allow air to escape. Failure to do this can result in the container exploding as the pressure inside it builds up, if you are using a jar or bowl you can simply cover the top of it with either muslin or a tea towel and secure with an elastic band. You should always leave a third of the jar or bowl empty to allow for expansion.
Wait two or three days to allow the fermentation process to work.
Place a funnel inside the neck of a clean empty plastic soft drink bottle. Line it with a double thickness of muslin.
Carefully pour your fermented Ginger Beer through the muslin in the bottle. Fill to about two inches short of the top.
The gelatinous substance that remains in the muslin is your Ginger Beer Plant and should now be returned to its jar in a warm place, two thirds filled with dechlorinated water and fed daily with a teaspoon of sugar and half a teaspoon of ginger. Keep the level of dechlorinated water topped up until you use your Ginger Beer Plant next. Keep a lid on the jar (or a piece of muslin secured with an elastic band), but don't tighten it completely or your jar will explode, air has to be able to escape. As your plant gets bigger you will need to halve it and either some it to a friend so they can start their own plant, or discard it.
Squeeze all the air out of the bottle so the Ginger Beer reaches the top of the bottle then screw on the lid.
Leave the bottle at a comfortable room temperature for a few days, or until the bottle is hard and has expanded due to the natural production of Carbon Dioxide within it.
Carefully open the bottle and let the pressure escape.
At this point you have two choices, you can repeat the process of squeezing the air out of the bottle and sealing it again in order to make the Ginger Beer more dry, or you can simply place the bottle in the fridge and drink when cold.
Alternative Ginger Beer Recipe
Ginger—fresh root ginger (a couple of large thumb sized chunky pieces) or you can use around half a teaspoon of powdered ginger instead
Around a litre of dechlorinated or mineral water
100g sugar ideally unrefined
Juice of half a lemon
Ginger Beer Plant
Optional: pinch of cayenne chilli powder or juice a little fresh chilli in the same way that you juiced your ginger. Please wash your hands very carefully after juicing chilli!
- If you’re using fresh root ginger then start by preparing this - if using a juicer, peel and juice the ginger. If using a blender, blend the peeled, chopped ginger with a little filtered water until it is a pulpy consistency. If using a grater, grate the peeled ginger to get it to a pulp. Now squeeze this pulp to extract the juice to use in your ginger beer. This can be extracted by pressing the pulp through a muslin cloth. For a stronger flavour you can wrap the squeezed pulp in a muslin square and secure it so it can be added to the jar. Again, experiment to find the flavour you like best. If you don’t want the ginger pulp in your brew, just stick it on your compost heap or in your food recycling bin if you have one.
- Add the water to the jar containing your Ginger Beer Plant.
- Then add the ginger juice (or powdered ginger), sugar and lemon juice (and chilli if using) to the jar.
- You need to have about a third empty at the top of the jar to allow for expansion.
- You can then place a muslin or tea towel over the top of the jar and secure it with an elastic band.
- Now leave it for a few days, tasting it every so often. When it starts to develop a nice flavour but still has a sweet taste, then it’s ready to bottle.
Homemade Ginger Beer makes an excellent Christmas gift and has the advantage that it can be made very quickly. Another great gift is the actual Ginger Beer Plant itself, either as a portion of your own plant, or purchased from a reliable online supplier of the authentic Ginger Beer Plant. For an unusual gift that keeps on giving, why not buy a Ginger Beer Plant for your loved one today.