There was a time when ginger beer bugs were found on many a Formica kitchen bench, merrily blip blipping away. Old fashioned ginger beer bugs are something many of us remember from our childhood, and although you can google recipes for making ginger beer that involve yeast and seem to be ready to drink pretty much immediately, that is not the ginger beer that I remember from mine.
As the saying goes: Good things take time. Ginger beer, as my folks used to make, involved a mysterious "bug" that sat on the kitchen bench and needed to be fed every day. It bubbled away, sending out little lava explosions of ginger now and then that could entertain a bored child for longer than you'd expect.
The liquid was drained off it once a week and mixed with sugar, water and lemon juice, then poured into glass bottles and capped with a cruel-looking clampy thing.
The problem was, that summer under the house, it wasn't quite as cool as you'd think, and one night the ginger beer went off like BOMBS. My sister and I were petrified, and the remaining bottles were "gingerly" removed by Dad. So ended my childhood memories of ginger beer.
Some years ago, my sister and I decided to have a stall together to use the mass of lemons we both had. We were thinking about what to sell when we hit upon the idea of selling the ginger beer recipe with all the ingredients needed to make the cherished drink of our childhood memories. So the Old Fashioned Ginger Beer Bug Kit was born.
We measured our ingredients, downsized the recipe to fit in a preserving jar, and did some trial runs. The taste was a trip down memory lane, and unsurprisingly the debut of this product at the Ngatimoti fair in early 2008 was a runaway success. The Country Trading Co. store was founded later the same year, and the Old Fashioned Ginger Beer Bug was one of the first products.
The rest, as they say, is history, and in the following eight years, we sold thousands of these little jars of nostalgia. We sold that many of them that I often wondered if spice traders in NZ wondered why the demand for ground ginger suddenly spiked.
But all good things come to an end, and eventually, we decided to retire the Ginger Beer Bug. Now the Country Trading Co. Old Fashioned Ginger Beer Bug recipe is yours to enjoy. We had a lot of fun from it, and I hope you will too. While you're here - take a look at our other great products for your plastic free natural kitchen.
Proper Old-fashioned Ginger Beer using a Bug
Heather Cole - Country Trading Co.
The first time you make this recipe you need to build up the strength in your bug so do the first week twice before you start bottling. After the first week you can harvest the ginger concentrate for bottling every week.
Starting a New Bug - 2 Weeks
Day 1. Place 3 raisins in a clean glass jar and add 2 teaspoons of sugar and 2 cups (600 mls / 21 fl oz.) of cold water. Keep a cloth lid on the jar secured with a rubber band and sit it on the bench.
Day 2. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar and 2 teaspoons of ground ginger. Give it a stir.
Day 3. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar. Give it a stir.
Day 4. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar and 2 teaspoons of ground ginger. Give it a stir.
Day 5. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar. Give it a stir.
Day 6. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar and 2 teaspoons of ground ginger. Give it a stir.
Day 7. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar. Give it a stir.
Day 8. Drain off the liquid from the jar and keep the sediment. Throw away the liquid - it is not active enough to brew with yet.
Day 9 - Day 14. Repeat Day 2 - 7
Day 15. You now have an active bug and you can bottle your first batch. Drain of the liquid and don't throw it away this time. See below for instructions on how to bottle it.
Brewing from an Existing Bug - 1 Week
Day 1. After you've strained off your ginger liquid for bottling, remove half the sediment from your jar. If you don't do this, it builds up and you have no room for your liquid. You can start another jar with this sediment or compost it.
Add 2 teaspoons of sugar and 2 cups (600 mls / 21 fl oz.) of cold water to your glass jar and remaining sediment. No need to add more raisins now your bug is active.
Day 2 - 7 - Follow the Day 2 - 7 instructions above. No need to stir it now.
Bottling your Ginger Beer
Add 2 cups of sugar to a large clean pot that will hold 4 litres (4 quarts) of liquid.
Add 2 cups of boiling water and stir till sugar is dissolved.
Add 12 cups of cold water (3.4 ltrs - 3.6 qts) and stir.
Add the strained juice of 2 lemons and stir.
Add the ginger beer liquid reserved from the bug and stir.
Wash three 1.5 ltr (1.5 qt) soft drink bottles and lids in really hot water and put 3 raisins in each bottle.
Fill each bottle, leaving 3 - 5 cm (1-2") gap at the top. Don't worry if you've got a bit more room in the last bottle, it will still work. Screw the lids on and put in a warm place for a week.
Give the bottles a squeeze after a week. If they're hard it means your ginger beer is fermenting. Put them in the fridge to stop any more pressure building up and drink them.
- The first couple of batches might not be super fizzy as your bug builds up strength. Keep brewing.
- No need to wash your jar each week, just remove some sediment so it doesn't build up and add fresh water.
- Always make sure all your utensils are super clean so you don't introduce any unwanted bacteria into the jar. This is one of the reasons we don't stir it once its established.
- If you want to take a break from brewing ginger beer, put a storage lid on your ginger beer plant and put it in the fridge.
- Bottled ginger beer will last in the fridge for at least a month. The lemon juice is a good preservative.
- If you want to brew a lower calorie ginger beer you can reduce the sugar when you bottle it. You may not get as much fizz.