Did you ever think about why ginger ale is called what it is? After all, if you taste a piece of ginger, it doesn’t remind you of ginger ale, does it? Nor does a swig of ginger ale make you think of something like ginger chicken, right? Well, we can’t say what they put in commercial versions of ginger ale; if we had to guess, we’d lean towards ingredients made from petrochemicals. But, we happen to know it’s possible to make your own ginger ale right at home. And, guess what, no petrochemicals, but it does have ginger in it.
As it turns out, it takes only 5 ingredients — and one of them is water. Sound easy? Well it is. Let’s scratch some up, shall we? Even if you don’t like soda all that much, this is a pretty cool recipe to make, and we think kids would really like helping.
Plain old granulated sugar is perfect, just like they used to use in soda years ago. For the yeast, it’s just the kind of instant yeast that you’d use for bread. Nothing more. For the lemon, go with fresh-squeezed, because it tastes better. Today, ginger is available at every grocery; pick a piece that’s firm and not blemished. For water, just use tap water. That’s what your local soda bottler does (albeit filtered).
Procedure in detail:
Funnel sugar and yeast. Place a funnel in the neck of a clean 2-liter plastic bottle and pour in the sugar and the instant yeast. Make sure you have the cap so you can seal the bottle. We really suggest using a plastic bottle as there is a (slight) chance that the bottle might explode. Very slight. Unless you forget about it.
Mince ginger. Peel the ginger. We’ve read that a spoon works well for this, but we just trim off the skin using a chef’s knife. If we lose a bit of ginger, that’s how it goes. Once peeled, slice the ginger very thinly, then mince into very small pieces. You could also grate the ginger on a ginger grater. Add the ginger to the bottle. It might get stuck in the funnel, but just use a skewer to poke it through.
Juice lemon. Slice the lemon in half, and squeeze out the juice. Most likely it’ll have seeds, so you’ll either want to pick those out or strain the juice. We strained. Add the lemon juice to the bottle.
Add water. Fill the bottle with water, leaving a bit of space so you can shake up everything. Don’t use hot water or you’ll kill the yeast and your ginger ale will start out flat.
Cap and shake. Place the cap on tightly and give the bottle a good shaking to mix everything up and get the sugar and yeast dissolved.
Let stand. Place the ginger ale someplace where it won’t make a mess — just in case the bottle splits — and let it stand for 24 hours. We placed ours in the bathtub, wrapped in an old towel. During this time, the yeast will be consuming the sugar and releasing carbon dioxide (which makes the fizz). When you get close to the end of the 24-hour time period, give the bottle a squeeze. If it’s firm, like a new bottle of soda, it’s ready.
Refrigerate. Place the bottle in the refrigerator. The cold will stop the yeast, so the danger of the bottle bursting is pretty much over. Once the soda is nice and cold, pour yourself a glass and enjoy. Note: unless you strain the soda, you’ll probably end up with a few bits of ginger in your drink.
The only thing we don’t like about this soda is that we have to strain out those pesky bits of ginger floating around. But, even left in, they aren’t that bad. It shows that you made the soda from natural ingredients. We will say that fresh ginger ale tastes a lot different from the store stuff. In fact, neither of us really like store ginger ale — too chemically-tasting — but we like this. We’ll say 4 stars.