It started in high school, when one of the adult youth workers started saying, “Let’s all go out for lashings of ginger beer!” Why did he say it? I don’t know. It was the same guy who would stick his finger in your mouth while you were yawning. He was unpredictable.
Anyway, “lashings of ginger beer” became something of a catch phrase, so when, on a youth function, we stopped at a convenience store that sold ginger beer, it was a foregone conclusion that I would get some and drink it. For those of you who aren’t familiar with ginger beer, it is a non-alcoholic drink originally made from fermented ginger, akin to ginger ale, only spicier. In recent years, ginger beer is produced in the same fashion as most other soft drinks, but the best commercially available ginger beers are still made naturally and contain visible amounts of crushed ginger.
But what is a “lashing”? According to tfd.com, “lashing” has British origins in “lash” or “lavish”, thus it means to have in abundance.
Back to the ginger beer. That first ginger beer that I drank on the youth event was made in the Jamaican style and it tasted how anti-flea dog shampoo smells. It was an experience, a throat-burning, eyes-watering experience. It wasn’t bad, per se. But it was different. And I kind of liked it.
Since that first time, I discovered that there are all kinds of different ginger beers. Stewart’s, better known for their root beers and cream sodas makes a version. Ginger People have one, and it’s pretty good. And then I discovered the Australian style which is a bit tamer and Bundaberg Ginger Beer became my favorite.
But now I am tempted to make some of my own. I happened across a recipe in an old issue of Cruising World (don’t ask me why I had a sailing magazine sitting around) and it looks easy enough to try. Here’s the recipe:
Spicy Ginger Beer (from Cruising World, March 2003, by Ilana Stern)
- 1/2 pound fresh ginger root
- 12 cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 9 liters cool water
- 5 1/2 cups demerara or raw sugar
- 1/2 cup lemon or lime juice
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1/2 liter ginger beer from previous batch (or New Starter – Combine 1 liter water and 1/2 cup sugar in a saucepan and heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Allow to cool to 90 to 115 degrees F, then add 1/2 teaspoon baker’s yeast, stirring well. Pour into a clean 1-liter soda bottle and let sit for two to four days. To use, pour off half the liquid and shake gently to distribute the yeast.)
Peel ginger root, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, and crush with a hammer. Add crushed ginger, cloves, and cinnamon stick to 2 quarts of water in a large saucepan. Simmer for 30 minutes. Gradually add sugar and stir until completely dissolved, then pour it all into a large, wide-mouthed container. Add remaining ingredients, starter last. Shake well, cap tightly, and allow to rest for 24 to 48 hours. After a day or two of fermentation, the raisins will have risen to the surface and be surrounded by a light froth of bubbles. (If not, shake again and let sit another day.) Shake well, then strain into clean plastic bottles. Recipe makes 10 liters. Important: Use only bottles that have held carbonated beverages. Others won’t withstand the pressure that will develop. Cap tightly and allow to rest for at least 24 hours before moving to icebox or refrigerator. Consume within five weeks (three weeks if unrefrigerated).
Has anyone out there had ginger beer before? Has anyone made it? And for my British readers, does anyone still say “lashings”?