Switchel-ish

Switchel

Switchel

An interesting American frontier drink is called “Switchel”.

Basically, Switchel is Ginger Syrup acidulated with vinegar instead of the usual citrus. As for where Switchel ends and Shrub begins, I guess Switchel is a subset of the Shrub superset. It must always contain ginger & vinegar, with vulnerabilities allowed mostly in sweetener and spice. Early recipes are usually sweetened with Molassses and/or Honey.

Fooling around with versions of my Ginger Beer, I wondered how it would be if I added some Vinegar, a la Switchel.

Initial versions were not that awesome, but it turned out a spiced, yeast carbonated version is really awesome. Probably my favorite Ginger based beverage so far.

Switchel-ish

1 Quart Water
3/4 Cup Washed Raw Sugar
5 oz Ginger, sliced
4 Very Spicy dried chile (Chile de Arbol)
1 tsp green cardamom seeds
4 whole cloves

4 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 tsp Yeast


METHOD: Bloom yeast in lukewarm water with 1 teaspoon sugar. Bring 24 oz water and all sugar to simmer. Add ginger and spices to blender bowl with remaining water and puree. (Blender works well for me in these amounts, but if you have a juicer that can juice ginger root, go for it.) Pour through cheesecloth to filter. Press as much liquid out of ginger solids as possible, I use a sturdy potato ricer. Add ginger juice, vinegar, and water to hot sugar solution and cool to lukewarm. Add yeast and bottle in clean sanitized containers, leaving some headroom. Seal tightly and place in a warm dark place for 5-8 hours, depending on temperature and how feisty your yeast is. Move to refrigeration when the bottles are firm to the touch. Yeast (tan) and Ginger starch (white) will fall out of solution. When serving, open carefully over bowl to catch potential over-foam.

I tried a bunch of frontier style booze add-ons with this, Jamaican Rum, Rye Whiskey, Bourbon, Genever, etc. I enjoyed none of them as much as the drink on its own.

Eventually I gave in and tried mixing it with the obvious choice, Dry Gin. Yep, that’s it.

Switchel-ish High Ball

1 1/2 oz Beefeater
1 oz Soda water
3 oz Switchel

Build and stir carefully in an iced Collins Glass. Garnish with crystallized ginger.

Holiday Ginger Beer

Another idea for a DIY Holiday Gift with a relatively short turnaround time.

Why not spice up your Ginger Beer with some holiday zest?

Holiday Ginger Beer

Holiday Ginger Beer

Holiday Ginger Beer

10 oz Ginger, roughly chopped
Zest of 1 Orange
4 Allspice Berries, crushed
5 Cloves, crushed
1 small stick Ceylon Cinnamon, crushed

1 1/2 Cup Washed Raw Sugar

32 oz Water
1 tsp Active Dry Yeast


METHOD: Bloom yeast in lukewarm water with 1 teaspoon sugar. Over low heat, dissolve sugar in 24oz water with spices and orange zest. Add ginger to blender bowl with 16 oz water and puree. (Blender works well for me in these amounts, but if you have a juicer that can juice ginger root, go for it.) Pour through cheesecloth to filter. Press as much liquid out of ginger solids as possible, I use a sturdy potato ricer. Add ginger juice and water to hot sugar solution and cool to lukewarm. Add yeast and bottle in clean sanitized containers, leaving some headroom. Seal tightly and place in a warm dark place for 5-8 hours, depending on temperature and how feisty your yeast is. Move to refrigeration when the bottles are firm to the touch. Yeast (tan) and Ginger starch (white) will fall out of solution. When serving, open carefully over bowl to catch potential over-foam. Makes a half gallon and a bit more.

Ginger Beer, Take 2

Everyone liked the last batch of Ginger Beer so much, I felt like I had to make another.

I’m doubling the last batch of yeast carbonated ginger beer, and making a few changes to the method from the last.

Flannestad Ginger Beer.

INGREDIENTS:
10 oz well rinsed fresh Ginger Root, preferably organic, roughly sliced.
1 1/2 cup Washed Raw Sugar.
2 quart Water.
1 teaspoon active dry yeast.*

METHOD: Bloom yeast in lukewarm water with 1 teaspoon sugar. Bring 24 oz water and all sugar to simmer. Add ginger to blender bowl with remaining water and puree. (Blender works well for me in these amounts, but if you have a juicer that can juice ginger root, go for it.) Pour through cheesecloth to filter. Press as much liquid out of ginger solids as possible, I use a sturdy potato ricer. Add ginger juice and water to hot sugar solution and cool to lukewarm. Add yeast and bottle in clean sanitized containers, leaving some headroom. Seal tightly and place in a warm dark place for 5-8 hours, depending on temperature and how feisty your yeast is. Move to refrigeration when the bottles are firm to the touch. Yeast (tan) and Ginger starch (white) will fall out of solution. When serving, open carefully over bowl to catch potential over-foam.

Ginger Root.

Ginger Root.

The first change I made this time was just to rinse the ginger root well with warm water, instead of peeling. I need to do a side by side comparison with peeled and unpeeled to find out if peeling makes a difference in flavor. Really, the only thing which slightly concerns me about not peeling is the potential for bacterial contamination from the skins.

This time, the ginger root was quite a bit more mature than the last. The flavor of the juice and ginger beer is hotter and sweeter than the more floral young ginger I used last time.

Ginger Puck.

Ginger Puck.

Nicely formed ginger pucks, after squeezing. You could dry them and use for room fresheners.

Opening Ginger Beer.

Opening Ginger Beer.

I continue to use empty soda water and mineral water for the ginger beer. Easier and safer than glass, at this point. You can gauge the carbonation level easily by simply squeezing the bottle and checking the firmness. Some small risk they’ll pop the caps and make a mess, but little risk they will become ginger grenades. Once I get the ferment times down, I may switch to bottling in glass.

Interestingly enough, it seems like the canada dry soda water bottles form a much better seal than the crystal geyser mineral water bottles. With the same time allowed for fermentation, the ginger beer in the canada dry bottles over-flows copiously, while the ginger beer in the crystal geyser is carbonated but does not overflow. Perhaps there is some CO2 leakage with the crystal geyser bottles above a certain pressure threshold.

Bottles.

Bottles.

A lot of other ginger beer recipes use spices or citrus in them, I actually really like how this is just about how complex and multilayered a flavor pure ginger root has. The complexity you get is amazing, not to mention the length of the flavor. You start by enjoying the great smell of fresh ginger root in the carbonated bubbles with a touch of yeast, enjoy the sweet and floral flavor, are knocked back by the heat, and then enjoy the long evolving flavor as it fades.

I guess we have the temperance movement to thank for the prevalence of pressure carbonated ginger beers and other sodas, but maybe if more people give the real thing a try we can get some of this real flavor back. With yeast nutrients, real sugar, and natural ginger maybe these could gain as much traction as kombucha.

Commercial ginger beers and ales, pumped up with capsaicin for heat and with their flacid ginger flavor from extracts, are poor, poor substitutes, indeed, for real ginger beer.

*Yeast plus sugar and water equals Carbon Dioxide and alcohol. In general, stopping the active fermentation at this early a stage of fermentation, the alcohol levels should be fairly low.

Flannestad Ginger Beer

Well, since I was making Root Beer, I figured I might as well make Beer from other roots…

Ginger Root.

Ginger Root.

Flannestad Ginger Beer.

5 oz Young Ginger, peeled and roughly sliced.
3/4 cup Washed Raw Sugar.
1 quart Water.
1 teaspoon active dry yeast.*

METHOD: Bloom yeast in lukewarm water with 1 teaspoon sugar. Bring water, sugar and half of the ginger to simmer. Add remaining ginger and roughly puree in blender. Pour through cheesecloth to filter. (I use a ricer to press out as much liquid as possible.) Chill to lukewarm. Add to yeast, seal tightly, and place in a warm dark place overnight.

Refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours, allowing the yeast to settle.

Wow, is that good! Surprisingly dry, sharp, complex, and floral. Definitely the best ginger beer I’ve ever tried. Upon trying it, Mrs Flannestad immediately asked me to double the batch and make it again.

Ginger Beer.

Ginger Beer.

*Yeast plus sugar and water equals Carbon Dioxide and alcohol. In general, stopping the active fermentation at this early a point, the alcohol levels should be very low.

Home Fermented Root Beer

Summer 2013 Root Beer Project, Post 18

I recently experimented with home brewed Root Beer, Flannestad Root Beer, but I didn’t quite follow it to its logical extension.

For some reason, while I’ve done a lot of infusions, I’ve never tried fermenting anything (except bread) at home. I’ve never even made home fermented ginger beer.

However, when Charles Hires first created his Root Beer Dry Mix and Syrup in the late 1800s, he expected people to be able to ferment it at home.

I reproduce his instructions here from a booklet circa 1892:

Recipe and Directions for Making Root Beer

Take Contents of Bottle. 4 Pounds of Sugar (granulated is preferable).
5 Gallons of Fresh Water (preferably luke-warm).
Half-Pint of fresh yeast, or half cake of fresh compressed yeast.
When making in cool weather, double the quantity of yeast is used.

The Way to Do It:

Dissolve the sugar thoroughly in the water, then add the Root Beer Extract and the yeast. (If cake yeast be used, it should first be dissolved in a little cold water, then it will mix more readily with the Beer.) Stir until thoroughly mixed, and bottle in strong bottles or jugs at once, corking and tying the corks securely. Then be sure and set in a warm place for several hours, so that it can become effervescent. (If set in a cool place when first made the yeast becomes chilled and cannot work.) It will be ready to drink after being bottled in ten or twelve hours, but will open more effervescingly if allowed to stand for three or four days. After the Beer has become effervescent, it should then be set in a cool place of even temperature. Before opening the bottle place it on ice, or in a cold place, for a short time, when it will be sparkling and delicious.

To make the Beer more cheaply, molasses or common sugar may be used to sweeten it.

A very pleasant drink may be made for immediate use by adding two teasponfuls of the Extract to a quart of water, sweetening it with granulated sugar to suit the taste, then beat half the white of an egg, and mix together.

NOTE. –Occasionally parties write us that they have tried to make the Root Beer, and while it is very good, it does not evervesce, or pop, when it is opened.

Now, when a case of this kind happens, we know that there is something wrong in the making of it. Either the yeast was not good, or else the Beer, when made, was placed in the cellar, or in a cool place, where it became chilled and could not ferment.

A woman in making bread is always very careful that the dough does not become chilled, so sets it in a warm place to insure its rising and becoming light. So it is with our Root Beer, warmth is essential to life. If this simple fact is borne in mind no one will ever fail in making our Root Beer to have it delicious and Sparkling.

When we say “fresh compressed yeast,” we mean the small square cake yeast that is sold fresh every day in most of the prominent towns of the United States at two cents a cake. When only the dry cake yeast can be had, a whole cake should be used. In fact, our experience has been that very little of the dry cake yeast sold is good for anything; we therefore prefer to use good fresh baker’s yeast, or fresh compressed yeast.

If these simple hints are carefully borne in mine the Root Beer is very little trouble to make successfully.

When we say “yeast” we do not mean Baking Powder.

The Charles E. Hires Co.,
Sole Manufacturers,
Philadelphia, PA

Well, right, then. If late 19th Century home makers can do that, so can I.

I decided to try and turn my sweetened Root Beer syrup into a sparkling beverage.

I proofed a teaspoon of active dry yeast with warm water and a teaspoon of sugar in the bottom of a clean quart plastic soft drink bottle. When the yeast was active, I added about a cup of my Flannestad Root Beer Syrup, then filled with lukewarm water. I let this sit in a warm cool place overnight. Then in the morning, I placed it in the fridge to chill.

I may have used too much yeast.

Mrs. Flannestad was surprised how much the beverage reminded her of real Beer. I was pleased that the yeasts had consumed some of the sugars, leaving it a slightly dryer beverage.