Ginger Beer Bug and Sour Dough Starter

So this week I have started my sour dough starter. Very exciting. Today I will bring in the last of the honey.  Queenie who is still such a short cow I am getting worried that we may have bought a midget by mistake, wears her tiny harness like a grown-up cow and is going for walks to eat the long grass. (Still not a lot of growth in the fields)  I am talking to a local restaurant about collecting their kitchen scraps every day for the animals.  And I have begun my  ginger beer bug.

You need a  fermenting bug to make the ginger beer from.  And ginger beer though a lovely drink on its own is an important ingredient in some of our favourite winter cocktails. So getting the bug fermenting  is my first step.

Back when I was a child Dad used to called in to help with the machinery in a local winery up in the hills, run by Catholic priests and brothers. The Catholic brothers were the ones who made the wine.   This was a large estate with the most glorious buildings and my brothers, sisters and I used to go with Dad if he worked out there on the weekends.  He actually built a number of their aluminium wine vats and worked on developing and repairing the presses. All kinds of stuff.  The brothers always bought out large tins of cookies for us kids and weak tea  from the biggest tea-pot I had every seen.  Then leave us to our own devices. We would play tennis, swim, creep into the cavernous kitchens, roll sideways down the hills, peek into the chapel (Brother told us a story about a young student training to be a priest who was put in charge of the flowers for midnight mass once, they had vast gardens and he chose flowers that closed at night!.. how embarrassing) and I have a distinct memory of learning to make a daisy chain out by the tennis courts. The wine making brothers were so kind, and so gentle, wreathed in smiles and careful politeness. One of the winemaking brothers, (later in life I found that he had been an extraordinary craftsman of taste and renowned wine maker)  was a great friend of my Dads. They worked together on all manner of wine affiliated projects.

One day Brother  gave my Dad some yeast that was left over from making  a beautiful bubbly (the yeast had been imported at great expense from France) and a crate of empty champagne bottles. Dad brought this all home to make ginger beer.

So my dad  started a  ginger beer bug then proceeded to make ginger beer for us to drink. He bottled it in those beautiful champagne bottles. And stored it in a dark cool cupboard in the kitchen.  We had to wait a week. I believe he made a batch every week. As well as being tasty we loved it because it was being poured from a champagne bottle! Though you had to be very careful bringing the bottle up from the cupboard as they were volatile. Liable to blow at the slightest mistep. I believe Dads words were ‘a fiery brew’. I remember once we were all gathered at the table eating   when bombing sounds began to come from the cupboard. Big irregular kabooms. I guess that weeks brew was particularly explosive. Mum narrowed her eyes at us, and we sat in intense silence and  finished our meal  listening to bottle after bottle blowing up in the cupboard. After we had eaten like nice little civilised children and the cupboard had stopped sounding like a war zone, we opened the cupboard to survey the wreckage. I believe that dad tweaked his recipe a little after that and we started to bottle the ginger beer in tall beer bottles.

Here is our  recipe.

Ginger Beer Bug

1 teaspoon dried ginger

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon yeast (Our John rummaged through his wine stuff and brought me a sachet of his wine yeast)

large cup of lukewarm water

Mix and Sit for 24 hours in a warm place covered with muslin or cheesecloth.

Every day add 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of ginger for the next 7 – 10 days. In fact you will be feeding your Bug a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of ginger every day or two for the rest of its life.

To Make Ginger Beer.

Mix one hot cup of water with approx 2 1/2 cups white sugar

Add 11 cups of cold water.

and the juice of a lemon, or lime

Without disturbing the sediment in the bottom of your bug strain most of the liquid into your water and sugar.  Stir and bottle and cap.  Just re-use bottles that have the rubber cap and wire thingies. (Grolsch bottles would be ideal)  or even bubbly water bottles with a screw cap. Let sit for at least three days, then chill and drink.   It will look cloudy at first but settle by the next day. NEVER shake.

Be careful. These can get pretty poppy so store out of reach of small children. There are more ways to make ginger beer than you can shake a stick at, this is a very old fashioned drink. So let me know if you have a recipe as well. You can strain in  lemons, limes, I have heard of straining wilted raspberry leaves and dandelion leaves.  Even raisins. Some use brown sugar we used white. You can even use honey. So this could be an interesting winter with all that time to experiment.  Especially if I make a batch a week.  It seems best to drink within the week of making it.

I heard  that if you add a teaspoon of sugar at the bottling stage and let it sit in the basement a bit longer this will develop an alcohol content.  We will see. Beware of flying glass I think.

Add water, sugar and ginger to the remaining bug and start another for next week. And lets not forget the sour dough, this needs feeding and making too….

I have put a call out to Fourth son who used to design cocktails  and we will see what he comes up with from those NZ bars.


43 Comments on “Ginger Beer Bug and Sour Dough Starter

  1. Although I’d love to try some home-fermented ginger beer, I can’t imagine trying to make it myself. Your tale of bottles popping in the cupboard took care of any notion I may have had about attempting the recipe. Now, sourdough. That’s something we can agree on. I love it.

  2. I haven’t tried too much home liquid fermenting, but I am definitely intrigued by your ginger beer. Might have to give it a try! Thx for the share.

  3. I grew to love ginger beer but never heard of a ginger beer bug before – cool! I have a more “instant” recipe if you will but I bet yours is the best! What fun you had as kids. 😀
    Have a happy day.
    🙂 Mandy

  4. Makes me want to give it a go…But the bug can’t remind me to feed it the way the dog does. It might be doomed from the beginning.
    Please tell me you’re going to blog about your sourdough starter – I need some clear guidelines on that!

  5. I make this too and I think mine has a little kick of alcohol (will have to check my post to see what´s different!). Am going to do a sourdough starter but as we are off on a little holiday on Saturday I thought I´d wait til we´re back. I love your stories so much – you dad and the wine making priests, wonderful!

    • well if yours has a little kick in it tanya I may have to wander over and see what is different too!! happy travels! c

  6. Thank you for the ginger beer recipe! How’s your starter doing??? Mine is perking along nicely. I have two–one with the pineapple juice and one with water. They’re both fermenting but smell differently to each other.

    • I think it is finally working quite well, it was a bit smelly for a day or so.. and then my motherinlaws nephews wife send me one today, How wild! so not i have two. maybe I can even being to make bread soon!! thank you mj – c

  7. So right up my alley! I have a sourdough starter dating back about 100 years (so I was told) and it makes the BEST bread ever! My Uncle Wesley from Alaska is called a Sourdough (a term used for Alaskan prospectors as well as bread) and he turned me onto making my breads from scratch! I get stoked when I see the fermentation process working, and it smells yummy too. I am so happy I made my way to your blog and that of all the topics in the world, it’s one near and dear to my heart: sourdough!

    • That is absolutely fantastic to have a starter with such a history. And mine only three days old… a baby. I have made all our bread for years but never sour dough so i will be looking for help no doubt! , great to see you mj… c

  8. Never had ginger beer, but your story reminded me of my grandfather who used to make some kind of beverage with yeast, go figure … he was making his own beer!!
    Thanks for sharing Cecilia

    • Well he probably was, any chance of you finding the recipe?.. those old ones can be pretty interesting! Thanks jellybean ..c

  9. Cecilia, your description of the monks and their estate is so wonderful. I am sure it was a joy to see both such beautiful grounds and individuals. I have a short story that I began working on which involved fruitcake baking monks, which I may have to dust off and finish now as a result of reading your post 🙂

    Ginger beer. I am a fan. I am not much of a drinker of cocktails and rarely buy hard liquor, but I do buy dark rum and ginger beer from time to time to make Dark n Stormys Mmm, mmm!

    • Neil .. thank you!! That is so weird. I just said to John last night ..’ there is another drink but I can’t remember it .. it is called Thunder and Lightening or something. I know it has rum in it..’ DARK AND STORMY! Gold Star for you!! ..

      And when you have had another look at your story about the monks and their cakes PLEASE let me read it.. It sounds intriguing. Of course now I can’t decide between the giraffe and the zebras.. mmm .. c

  10. I just used a bottle of Trader Joes Ginger Beer last night in a marinade for a small pork roast. It also called for honey, dijon mustard, crushed rosemary, etc. It worked nicely. But the ginger beer itself I didn’t like for drinking. Though I love ginger! I will keep this recipe in mind, it sounds easy enough to use as a guide for an experiement later this winter. Thanks!

    • That is a great idea, using it in a marinade. That looks like a nice simple recipe. I will do that. I love rosemary.. thank you c

  11. I have to say that not only I do enjoy your posts with great stories, I am really amazed with all the excellent recipes you share!!

  12. I am so making ginger beer next summer thanks to you! I can normally get it all the time at home but no one sell it over here and my rule is “when you can’t buy it…make it!” Thanks so much for sharing!

  13. Pingback: Homemade Ginger Ale, lesson 1 | Notes To My Sister

  14. Pingback: Homemade Ginger Ale, Lesson 5 | Notes To My Sister

      • Did you? Wow I didn’t think that would work at’tall! I will set the Irish hubby on this – to try to make the alcoholic version of course 🙂 Have to Keep Up Apperances, after all!

  15. How timely. I’ve been seeking out ginger beer recipes. I just posted about how to brew hard cider. Ginger beer is next on my list. Thanks for the recipe!

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