I owe this one to my husband’s cousin, Hope Yandell. She found a recipe for ginger beer in a cookbook years ago and has been playing with it ever since. When we were in Vermont recently, I must have had gallons of it and it is wonderful. This is called ginger beer, but in an effort to differentiate it from its fermented or bottled cousins, I’m just going to call it Ginger Lime Soda.
When I asked her about it, she gave me a quick overview of the procedure, half of which I forgot and made up again as I tried to recreate the fizzy, tart concoction. Her’s was brilliant. Later I found many variations of the recipe online, so I think it is a well-tinkered-with beverage, and I encourage you to play with it yourself. I even found a version that adds tamarind and vanilla beans to the mix which really interests me. That will come later, though.
The basic procedure here is to create a ginger-lime concentrate. Then, you pour a little of the cold concentrate over ice and add club soda to taste. I really like the tartness of the drink so I go heavy on the concentrate and light on the soda, but only you can decide what you like best. Be flexible. If you do not love ginger, you might find it to be very twangy at first, but I bet I’ll win you over. There is something about drinking or eating ginger and limes that make you feel like you are doing your body a favor. Yes, the cup of sugar kills a bit of that euphoria, but still…good stuff.
Ginger can be a bit of a pain to peel. You can use a vegetable peeler, or you can use a spoon to simply rub off the skin, saving more of the ginger for the recipe. The spoon works great provided that you have a spoon with a sharp-ish edge. This is a trick I learned from Benjamin Rhau of You Fed a Baby Chili? He has a great video for whipping up a scallion and ginger sauce and it introduced me to this easy peeling technique.
Once you have peeled the ginger, you can grate it on a microplane or toss it into a little food processor to create a pile of pulp. Just for the sake of speed, I recommend the little processor if you have one.
Obviously, this is another one of those beverages that is just begging to be turned into an adult concoction: rum, vodka?? But I’ll leave that to your imagination.
4 ounces of peeled, grated ginger root (approximately ¾ cup)
1 cup of lime juice (approximately 8 juicy limes)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup ice cubes
1 lime for garnish (optional)
1. Peel and grate the ginger and juice the limes.
2. In a saucepan over medium heat, create a simple syrup by combining the water and sugar and slowly bringing it to a simmer. Stir often until all of the sugar dissolves. Allow the mixture to simmer for two minutes and then remove it from the heat. Add the ginger pulp to the syrup, place a lid on the pan, and allow the ginger to steep in the hot syrup for 20 minutes.
3. After 20 minutes, add the lime juice and stir. Strain the syrup and juice into a jar using a fine sieve. This will leave behind a pile of ginger pulp in the sieve. Mash the pulp in the sieve with the back side of a spoon to extract all of the juices and then discard the ginger pulp. Add the ice cubes to the strained juice. This will cool the liquid more quickly than simply adding water. Keep this concentrate in a jar in the refrigerator.
4. Serve over ice with club soda. Begin with a ratio of 2/3 cup concentrate to 1/3 cup club soda and adjust accordingly. Serve with a wedge of lime and enjoy.
Hope recommends using the thin skinned Mexican limes, which she finds to be juicier. I recommend that you double or triple this recipe so that you can have it on hand all the time. In fact, I’ve taken to peeling and processing a lot of ginger all at once, and freezing the extra in resealable bags. Ginger is also a great add-in for smoothies. You can just break off a little bit and toss it in the blender with OJ, a green apple, frozen spinach and any other green goodness you have in the fridge.
Thanks, Hope. This is one of my favorite souvenirs from our trip to Vermont.