Tuesday, February 21, 2012

On not reading properly

I have just had a pretty lovely evening. After a delicious dinner (Pearl's version of the Mexican bean and corn casserole from Feeding the Whole Family) we put the kids to bed (aren't they just the cutest when they're sleeping?) and set up for our evening of pleasurable tasks. I sat at the kitchen table sewing a skirt, then plaiting my rag rug, and Genevieve bottled her second round of tomatoes while we chatted and listened to Jesse Sykes, Hem, Jolie Holland and the Decemberists. All of this was beautiful, peaceful work at the end of our hectic day of working and taking kids to school and cooking and trying to decipher engineering drawings and thinking about building materials and generally being mums, and it was made even more beautiful, I think, by the sweet nectar that is my first batch of home-made-from-scratch ginger beer.

As soon as we moved to Bega I put down a batch of kit-form ginger beer. It was OK, and was well-received over summer, but I thought I could do better. So I tried this.
The recipe came from my mum's good friend Carol, and I was pretty bloody excited. I've been brewing for about 4 years now, and I absolutely love it. LOVE IT. But, aside from some experimentation with dried hops and cracked malted barley, have pretty much stuck to the kits. So seeing my little jar of ginger, sugar, sultanas and lemon juice fermenting away on the kitchen window sill and feeding it every day for a week was.. well.. it was exciting. I could see stuff happening in the jar. Crazy stuff! Well it seemed to me to be crazy (deliberate fermentation? What is with that??). But of course, fermentation is awesome, and a super-important and useful thing in the world - hello beer, which is only the most important example of good-shit-happening-as-a-result-of-fermentation.
But I digress. The little jar on the windowsill bubbled away and hungrily consumed the teaspoons of sugar and powdered ginger I fed it every day, until day 7, when it was time to bottle. I was a little apprehensive on account of the fact that my last batch of beer was a dud, so I was paranoid that something had gone awry in my bottling technique. But I proceeded to sterilise my bottles with the upmost care, filling them with love and caping them in beautiful gold caps.
Olive helpfully painted them all for me so I could tell them apart from my bottles of beer beer, which also have gold caps. Job well done. I was pleased with my efforts, all self-congratulatory and already counting down the days til I could have a taste. But then I had a closer look at my 'Helpful Kitchen Conversions' teatowel, which I had used to determine measurable quantities from the old-school measurements in the recipe. What's this? A pint is actually 20, not 40 fluid ounces??? How could this be?? How could I mistake a 2 for a 4? I did 4 unit maths in my HSC for crying out loud!
Big sigh. Excitement turned to disappointment as I anticipated another dud batch, though this one attributable to nothing more than the fact that I apparently can't read properly. But today, day 3 after bottling, I dutifully put a bottle in the freezer for chilling, just in case it was drinkable, despite the fact that it had twice the recommended amount of water in it.
It was better than drinkable. It was delicious!! Refreshing and sweet without being sickly (which it probably would have been with the 'correct' amount of water). Yay for not reading properly!!
So chaps, if you've ever thought about having a go at making ginger beer, don't worry about the kit. I just made 15 stubbies and 17 long necks of delicious ginger beer for less than 10 bucks. What a winner. The recipe above works, but you might want to try using a computer instead of a teatowel to work out your conversion rates.
PS. The photo above is of me squeezing out the 'plant' (jar of fermented stuff) in muslin, ready to mix with the sugar syrup and (too much) water. It was really fun - delicious-smelling and sensual (the stuff in the muslin felt AMAZING) and even though I know you can't smell or feel the photo, I thought it might act as an extra little prompt to encourage you to get to beer-making.

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