from photographer and chef Andrew Cebulka, Charleston, South Carolina
3 gallons water
2 pounds ginger
2 cups organic sugar
Ginger beer bug starter (recipe follows)
Zest of 1 tangerine
5 stalks lemongrass, roughly chopped to 2-inch pieces
1 ripe pineapple, juiced
Ginger Beer Bug Starter
¼ cup sugar
1 cup water, left on counter for at least 24 hours
2 ounces organic ginger
Fill a 5-gallon beer bucket with 3 gallons water when you start the ginger bug (recipe below). Let it sit out (covered with a kitchen towel) to allow it to dechlorinate.
Juice the ginger and add to dechlorinated water along with the sugar.
Add ginger bug starter.
Add tangerine zest and fronds/stalks of lemongrass.
To make the beer sweeter (and less like kombucha) add juice of one ripe pineapple for a better balance of flavor.
Using a long-handled plastic or wooden spoon, whip in a clockwise then counterclockwise fashion at least 4 and ideally 8 times per day.
Around Day 3 “beer” will be fermenting (bubbles will rise, and a lightly bubbling sound will occur when you listen closely). The ambient temperature is ideal at 72−75 degrees…the hotter it is, the quicker it ferments.
Taste from Day 2 until you find it “right.” I usually wait until Day 5 or 6 to drink it. Before you drink it, you’ll want to bottle it. Use a plastic screw-top bottle (a cheap alternative to close-hitched glass bottles, and less dangerous should the bottle explode). To avoid an explosion, fill no more than 1 inch from the top, or the pressure can build too much. Let sit on counter for about 24-36 hours until bottle is firm to the touch. The beer should be effervescent. Refrigerate and drink it cold. It will keep in the refrigerator for a while, but it will lose vibrancy, so drink up.
Ginger Beer Bug Starter
Put sugar in a sterilized vessel. Pour in water that has been left out on counter for at least 24 hours (this dechlorinates it).
Finely dice ginger on a clean surface. (Organic ginger works best. Conventional ginger works but takes longer and the flavor is not as good.)
Use a wooden skewer to “whip” or agitate the ginger-water-sugar mixture.
Leave the top of the vessel open and covered with a cloth. Agitate a couple of times a day until little bubbles form on top. If you listen to the “bug,” you can hear it bubbling. It’s usually ready in 2−4 days.