I knew homemade ginger ale could be made, as I had enjoyed it at a pot luck a few years ago. I used the magic of the interwebs to find these two ginger projects. One is ginger syrup from Brooklyn Farmhouse. This appealed to me because the syrup is concentrated and easy for my mom to use. All she has to do is stir it into club soda. The other great feature of this recipe is the candied ginger that is the best by-product ever! I chopped my ginger very fine - 1/4 of an inch or less. Mine became soft and thick after about 75 minutes. Initially, I bottled the syrup in the pretty green bottle shown above, but I removed it to a canning jar the next day. My little bit of leftover syrup had crystallized in the fridge and I was afraid it would cease to be pourable after a while.
You know you want some!
My first batch dried very well and is crunchy with sugar. On a subsequent batch (I'm addicted!), I cooked it for a slightly shorter time and tossed it in less sugar and let it dry several hours instead of overnight. It has the same heady ginger flavor, but came out chewier. The syrup is as thick as pancake syrup and remained liquid. My first batch was more like honey and I think that's why it crystallized in the fridge.
I also found this great set of instructions for making living ginger ale. I had some beer brewing bottles on hand, so I did not use plastic two-liter bottles as they suggest. I've really been trying to get away from plastic. With these specially designed bottles and modest fermenting times, there was no risk of explosion. I used a micro-planer to grate the ginger. I used a heaping tablespoon of grated ginger and the the juice of one Meyer Lemon for the batch. Because I was timid about the explosive properties of fermentation, I probably put these into the refrigerator a little too soon. I only let them ferment 24 hours and, because it was cool, I probably could have let them go for another day. We took two bottles to share for Mother's Day and my mom enjoyed it very much. It was more like ginger lemonade at that point, but there's nothing wrong with that. I enjoyed one of the bottles from the fridge about a week later and it had become nicely fizzy.
I'm excited about working with ginger. The syrup is divine. So far, my favorite use is drizzled over fresh strawberries. There is no way I can convey in words how magical ginger and strawberries are together. Think of what happens when port meets dark chocolate. It's that good. Really.