Summer after summer I used to make ginger beer. I didn’t keep a ‘root’. The recipe involved activating dry yeast and adding it to water along with ginger powder, sugar, a touch of citric acid and cream of tartar, and a few drops of lemon essence.
After the bucket with the mix had stood for a couple of hours I’d stir and pour it into empty plastic tonic and soda bottles. In a week’s time it was ready to drink. The only problem was that it became extremely likely that if the cap was unscrewed too quickly, the resulting fountain lost half the bottle. So to the amusement of visitors, I’d take the unopened bottle outside, stand it in a basin and slowly unscrew it.
The air hissed as it escaped. At the first hiss the cats fled. Primeval memories of snakes – they disappeared from sight, to come back cautiously later. I’d give the cap another slight turn and there’d be another rush of bubbles up the neck.
I’d go away to pull a few weeds or deadhead some flowers, and come back in a couple of minutes to give it a further turn. The whole process could take ages. The result was a satisfying cooling summer drink – ideal with a good book in summer shade.
One summer there was a spell of cold wet weather. We didn’t drink so much ginger beer. One night there was a loud explosion. A bottle had exploded on the laundry floor. The last remaining one followed almost immediately. We tidied up perfunctorily. In the morning there was a trail of ants to the site. They were enjoying the sticky concoction.
Alas, my ginger beer making days are over.
WORDS with Douglas McLennan
14 hours ago