Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hot Where You Are? Try Some Homemade Ginger Ale--by Cricket McRae

Hi everyone! It’s Riley/Elizabeth here. I know a lot of y’all are dealing with a heat wave right now---and I’ve got a special treat. My friend Cricket McRae has a new release—and a recipe for homemade ginger ale. Welcome, Cricket!

McRae_Cricket picHomemade Ginger Ale

It's great to be back at Mystery Lover's Kitchen! Thanks for having me.

I don't know about you, but I've heard at least a dozen horror stories over the years from people who made some kind of home brew -- beer, ginger ale, root beer -- and the bottles blew up! In the attic, the basement, the barn, and in one case in the bedroom closet (ick!). Most of these stories are from a time when making your own libations was a regular practice. Fermentation creates carbonation, and, especially in the heat, that pressure can literally break glass bottles.

My fifth Home Crafting Mystery, Wined and Died, features mead making as the colonial home craft behind the murder and mayhem in small town Cadyville. There's plenty of information about different kinds of mead, or honey wine, and naturally I had to include one of those horror stories about root beer bottles going off like bullets. However, Petunia Hanover also teaches her great-granddaughter, Erin, how to make ginger ale.

This can be a tricky endeavor as the idea is to harness yeasts which occur naturally in the air to ferment your ginger culture. Certain areas naturally have more yeasts than others (like the distinctive San Francisco sourdough) as do some kitchens. But don’t be intimidated, as it’s a simple process and doesn’t take many ingredients or special equipment. Always make sure your jars, bottles and utensils are perfectly clean to start with. Read the whole recipe through before you begin so you can see what you’ll need to have on hand.

First you have to make the culture, which is what Tootie teaches Erin how to do. Simply add a teaspoon of either powdered ginger or chopped ginger root to a teaspoon of sugar and one and a half cups of filtered or spring water. Mix together in a wide-mouthed canning jar and cover with a single layer of cheesecloth. You want it to have plenty of access to the air. Let it sit on the kitchen counter for twenty-four hours or so.

Then for the next week add another teaspoon of sugar and one of ginger each day and mix thoroughly. If you start with chopped ginger root, don’t switch to powder and vice versa. You are feeding your ginger ale culture during this week. After a few days it should start to form little bubbles. That means it’s fermenting!

On the last day, strain the mixture though a piece of muslin or an old, clean dish towel. Discard the solids (or save them to start another batch) and put the liquid in a bowl or pan that can accommodate seven or more quarts of liquid. Mix in 5 quarts of filtered or spring water, 3 cups of sugar and the juice of two or three lemons. Stir until the sugar dissolves.

gingerbeer2Then get out your funnel and the plastic water or soda bottles you’ve saved and carefully washed with hot soapy water, rinsed thoroughly and allowed to dry. Any size works -- just make sure you have enough to hold up to 7 quarts of liquid. Using plastic rather than glass helps avoid the whole exploding bottle problem. Be sure to wash the caps as well.

Fill the bottles, leaving a few inches at the top for the gases to expand as your ginger beer continues to ferment. Twist on the caps. Let the bottles sit at room temperature for two days, checking them often. When you see bubbles forming, put the bottles in the fridge immediately. Your ginger beer is ready to drink! Some bottles may ferment faster than others, especially if you use different sizes. Be careful not to allow any to ferment too long or the pressure inside will spray the contents out when you open it. It also helps to keep your brew cold.

If any alcohol forms during the fermentation it is negligible and very diluted, so this drink is suitable for children and adults alike.

Wined and Died_1In honor of the recent release of Wined and Died, you can enter to win a FREE Author Website ($900 value!) from the creative folks at Bizango Websites for Writers until July 29, 2011. For more details and information on how to enter, please visit my blog at For more information about me or the Home Crafting Mystery Series, check out


  1. Welcome, Cricket! Yup, there's a batch of exploded root beer in my past, in a kitchen closet--we were scraping it off the walls for a long time. This recipe sounds intriguing--I'm going to show it to my daughter (and maybe she'll do all the work!).

  2. Thanks, Sheila! Funny how so many people have those stories. I bet the smell of root beer lingered for a while. Good luck with the ginger ale!

  3. The fun thing about this recipe (beside cooling off on a hot day) is that it has an experimental feel to it, too! Cultures, etc. And I love the feeling that I'd be creating something that my great-grandmother might have made, too. Thanks so much for sharing! I'm looking forward to "Wined and Died" (such a great title!)

  4. Thanks for hosting me today, Elizabeth! Yes, between the yogurt and sourdough, ginger ale and soap making, my kitchen is just one big laboratory. ; )

  5. Fun idea, Cricket! I admire your adventurous spirit. My disaster involves wine and I'll say no more about that. Maybe if I'd had excellent instructions like these, it would have had a happier ending. Thanks for an excellent post.

  6. Cricket,
    This is such a fun recipe!! As a homeschooling mom I have filed this in the "science" folder and will be bringing it out in the Fall :-) Thanks!

    One of our close friends is a brewmaster who has also started brewing mead...just for me!! He made a lovely lemonade mead for my birthday that is so wonderful...

    I'm looking forward to reading your book and sharing your mead secrets :-)

  7. Cricket, this is fascinating. Am I the only one afraid of growing something that would make everyone sick? Ack! Thanks for sharing. I love learning these things.

    ~ Krista