Wednesday June 20, 2012 | 05:17 PM

When I get home tonight I am going to be particularly happy about opening a bottle of my homemade lemonade ginger beer. It's been "smoothing out" in my fridge for a few days and I anticipate it will be a refreshing way to kick back in this crazy heat.


I sought out this beer (it's more like a wine cooler) recipe after watching an episode of the River Cottage show. Celebrity chef, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, is not your typical high drama American reality TV chef. He's a low-key British guy experimenting with modern-day rural sustainable living  and cooking. My kids are always fascinated by his simple cooking techniques and his Dorset cottage happenings. When Hugh is on, everyone is glued to the computer screen (we watch whatever BBC episodes we can find online). He's an interesting guy with some really great, practical ideas about cooking with simple ingredients.

In the show Hugh made lemonade ginger beer using 2-liter plastic bottles. The demonstration highlighted that it only took two days to ferment into a nice carbonated, alcoholic drink. I thought, yes, I can do this!

The trick was I had the fresh lemons and ginger but I didn't have brewer's yeast in my pantry. I did some research online and it looked like people had some success with substituting nutritional yeast for brewer's.

I'll confirm now that the substitution did not work out well.

Then my husband had two bright ideas with adding items we had on-hand. One was to try a vitamin tablet of brewer's yeast and the other was to try some "champagne" yeast we had in our fridge (which was a few years old - a throwback to a notion of making our own wine... something we have yet to do).

One bottle got a vitamin tablet and that turned out to be ineffective in carbonating the drink. But, it did taste like a nice spiced lemonade. The kids liked it.

The other bottle got the champagne yeast and that was a resounding success. It had an alcoholic kick that sneaks up on you with a nice flavor.

Our version of this recipe tastes like a light, effervescent wine cooler (the actual fermented version is not shared with the kids). But you have to like the flavor of fresh ginger to really appreciate this drink.

I always qualify my gift of a bottle of this drink with the comment, "It's weird." But it's weird in a surprising, but likable way. A couple of friends have asked for another bottle so I think it passes muster with ginger fans and those with an adventurous palate.

¼ tsp champagne yeast (we bought ours at Oakhill Beverage in Scarborough)
1 cup of white sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons of finely grated fresh root ginger
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon of honey (don't add more than this because it could inhibit the fermentation process)
1 well-washed 2-liter bottle
First, add the yeast to the plastic bottle (do not use glass because it could explode - and not in a good way!). With a funnel, pour in the sugar.

Mix the grated ginger with the lemon juice and honey.

Pour the ginger mixture through the funnel into the bottle.

Fill the bottle about ¾ full with water.

Put the cap on and shake the bottle until all the sugar is dissolved.

Top up the bottle with water, leaving a gap at the top to allow for gas. Cap the bottle tightly, then place it somewhere warm.

Leave the bottle for about 48 hours. Once the bottle feels very hard and has no give in it, your drink should be ready.

Place the bottle in the fridge for several hours to stop the yeast working. Once the beer is thoroughly chilled, pass it through a fine sieve and serve. Or, bottle it in to glass bottles and be sure to always keep those bottles in the fridge.



About the Author

Wendy Almeida has been writing about enjoying the outdoors with kids in her monthly Kid Tracks Outdoors column for the Maine Sunday Telegram for 10 years. Her kids have grown up exploring the trails of Maine on foot, skis and bikes as well as through the geocache and EarthCache games. The family has found treasures of all sorts while out on the trail and the journey continues to be as much fun now that the kids are teenagers as it was when they were preschoolers.

On Twitter and Instagram at @wea1021.

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