Ginger beer!

Ginger beer!

Ginger beer!

“Wherefore” means “why” and not “where.” You’re probably thinking, well, duh, Claire, everybody knows that. But the truth is that I didn’t know that till I was a teenager, and it really blew my mind, man. Because when Juliet says “wherefore art thou Romeo,” she’s asking why not where. (And I know I’m not the only one that didn’t know this, because how many times have you heard this speech with the emphasis on art instead of Romeo? Right?) Well, it got me thinking…how many other exchanges had I completely misinterpreted over the years? It was as though a whole world had opened up. A rich world of language, in which each word was like a door that lead to a surprising and beautiful world. Or several surprising and beautiful worlds, because every exchange is full of so many shades of meaning. I love Shakespeare! I know that doesn’t exactly make me unique, but it’s good to shout it aloud from time to time. I love his humanity and his humor. I love the fact that the way his characters acted in the 16th century is exactly, disarmingly, the way people act today. I love the ridiculous pang of pleasure that you get when a character says something so perfectly true and beautifully expressed that you feel you’ve always known it. I love the fact that he invented words as he went along, and we still use them now. I love the fact that the exchange between Romeo and Juliet is a sonnet – their dialogue is a perfect sonnet, worked into the play. But he doesn’t tell you that, it’s just there, for you to discover. I love the fact that Hamlet’s opening of “Who’s there?” sums up the entire play in many ways. I love Hamlet, the mad melancholy man. I’d love to spend some time with him, and just listen to him talk. Lately my memory is failing, and it sometimes seems as though huge portions of my past life are nothing but a blur. The fabric is stretched thin and threadbare, and holes are forming in it. And yet I have a Shakespeare sonnet memorized, and that’s still there, thank heavens, that hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s number 29, of course, and just last week, in my own despairing and hopeless spate of discouragement, I kept thinking of these lines –

    …And look upon myself and curse my fate,
    Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
    Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
    Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope,
    With what I most enjoy contented least…

That’s Shakespeare saying that! That’s Shakespeare feeling discouraged and envious! Good lord! So I’m keen to share all of this love with Malcolm and Isaac. I know they’re a bit young, but Shakespeare is a language, the more you understand it the more you love it, and it’s good to start them on languages young. So we watched some animated tales with them. They’re nicely done! And the boys watch with rapt attention. Although we started with some comedies, and Isaac went stomping out of the room saying, “Do they all have to be about people falling in love?” He’s not a big fan of romance, our Isaac. He has a horror of people kissing on screen!

It was nice sharing Shakespeare with them just in the way it’s nice to cook with them. Creative and nourishing and hopeful. Malcolm and I have been making ginger beer, lately, and this is how we’ve been doing it. It’s a very simple method. I’ve read about putting a batch in a bowl under your bed until it turns alcoholic, or brewing it with yeast until it gets bubbly, but we didn’t do any of that. We made a concentrate of fresh ginger, lemon, lime and raw sugar, and then we added bubbly water. Then we drank a glass each, and poured the rest back into the bottle the fizzy water had come in. We used a sieve, because we like pulpy bits of ginger, but you could use a cheesecloth if you want it clearer and with less bite. We used turbinado sugar because it has such a nice, warm taste. You could use any kind of raw sugar, or white sugar or even brown sugar. I’m going to try it with honey, but I have to buy another bottle of fizzy water, first. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Here’s Shakespeare’s Sister by The Smiths.


2 inch piece of fresh ginger
1/2 cup turbinado sugar or other raw sugar (or brown sugar or white sugar)
1 lime, sliced into chunky pieces
1 lemon, sliced into chunky pieces
pinch salt
1 quart (+/-) carbonated water

Peel the ginger and cut it crosswise into pieces about 1/4 inch thick. You want to cut across the fibery parts.

Put the sugar into a small bowl or pitcher. Squeeze the lemons and limes in and then drop in the rinds.

Boil about 1 cup of water. Put the ginger in a food processor or blender, add a few spoonfuls of boiling water, and process until the ginger is mostly pureed and the water is cloudy. Pour the rest of the boiling water over the sugar, lemons and limes, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the ginger puree into the lime/lemon/sugar mixture. Stir.

Set the whole thing aside in a warm place for a least an hour. The longer the better.

Pour the mixture through a sieve. If you like bits of ginger, use a mesh sieve, as I did. If you don’t like bits of ginger, use cheese cloth. If you use a sieve, press with the back of a spoon to get out as much of the juice and flavor as possible, and remember to scrape the underside of the sieve to get all the nice juicy pulp. If you use cheesecloth, squeeze very hard, to get out all the juice. Squeeze the limes and lemons into the mixture to get all of their juice out.

Pour fizzy water into the mixture, and mix well. You can now pour the ginger beer back into the bottle the fizzy water was in, but you’ll have to drink a glass to make up for the ingredients you added.

Refrigerate, and shake before drinking.

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6 thoughts on “Ginger beer!

  1. That does actually sound lovely, but I’m afraid that I’m a purist in these matters: it’s not proper ginger beer unless there’s a significant chance of an explosion. As a child I loved the whole idea of having a ginger beer plant, looking after it and using it to make potentially dangerous but delicious drinks…

      • Basically you get a culture of microorganisms – traditionally a symbiotic relationship between a yeast and a bacterium, known as a Ginger Beer Plant, but you can also do this using brewer’s yeast which is easier to obtain – and feed it ginger and sugar; depending on method, you either siphon off the liquid every so often and bottle it, or you dilute the mixture and bottle it. I’d be delighted to go into more detail at some point, but not this month as I have a book to finish…

    • Thanks! The Shakespeare is really interesting – every one done in a different style of animation by a different animator. A mixed bag, but some of them are wonderful!

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