Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ginger Beer

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.

1 comment:

  1. Aha Harvey. This reminds me so much of a poem I published in the winter 09 issue of Poems in the Waiting Room. Thought you might appreciate it!

    New into Old

    We could only find six bottles
    When we made our first brewing
    Of home-made wine. Six old bottles.
    We were novices, you see,
    Eager, but not well-informed.

    Oh, we ought to have known.
    Never put new wine into old bottles.
    But somehow, this so-familiar tag,
    Was only a proverb to us.
    Not meant to be taken literally.
    We never dreamed it related to real life.

    The first explosion came as quite a shock,
    And the second was even worse.
    But we blamed our inexperience,
    and cleaned up the mess cheerfully.

    Now, there is only one bottle left,
    And night after night, we sit,
    Waiting for that to go off,
    And wondering if it ever will go off.

    For, if it doesn’t, we feel,
    In some strange way,
    We may have proved something.
    We don’t know what, exactly …
    But something.

    Robert Butt (1920 – 2010)