Thursday, 23 January 2014

Summer spice

Although we haven't been especially successful with growing ginger here so far due to the poor soil quality and lack of rain, there has been a beautifully fresh supply at our local green grocer.

The hot summer weather has driven the taste buds to crave the refreshing tang of ginger beer.  So much so that my more muscular half was inspired to set forth into the dark depths to forage among the carefully concealed spring-loaded traps and to peer into jars filled with mysterious substances, in order to collect the elusive ingredients and tools required to create a supreme summer elixir. (Read: managed to locate and navigate the pantry and kitchen cupboards.)  A brave venture indeed.

Quest completed, it was time to conjure the magic revealed by one of the pioneers of the homesteading movement: Rhonda Hetzel.  After many consultations with the predominant search engine her recipe for ginger beer was the most simple and well...Down to Earth really.  For anyone who has previously made sourdough, the process will seem very familiar.  I've written a summary of directions based on Rhonda's recipe.  Please see her blog post on making ginger beer for more detailed instruction. 

Ingredients for the beverage

The Plant:
Ginger, water, sugar

The Beverage:
Blossoming plant, more water, more sugar and some lemon juice

The Booze:
As above but add some brewer's yeast

The Process:
Sterilise a jar

Make the plant with 1 tbs each of ginger (fresh and finely grated or dried and powdered) and sugar (use raw to add an extra dimension) in 1 1/2 cups of water boiled and cooled

The Plant

Cover with a loose-weave cloth to guard your brew from beasties.

Feed it the same quantity of ginger and sugar daily for a week or so (ours took a bit longer to mature), stirring every day.  You'll be able to smell it when it's ready.

Once bubbling away strain off the liquid through muslin or cheese cloth. Squeeze out every last drop.

Use the solid bit with more water and a clean jar for the next batch.

Mix the liquid part with 4L of water (boiled and cooled to get rid of the chlorine or stood overnight), 2 cups of sugar and juice of 2 lemons.

Bottle and let the fizz get going again for a couple of days on the bench in plastic or glass with loose catches so you don't get little bits of glass embedded in your kitchen doors and ceiling, or blow a hole in your wall the day before a house inspection - it might scare off your new kitchen assistant and you'll have to explain your 'renovations' to the landlord.

Refrigerate when it tastes just right and enjoy.

The kind of fizzer you want - note catches in anti-explode mode

Saturday, 11 January 2014

It's raining cats and wasp nests?

We had a rather violent storm (or rather convergence of four storms) here on Monday afternoon that dumped a good amount of much needed rain.  The bottom floor of the hospital where I work flooded, we nearly lost power to the building and a couple of people in the community were even struck by lightning.  

Working late, it was night time when I was finally able to drive home but fortunately well and truly after the storm had passed.  It wasn't until the next morning that I could survey the damage.  Surprisingly there were only a couple of branches down around the place at home.  We'd had a few storms the week before that must have cleaned off the dead ones from the gumtrees already.  

There was; however, a strange grey hump shape sitting on the lawn.  It wasn't moving so it was either dead or inanimate.  Inching closer I could finally tell it was the nest that had been suspended from the underside of a gumtree branch.  I had hoped it was wild bees but looking at this it's more like a huge wasp nest.  The ants have been having fun exploring it since it made its landing.

The mothership has crashlanded
Close up of the comb

Someone's secret stash of pancakes - saving them for a rainy day