Sunday, May 10, 2009

I spend an insane amount of time online. As a volunteer forum host in the Contest & Events forum on, I spend my days testing, creating & drooling over photos of delicious food. I know! I’m spoiled, but sometimes I wonder how I ever find the time to just cook. Then a recipe comes along that I cannot resist trying, even if it’s something that isn’t going to fill our tummies with a hearty meal. That’s what happened a few weeks ago when I stumbled on a recipe for homemade ginger ale. It did take me several weeks to get the time to try it, but now that I have, I know it’s something I’ll be doing a lot during the scorching summer months. We don’t usually keep soda stocked in the house, as it tends to disappear in record time, so imagine the surprise on my teenager’s face when I told him that the two 2-litre bottles of soda in the fridge are to be consumed as quickly as possible!
The fact that both math and science play significant parts in the act of cooking and baking will come as no shock to most of us. But the idea that I could carbonate my own beverage certainly did. A beverage containing dissolved carbon dioxide will be bubbly, fizzy or make a popping sound when the cork is removed. Carbonation can be produced naturally or artificially. Artificial carbonation originated in England around 1767 with a man named Joseph Priestly who found that infusing water with carbon dioxide created a bubbly and refreshing beverage. He developed and taught his technique to the Royal Navy Captain, James Cook and his crew for their second exploratory voyage, but it was JJ. Schweppes who eventually capitalized on this method of artificial carbonation and began commercializing bottled mineral water and ginger ale. Natural carbonation occurs when spring or well water absorbs underground volcanic carbon dioxide or as today’s recipe will demonstrate, when yeast ferments sugar dissolved in water, while sealed in a pressure-tolerant container.
Carbon dioxide is a chemical compound (CO2) formed when one carbon atom is sandwiched between two oxygen atoms. It can be found in liquid and solid form, both important in the food industry as refrigerants. In its solid state, carbon dioxide is known as dry ice. In liquid form carbon dioxide is used to remove the caffeine from coffee beans.

The following recipe, with instructional photos can be found on the website of David B. Fankhauser, Ph.D., Professor of Biology & Chemistry at U.C. Clermont College. I found this to be an easy, fun and educational activity for my family. While I enjoy the strong flavor of fresh ginger, it was too strong immediately after making for my family. The flavor does mellow with time but in the future I plan to cut the amount of ginger in half. I also have plans to try this with a simple lemon & lime combination as well as a batch with some root beer extract.

Carbonate Your Own Ginger Ale

Ingredients and supplies:
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 – 2 Tablespoons fresh gingerroot, grated (I will use 1 TBL in the future)
1 lemon, juiced (optional in recipe, but I really enjoyed it)
¼ teaspoon fresh granular baker’s yeast
Cold water
1 clean 2-litre plastic soft drink bottle with cap (do not use a glass container)
A clean funnel

1. Insert funnel into 2-litre bottle and pour in sugar.
2. Add the yeast through the funnel and shake and swirl gently to combine
3. Place grated ginger into a glass measuring cup
4. Add the juice of the lemon to the measuring cup and stir into ginger.
5. Pour lemon and ginger slurry into bottle.
6. Begin pouring cold water into bottle, washing down any ginger left in the funnel.
7. Fill with water to the neck of the bottle, leaving about one inch of headspace. Screw cap on securely and invert bottle repeatedly to thoroughly dissolve the sugar.
8. Place in a warm location for 24-48 hours. (Do not leave at room temperature longer than necessary for the bottle to feel hard when squeezed. The pressure may cause an explosion or a fountain when opened.)
9. After 24 hours, test to see if carbonation is complete by squeezing bottle forcefully with your thumb. If the bottle dents in, it is not ready yet.
10. Once the bottle is tight and doesn’t dent when squeezed, place it directly into the refrigerator. Refrigerate overnight to thoroughly chill. (Once chilled, there is little chance of explosion.)
11. When ready to serve, crack the lid slowly to release just a little pressure at a time. (It took us 10 minutes to open ours without a ginger ale fountain, but the hissing and bubbling was very entertaining to my toddler.)
12. When you can remove the cap you can choose to strain the ginger before serving. (I did because my family doesn’t like orange juice pulp so I didn’t figure this would be any more welcome.)
13. Pour entire bottle through a fine mesh strainer set over a juice pitcher. Then use funnel to pour ginger ale back into the bottle.
14. Wash out the sediment in the bottle when empty.


  1. I really want to try this, but am afraid I'll blow up my kitchen- LOL
    Seriously, it is on my list of things to try this Summer :)


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