Taste of the Caribbean: Spread Warmth and Good Cheer with Ginger Beer
One of the surest signs of the Holiday Season during my childhood years in St. Croix was the appearance in our refrigerator of a wide range of fantastic homemade juices. Whether produced by my mom, or obtained through a family friend, these wonderful beverages were always as prized as anything Santa could squeeze down the chimney. Last year, we gave you the low-down on my favorite of these juices – Sorrel. Today, let’s talk about my other favorite – Ginger Beer.
Not a beer at all, at least not in the alcoholic beverage sense, Ginger Beer is a spicier Holiday Season alternative to sugary-sweet Sorrel. Oh, there’s a good amount of sweet in Ginger Beer as well, but it’s the burning sensation from the ginger that makes this drink so special.
Generally at our house, the more burn the Ginger Beer solicited, the better. This type of Ginger Beer is 180-degrees from the smooth, balanced flavor you can find in commercially-produced carbonated Ginger Beers, like this one by Jamaica’s Bigga, which is more refreshing. (DG Ginger Beer, also from Jamaica, is even better, if you ask me…)
No, our Ginger Beer was more meant to warm your soul to the core, perfect for those December nights when the tradewinds shifted and the cool Christmas breeze from up north blew a little colder than usual.
These days, of course, Ginger Beer, be it in commercial or homemade form, is available throughout the Caribbean, as well as in West Indian communities around the world all year-round. Still, my strongest memories of it will always be associated with the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, limin’ with my brothers pretending to be big as we were drinking “beer,” while the grown-ups enjoyed their Ponche de Creme, Coquito and Black Cake.
If you want to create your very own warm homemade Ginger Beer memories, here’s the quicker and easier of the two recipes found in the very best West Indian cookbook ever, the Naparima Girls’ High School Cookbook, new copies of which we just happen to have in-stock and available for sale in our online store. (Click here to order.)
- 1 lb green ginger
- 1 whole lime
Wash, remove skin and grate your pound of ginger. Put your grated ginger in a bottle or container of some sort, along with four pints of cold water. Slice up your lime, squeeze the juice in with the ginger and water, then add your lime pieces, skin and all. Cover your container and leave the mix in the sun for one full day.
On the next day, strain your mix into another container and sweeten to taste. More water or soda water can be added if your mix is too strong. Finally, put your Ginger Beer in the fridge and let it settle for two days. That’s it!