Homemade Ginger Ale & Feeling at Home in Helsinki

Helsinki's Tuomiokirkko on Samba Day
Ginger Ale.

Here's the deal. When I was newly married and living in Finland as a "new" resident, I got a craving for Ginger Ale and began my search. All I could turn up were wimpy cans of Canadian Dry, with more high fructose corn syrup than ginger. It just was not the ticket. I wanted the kind that burns down the back of your throat and makes your nose tingle. I missed home, not Canada! (no offense to my Canadian friends). Perhaps Ginger Ale could make me feel a little closer.

Because I am a food nerd, and a bit stubborn besides, I figured if you can buy good Ginger Ale in some places around the world, than you can certainly make your own. And so my quest began. I perused food blogs and googled and searched cookbooks, and most of what I turned up suggested that I try a ferment-at-home process in order to achieve natural carbonation. This process inevitably included yeast (which I am happy to use for Homemade Sima....but that's another post for another day), but I wasn't up for that.

What I finally came up with was a cobbled together recipe from my searches, which I labeled "Ginger Ale, Round 1" in my recipe notes (because my attempt at homemade sourdough resulted in 8 or 9 versions before I got it right), but it turns out that out of sheer dumb luck, out of round 1 came a result I like pretty well, and I have been using it ever since. What you get is a strong ginger syrup that you can use immediately, or freeze for later if you have a lot.

Which you may not after a visit to the sauna.

And definitely not if you swim Lake Washington end-to-end with Wade.

It's just what the doctor ordered if you have a persistent cold, as I do. Ginger Ale and Roses. Yup. I am feeling better already!

"Get well soon."
Homemade Ginger Ale
1.5 lbs/675g of fresh ginger root
2 large, whole apples, any kind will do
1 large lemon
2 cups/5 dl white sugar
1 cup/ 2.5 dl brown sugar (farini sokeri for my Finnish friends)
8 cups/2 liters of still or tap water
Sparkling water to serve - make sure it has a good strong bubble for extra kick

Cut ginger root into 1"/2.5 cm long pieces. Slice apples into large chunks, removing core. Chop ginger and apples together in a food processor until they are coarsely chopped. You may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your food processor (if you don't have a food processor, you can dice them by hand - keep in mind that the smaller the chunk, the stronger your syrup will be).

Wash the lemon. Using a citrus grater, a microplane or a potato peeler (cut into small pieces if you use the latter), remove the peel from the lemon. Cut the lemon in half and use a citrus juicer to extract the juice (or in a pinch, squeeze the halves like crazy to get the juice out - it's old school, but works fine)

Combine the ginger, apple, lemon peel and lemon juice in a large pot. Add the sugars and the still water and cook over high heat until the mixture reaches a rolling boil. Reduce heat to medium so that the mixture is at a strong bubble. Allow the ginger mixture to bubble happily for 30 minutes.

Would look pretty with a slice of apple, too.
Pour the ginger mixture over a fine mesh colander/sieve (siivilä) set inside of a large bowl. Reserve the syrup and discard the solids. If you don't have a fine mesh colander, place a wet dish towel over a regular colander so that you don't get any of the large chunks into your syrup. (If you don't have a sieve at all, I suggest you get shopping!).

Cool mixture to room temperature, then refrigerate to chill completely. Pour a portion of the syrup into a tall glass and fill with sparkling water. The amount of syrup you use depends on how strong you like your Ginger Ale: I prefer a ration of 1:5, syrup:sparkling water.

Makes 6 cups/1.5 liters

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