Wednesday, 27 June 2007

The Quest for Ginger Ale

What got me started on experimenting with cordial recipes, you may ask? Well, we drink a LOT of ginger ale and I was getting fed-up with being dependent on the supermarket to buy endless 1l bottles containing... well, what exactly? Flavourings, preservatives, colourings - not very uplifting! We use the ginger ale as a mixer to go with scotch whisky (strangely enough) so the end result we were looking for was something quite smooth and light.

So I set about making a ginger cordial that we could then mix with carbonated water (that's a whole other story!). So far, I have to report that I haven't found one that we really like, they all taste too fiery, or too lemony. Here are the recipes I've tried, I thought that the pink ginger one sounded promising, but my first take didn't come out pink. I will write off to Thorncroft and see if they have any idea why, and will tell me the secret. :) I'll update this post if/ when I get a response.

Recipe No.1

This was the first recipe I tried: http://www.recipezaar.com/37364. I've summarised it here.

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 piece lime rind or fresh lemon rind (no white)
1 large gingerroot, chopped
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 cup lemons or lime juice

1. Boil the water, sugar, ginger, rind and cream of tartar for 5 minutes.
2. Add the lemon or lime juice.
3. Bring to the boil again.
4. Take off the heat, strain and pour into a sterilised bottle which will hold approximately 6 cups of liquid.
5. Use like ordinary cordial, either with iced water for a cooling drink, or hot water for a warming drink on a winter's night.

Too fiery and too lemony for our taste! How do you get a smooth, Canada Dry- type taste, I'm wondering?

Recipe No.2

Then I found the following recipe, which looked quite promising: http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/~dins/history/gingerale.shtml

I was excited by the idea of replacing sugar with the natural substitute stevia. But, we found the stevia really didn't taste good. Perhaps it's the way I used it? If you have a different experience I would love to hear.

So, the recipe:

3 1/2 cups water
4-inch long piece of ginger, peeled & chopped
2 Tbsp vanilla flavoring
3 tsp lemon flavoring (non-alcoholic)
1/2 tsp stevia powder (or to taste)

Boil down the ginger in water for 10 minutes. Strain out ginger pieces and pour ginger juice into jar. Add vanilla and lemon flavorings and stevia. Let cool and store in refrigerator as a syrup concentrate. Add 1/8 - 1/4 cup of syrup to 6-8 oz of sparkling water and serve.

This one didn't really work out either, apart from the stevia, it was a rather strange mix of vanilla flavours and still the fieriness of the ginger. Are we just being too fussy? LOL So the quest continues with...

Recipe No.3

Next I found a recipe for Pink Ginger, which sounded very promising: http://www.thorncroftdrinks.co.uk/recipe_ginger.htm. My first take of it definitely isn't pink and doesn't live up to their description " It has a superbly refreshing flavour, not at all fiery". However, I'm sure this is user error, so I will buy a bottle of their cordial just to check, and let you know how the real McCoy tastes.

300g fresh ginger root
1 kg granulated sugar
2 sliced lemons
30 g citric acid
350 ml water

Grate the ginger and immediately add the citric acid. This is what gives the pink colour. Then add the sugar and mix well. Leave for about an hour, then add the sliced lemons and water, mixing well. Stir occasionally until all the sugar is dissolved, then cover and leave for a week, stirring daily. Then strain and press the pulp gently by squeezing it against the side of the sieve with a ladle. Bottle adding one Campden tablet, or refrigerate.

Quest to be continued... :)

Update 01/07/07
I bought a bottle of Thorncroft Pink Ginger from Waitrose at the weekend and did a taste test against my homemade version. They actually taste remarkably similar, even if theirs if a gentle pink colour whilst mine is bright yellow! I noticed that on their ingredients list they additionally have "colouring fruit and vegetable concentrates". I found some information on what this means: http://www.ferret.com.au/articles/dd/0c02cddd.asp. I've also written to Thorncroft to try and find out why my cordial didn't go pink. LOL! Could this have something to do with that final ingredient? Anyway, I think I will try the cordial again, perhaps without any lemons, and then with just a small amount.

Update 02/07/07
Thorncroft got back to me today (very friendly, BTW) and apparently the "colouring fruit and vegetable concentrates" are blackcurrant and a special variety of black carrot grown for the colour.

Apart from that, I made a new batch of Recipe No.3 today without any lemons in it, so we'll see in a weeks time how that tastes.
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