A couple months ago, I wrote up something on how I make homemade root beer nowadays. A reader comment encouraged me to try out a few other recipes, partly with the idea of seeing if there were a practical way for people to save a couple bucks here and there while not scrimping on their gustatory experiences.
I've been experimenting with a variety of flavors, the results of which I may get to in a later post, but I've discovered an early winner that's ultra-cheap. What's more, you can probably make with the stuff you have in your kitchen already: homemade ginger ale. The cost: 61 cents.
OK, so you won't be saving enough for your kids' college with this, but with the cost of everything going up, every little bit counts, right? And, when you're paying, say, $1.69 for a 2-liter bottle of ginger ale at the supermarket, that $1.08 you save with each trip to the store can really start to add up if you're a ginger-ale addict, or if someone's got a long-lasting tummy ache.
I already knew the basic recipe for carbonating your own soda pop from my experiences with root beer, so the real question was how to flavor the soda just right. I originally started with the grated ginger by itself, but it tasted dusty and medicinal, like the homemade remedies my dad poured down our throats when we were 5. Worse, it was missing some essential zing. That's when I noticed that many recipes added the juice of one lemon to a bottle. In the lemon juice went, and the flavor picked up considerably.
1 1/2 Tbl. grated ginger
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon yeast
clean 2-liter bottle or growler jug
1. Juice the lemon and set it aside.
2. Pour the sugar into the bottle.
4. Pour the yeast into the bottle. Shake the bottle so that the yeast and sugar are mixed well.
5. Pour the ginger and the lemon juice into the bottle.
6. Fill the bottle about one-quarter full of cold water and shake well again, so that everything's mixed well and the sugar and yeast are dissolved.
7. Fill up the bottle with water until nearly but not quite full, leaving an inch or two of space from the lid.
8. Leave out the bottle in a warm spot for 2-3 days, or until it's carbonated to the degree you want. Then chill the ginger ale in the fridge and enjoy. (You'll probably want to filter the ginger ale as you pour it into the glass. Otherwise you'll get little bits of grated ginger stuck on your lips.)
Warning: If you leave the bottle too long in the warmth, you risk the bottle exploding.
Feel free to fiddle around with the amounts of ginger, lemon or sugar, as you like. Personally, I've found that 1 cup of sugar seems the perfect amount, for me, at least. Even a scant bit less makes the soda bland; a little bit more gets syrupy sweet.
Cost Per Bottle: $0.10 for 1 1/2 Tbl. grated ginger + $0.20 for juice from 1 lemon + $0.02 for 1/4 tsp. instant yeast + $0.29 for 1 cup sugar = $0.61
Michael Y. Park is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. He studied medieval history as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, and journalism as a graduate student at New York University. His stories have appeared in publications including The New York Times, the New York Post, and the Toronto Globe and Mail.
MORE FROM EPICURIOUS:
The Epicurious Editors' Blog
Food News and Views From All Over
35 Easy Ways to Stretch Your Food Dollars
How to Make a Mocktail
These spirited cocktails pack a punch...without any alcohol
Weekly Dinner Planners
A collection of tasty recipes for the busy work week
Epicurious.com's guide to seasonal cooking while the weather's warm