We are calling 2011 the summer of the mojitos. It all started when Sj was with us and we had arranged to meet the Oxford nieces, Liz and Courtney at the Kasbar in St Clements. The Kasbar was making a big deal of their mojitos and was offering two sorts, one was the traditional one topped up with soda water and the other used Cava instead.
We had a round including both types and then we got a call from Rosemary to say that her train had been delayed, what else could we do but have another while we waited and then another once she arrived?
Our travels that summer with Cribbit included many mojitos and we had them instead of vitamin drinks at our summer party. After all, anything with that much fresh mint and lime just has to be good for you. Rosemary claims that she does not like them "Too many vegetables" she says.
Read soda water or Cava where you see water if you like, we prefer them with just plain tap water.
Squeeze the lime and either add an equal volume of water and then the same volume of rum as lime juice plus water [50% rum] OR if you want it weaker, squeeze the lime and add an equal volume of water and an equal volume of rum. [33% rum] Sj says "bottom shelf" cheapest variety of rum will do.
Crush the sugar cubes with the mint in a pestle and mortar or with the end of a rolling pin in a metal cup. Its better not to use a pint beer glass for this as I found out the hard way, ending up with a sticky floor on Cribbit.
Shake all together until the sugar has dissolved. Garnish the glass with the mint and the lime slices, strain for non-vegetarians.
This also works well with damsons or plums.
Pick the fruit and put in a jar.
Add lots of sugar and fill up with cheap gin.
Stir and test weekly.
When I was little, we lived at Queen's Cottage. In the spring someone was bound to give us a ginger beer plant and we would make ginger beer.
Of course, something this messy and bubbly was very popular with me. The way it worked was that every day for a week you would add a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of ground ginger to the plant in its jam jar with a great decanting, brewing and bottling at the end of the week.
You then divided your plant into two, gave one away, and carried on as before. Now if you are into geometric progression or pyramid selling you will realise the huge implications of this. It was not long before every household with primary school children was awash with ginger beer and surplus ginger beer plants. Of course none of us could bear the thought of actually throwing one away so ginger beer plants became a bit like kittens in that they would mysteriously appear unbidden on one's doorstep over night.
Mix all the ingredients together, put in the sterilised jar and loosely screw on the lid.
We used to leave it on the kitchen window cill. Every day for a week add 1 teaspoon of ground ginger and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Shake it all about.
On the ninth day, make up the beer.
Dissolve the sugar in some of the water in a pan on the stove. When dissolved, pour back into the remaining water, add the lemon juice and the liquid from the plant filtered through a fine coffee filter.
Bottle and cork securely and leave for a further week.
Do not completely fill the bottles or the carbon dioxide released from the fermentation may cause them to burst.
2litre plastic drinks bottles are ideal but they are hard to come by in my household.
Divide the solid part of the plant in two, give one away add ¾ pint cold water to the other and repeat.
A simpler, and probably more alcoholic, method uses those same 2 litre fizzy drinks bottles.
Mix the yeast with some warm water and a little sugar to get it 'started'
Meanwhile, squeeze the lemon, grate the ginger root and put in the bottle with about 1 litre of water. Add the yeast and top up the bottle remembering to leave a space as before.
Keep in a warm place for 48 hours by which time the plastic bottle should be very firm. Release the pressure daily by partially unscrewing the caps. Refrigerate for a further 48 hours then drink.
Filter through a coffee filter immediately before drinking.
So the ginger beer from my youth; about all I can remember was that I was told it was lemonade and being excited about trying it then disappointed that it was going to take so long after we had made it!
Then coming home from school one day to a house that reeked of yeasty ginger beer and there being broken glass all over the place. That was number 1.
Then of course there was one that woke us all up in the night and I think I remember one that was sitting happily on the windowsill in the sun one afternoon until life became a bit too much for it...
I don't recall ever tasting any possibly because none of them survived.
The next ginger beer experience was when we passed our gcses and spent a week on cribbit. Eddie and I had got a ginger beer pack (just add water and wait a few weeks) and made up a brew in a huge jar. A bit like the jars in an old sweet shop. Of course we didn't really get it made in time and it was a bit yeasty when the drinking came around. Of course at that age anything tastes better with a litre of vodka added to it and that's what we did. Basically we got incredibly drunk but somehow managed to survive!
My recent excursions into the land of the brewer have been just as dramatic. I started off with a lemonade and a ginger beer and over the next few weeks added 2 ciders and 2 lemonades. I decided to add a bit of sugar to the lemonade as they were quite acidic and wasn't really sure how the yeast was holding up. Unfortunately, I wasn't really paying attention to underneath the funnel and got rewarded with a blast of half brewed lemonade in the face. It soon got under control though...
after that lesson I was a bit more careful with them as I had decided that against all odds it might actually be working! I worked out a nice little pressure sensing method by way of bending the metal lids on the bottles and waiting for them to pop back up at which point the bottle had to be bled. This worked fine for a while but they need constant attention.
So over xmas they sat happily brewing away without any interference and the pressure built up...
One drunken evening after life had retuned to normal I decided to bleed the bottles. Everything was working fine but it was taking a while because the pressure had built up significantly. One bottle was so pressurised I couldn't shift the lid so I left that one till last. The rest of the operation went smoothly and so with great confidence I attacked the last bottle. Still couldn't shift the lid so I took my shirt off and used it to get a better grip...
and promptly got hit in the face by a crumpled piece of metal that had formerly been said lid! Followed by almost 2 litres of (by this point) highly alcoholic cider, one might almost have called it brandy from the smell! Accompanied by screams of 'aarrrghy my eyes!' and 'it burns!!' a half naked man reeling drunkenly about the bathroom holding a rapidly emptying bottle of home brew!
Eventually I threw the bottle into the bath and drippingly washed my face, it must of taken only microseconds but the whole place was covered in cider and the smell has only just stopped haunting us!
So whether we ever get to try the home brew is beside the point. I think most of the 'fun' is to be had in making it!
As for recipes, I got hold of a generic one from the web and tried many different variations on the theme. I have some small idea of what went in them but hesitate to reveal until the tasting...
I am much maligned about my vitamin drinks. John even labelled them 'date rape' drinks. He should be so lucky! I can claim no originality for it as it is well known in America as a Tom Collins.
We are pretty hopeless in Britain when it comes to making cocktails. We tolerate tepid, watery drinks when really they should be very cold and strong and as result my drinks are brought into disrepute.
During the hot summer at Rookery Cottage, Lyn and I would end our day with a Tom Collins, and it was very pleasant too until John discovered our habits and decided to join us. The main requirements are, home made lemonade, at least 50% gin and long glasses [1/2 pint are very suidiv]. We used to keep the glasses in the freezer and rub their rims with lemon juice just before filling.
The trip to Barbados made me realise what a healthy drink this is, being packed with vitamins, so this is what I call it now. Rosemary prefers them made with freshly squeezed orange juice and she does not like them cold so they become much easier to make, but I still keep the oranges and the gin in the refrigerator.
Shake in a cocktail shaker for 1 minute. To be authentic it should be shaken with crushed ice.
Actually, missing out the gin makes a nice summer drink! I like to have this mixed up and available most of the time. I don't put it in the refrigerator as I think this spoils the flavour.
I put the squeezed juice in a 1 litre jug and then add water to the top. Add the sugar and give it a good stir.