natural ginger ale

I was sitting on my back porch on a warm summer evening last week, watching the sun fall lower and lower. Sometimes I forget the simplest of things. To take a step back. To reflect. I am constantly in a rush here. Everyone is. It dawned on me that this time last year, I was in Florida, studying for my second to last physics 2 final, dreaming that I'd be moving to New York City once I graduated in a month. I wouldn't have imagined that one year later I'd actually be here, with a soul full of so much growth, experiences, and accomplishments. It's a damn good feeling. 
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It's July, which means a few things. Summer is in full swing. It's hot, and incredibly humid lately from all of this rain. My birthday is coming up at the end of the month, as well as my one year anniversary of leaving Florida for this crazy place. I also can't even believe I haven't posted since March. I think I say something like that in every post, but gosh life moves so fast here.
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Some updates I've been looking forward to sharing with all of you: I moved into a new apartment with a backyard (!!!) in a pretty wonderful, charming, still-somewhat-Italian neighborhood. My dad and little brother paid a visit to the ol' big apple. And, possibly the most exciting of them all; I wrote an article for Food52
ginger ale_2014_ac_web_1Food52 has been one of my biggest inspirations since I made my career change a couple of years ago. When Sarah, one of the editors, reached out to me to contribute I truly couldn't believe it. "Me? They like MY blog?" Really, I was in shock. But I am so grateful for the opportunity. Honestly, I needed it too. I've been working between three to four jobs, hustling hard to make it here, which can be a bit draining when none of them aren't what you really want to be doing. But you have to start somewhere though, and really give it everything you have.

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After bouncing some ideas around with Sarah, I decided to make an all natural ginger ale. A do-it-yourself, perfect-for-summer-gatherings, kinda drink. I plan on throwing a house warming party in the backyard soon, and this, along with some summery cocktails, will be making an appearance.
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all natural ginger ale
makes 2 Liters

you'll need:
clean, plastic 2 Liter bottle
fine mesh sieve
2 cups water
3/4 cups raw turbinado sugar
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger root
1/8 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
5 whole black peppercorns
Two swipes of nutmeg on a microplane
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Champagne yeast (I used Lalvin brand)
For lemon verbena ginger ale, you will need about 15 lemon verbena leaves and 3 more black peppercorns

note: while glass bottles look pretty, I wouldn't recommend using them during the carbonation process here. A plastic bottle will allow you to feel when the pressure has built up in the bottle due to the carbon dioxide. Once the soda has carbonated, you can then transfer the soda to a glass bottle for serving, if you please. 

Champagne yeast can be found online, or you can check if there are any home brewing shops in your area. If you live in New York, I know Brooklyn Homebrew carries it

Combine sugar and water in a saucepan and simmer until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add grated ginger, lemon juice, black peppercorns, two swipes of nutmeg on a microplane, and salt. Let steep for at least one hour. (If adding lemon verbena leaves, do so here)

Using a funnel, pour the ginger syrup base into a clean, two-liter bottle. Fill the rest of the bottle with water, leaving a few inches of space at the top, then add the yeast.

Cap the bottle tightly and give it a shake. Store at room temperature, preferably in a shaded area, for about 48 hours. I placed mine in a kitchen cabinet for good measure (my roommate was probably wondering why there were four bottles of mysterious liquid nestled in with our glasses.) You'll know it's carbonated when the bottle feels rock-solid.

Twist off the cap very slowly to release the pressure. You may even have to twist a little bit, wait a minute, twist a little more, wait a minute, and so on, until you're in the clear to remove the cap completely. One of my batches ended up taking at least 5 minutes before I could fully twist off the cap without it fizzing over.

Using a fine mesh sieve, strain the soda over an ice-filled glass and serve. If you made the lemon verbena ginger ale, add some fresh leaves to the glass to garnish.

If you're not drinking your ginger ale immediately, be sure to refrigerate the bottle once it has reached the point of carbonation. If left out at room temperature, more carbon dioxide will be produced, and you definitely do not want the bottle to explode when you open it. Yeast is a powerful thing, people. I can attest to this. It went a little something like this: I strained the soda into a glass bottle, apparently under the impression that I'm some kind of magician (I'm not) who can magically catch every little bit of yeast in the soda. (I didn't.) And so without thinking, I made the mistake of leaving the bottle out on the kitchen table for a few days. I went to open it last night, just to be matched with a force that can only be compared to a broken, spewing fire hydrant. I was covered, as was the wall, the floor, the clean dishes that were still in the dish rack from last week, and pretty much anything else within a two foot radius. This ginger ale should keep in the refrigerator for at least a week without going flat. I have a couple of batches in the back of my fridge that I've only opened a few times since I made them two weeks ago, and they're still fully carbonated.
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