Thursday, August 18, 2011

Canning 101: Ginger Syrup and Home Made Ginger Ale!


Aren't they pretty looking?  Seriously this is the best food related picture I think I've ever taken *laugh*.

So, ever wanted to make your own ginger ale?  Yeah, me too!!!  I was super excited when I found a recipe showing you how to make your own ginger ale, but more importantly a simple recipe for making ginger "syrup", which could then be converted into ginger ale, to be used as a medicinal syrup for upset stomachs or just to add to tea for an added layer of flavor (it makes awesome iced tea too!).  The original recipe just made the syrup and refrigerated it instead of canning it, but I figured that had to change because I wanted something like this to be a staple in my pantry from now on.  So, here's the recipe (and process to can it).

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Ginger Syrup (note: I tripled this recipe to make canning it worthwhile)

The Hardware:
  • Canning Jars (duh right).  I used pint ones because I wanted to make sure the syrup wouldn't go bad before I could use all of one jar.  Trust me a pint will go a long way.
  • A canning vessel of some type.  I used my pressure canner just filled up with water to where I needed it, but an 8 quart really narrow stock pot would do the trick with something, like a folded up dish towel on the bottom to keep your jars from sitting on the bottom of the pot.
  • 1 Big pan to mix up your syrup in.  I used a 6 quart pan I had, but it will all depend on how much of the syrup you make.
  • 1 Slotted Spoon and some spring loaded tongs
  • Cheesecloth (you can also use a very clean and non-linty dish towel)
  • A sieve or Colander
  • Another pan to "catch" your clean ginger syrup 
The Software:
  • 1 Large piece of fresh ginger (I tripled the recipe and used 2 ginormous pieces of fresh ginger I got at the store)
  • 2 Cups of Sugar
  • 2 Cups of water

Directions:

Chop up the ginger into pieces about 1/4 of an inch thick (no peeling of the ginger needed or anything).  This doesn't have to be scientifically accurate.  You just want the pieces thin enough that the sugar solution will work all the way through them and get you the most out of your fresh ginger flavor. 

Place the sugar, ginger pieces and water into a large pot or pan and heat over high heat until you have a good rolling boil going and YES, make sure to stir well a couple of times to incorporate the sugar.  Once you have it at a rolling boil, I boiled mine for about 10 minutes just to start to get the cooking of the ginger started.  Then turn off the heat and let the ginger mixture sit for about 1 to 1 1/2 hour to steep out the ginger flavor.

At this point you could just strain the ginger mixture through your cheesecloth lined colander into another vessel, put it into a jar and store it in the fridge.  OR you can do the following method to can it.

First nest your colander, lined with 2 layers of cheesecloth or a lint free dish towel (preferably not a thick one) into a pan to catch your ginger syrup.  Then fish out the ginger from your syrup with a slotted spoon and then pour your syrup through the cheesecloth into your new "holding vessel".  This helps to strain out chunks of ginger and other impurities.  You now have cooled, but yummy ginger syrup.  Now to can it!

First make sure your jars are washed and HOT.  I use my dish washer for this set on "sanitize" but if you don't have that make sure you get the jars in really hot water (boiling is a preferred method, but I've found most of my pots don't work because they're too small so I just fill up my sink with 1/2 boiling water and then 1/2 hot water from my tap and then slip the jars in.  They stay hot for a long time that way.  Remember to keep everything clean too just for the sake of not encouraging bacterial growth.

Do NOT put lids and bands through your dishwasher because dishwashing detergent will kill the sealing agent on the lids.  Also make sure you only boil them for a maximum of 5 minutes.  Honestly?  I make sure they are washed (of course) and then I just place them in hot water long enough to soften the sealing agent on the lids (which is why you need to get them hot) and then use them.

Now as for the ginger syrup.  I brought my entire mixture BACK up to a boil for about 15 minutes just to get the mixture a little more concentrated (I love strong ginger flavors) and then I turned off the heat, but you can just bring it back to a boil and not worry about boiling it down any further  Bringing the mixture back up to a boil is important so that you don't shock your jars when they hit boiling water in a canner.  Make sure you boil your mixture for at LEAST one minute to kill off anything that might have been able to think of coming near your syrup while it was steeping.

As for your canning vessel, make sure you have some device (pie pan, dish towel or canning rack) in place and then fill up your pan to make sure your water level comes up to at least the top of your canning jars plus I'd say about an inch (remember as you add more jars to the water the water level will rise, so I think your last inch will get taken care of by displacement) and bring that water to a boil before you can your syrup into jars.  You want to literally can it and put it in the water.  That way you have the freshest taste and a lot less chance of a jar failing on you.

Take spring loaded tongs (my personal recommendation) and remove a canning jar from your boiling/hot water bath (I used pint jars by the way).  Place a canning funnel inside of the mouth of said jar and then using a decent sized ladle fill up jar until the liquid comes to the bottom of canning funnel (or you CAN fill it up to the bottom of where the band threads onto the jar, that would give you 1/2 inch too if you don't have a canning funnel).  Make sure your rim is nice and clean of anything that could mess up your seal.  Then get yourself a hot band and lid and screw your lid onto your jar until it's finger tight.

Don't force the band to try to get it REALLY tight or anything.  What causes the vacuum seal to occur is actually the cooling of the items inside of the jar combined with your "headspace" (the space between the jar lid and the stuff in the jar) to create a small vacuum inside of the jar.  The band is MERELY there to hold said jar lid in place so that the seal matches up correctly as the jar cools.  So tightening the crud out of it isn't going to do you any good.

As soon as your jar lid is in take your canning tongs and place your jar into the water.  Repeat the entire filling process with your other jars.  Process for 30 minutes via the hot water bath (boiling water) method.  Remove the jars carefully (using the jar lifting tongs) from the water when your time is up and place on some dish towels or pot holders or something (not directly onto cool counters or anything like that...you don't want broken glass if you shock the jars too badly).  Let cool COMPLETELY (overnight is usually how I do it and by morning they're nice and cool, but either way if you want to be careful 24 hours might not be a bad idea) and then check the seals.  Honestly within 15 minutes you should hear a lot of pings as the vacuum seals suck down the tops and your seals take hold.  If you don't hear any pings, something went wrong.  After the jars are cool, check your seals.  Push in the tops, if you can push them in and they give while make a clicking sound the seal didn't take.  Either reprocess the jars (bring liquid back to boil, re-jar, use new lid and reprocess for 30 minutes) that failed or refrigerate and use within 1 month.

What do you do with the ginger lovliness you just jarred?  Well, I'd suggest making home made ginger ale.  It's super simple (and thanks to the internet for pointing me toward this recipe)...

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HOME MADE GINGER ALE

  • Take 2 1/2 Tablespoons (about) Ginger Syrup (refrigerate before using it to make it nice and thick) and place in an 8 oz glass
  • Place some ice cubes in the glass if you wish
  • Fill up the rest of the way with club soda (a lot of people swear by the club soda with lime for this because the citric acid helps to add a bit of zest to the ginger flavor).
And voila you're done!  And with only 2.5 tablespoons used per glass...it's going to take a while to go through an entire pint *laugh*.  I've also found that this stuff makes a GREAT addition to tea, iced tea, chai (oh my yes!) and it works great straight as a means to help calm an upset stomach (ginger is a natural digestive so it's good for stomach upset).

So, go to town my friends and have fun making home made ginger ale and other coolness out of ginger syrup.  It is definitely a good thing.  Oh and as a side note:  The ginger you use to make the syrup?  Set it aside on a cookie sheet to dry (you'll want to flip it after about 12 hours or so) and then just eat it if you like candied ginger.  I was in seventh heaven for DAYS with my leftover ginger!

5 comments:

SugarKitties said...

my husband will be in heaven thanks so much :o))

Anissa said...

Hi there, I love this idea but I'm new to canning and I'm always nervous about safety. How do you know this is safe to can? Is it because of all the sugar?

Thanks for indulging my newbie question!

Erika @ Those Who Help Themselves said...

Sorry it took so long for me to reply. Yes, due to the massive sugar content this is definitely safe to can :).

Anonymous said...

How long will the ginger syrup last once canned? I am thinking of using these for wedding favours. Thanks!

Erika @ Those Who Help Themselves said...

I'd go for a year, max on these as that's the general guideline for canned goods. I've used it at pretty much the year mark without issue.