Having grown up in Soweto, when my parents would tell us there was a funeral or a wedding my heart would skip a beat in excitement, not for the dry as dust cakes they’d call “scones” nor the bland yellow rice and beetroot we’d be served. Nahhhh, my excitement was in anticipation of having gemmer (the Afrikaans for Ginger, most indigenous language speakers refer to it as gemere…with the last ‘e’ pronounced).
I soon discovered with time that no one quite had a recipe, the old mama’s in the kitchen, my folks, my gran, NO ONE. I assume just like how they make the dry scones people just guess quantities of ingredients. So after much fiddling, I’ve come up with the ratios and quantities. Apparently the raisins are added to absorb the alcohol that rises to the top as the yeast ferments (I don’t know how true this is though!). You’re meant to actually strain it once its done but I’ve never seen anyone do this. To prevent it fermenting further, place in a really cold fridge. Don’t worry about it becoming alcoholic ginger beer…it takes 2 weeks minimum for this to happen.
Note: There are other techniques to making gemere that involve adding cream of tartar and tartaric acid and making use of ground ginger instead of fresh. For a less cloudy and more clarified gemere those recipes are the ones used. This recipe is for the traditional, typically cloudy variety which doesn’t make use of chemicals.
- 3 litres cold water
- 3 litres hot water
- 3 cups sugar (you can add more if you want it sweeter)
- 3 heaped spoons of freshly grated ginger
- 1x10g packet of brewers yeast
- Handful of raisins
- Stir the sugar into the hot water with the ginger for a few minutes until the sugar is dissolved.
- Add the cold water to the bucket as well as the yeast and raisins. Stir again.
- Stir the mixture every hour for the first 3 hours and then cover loosely with a lid.
- Set aside at room temperature for at least 2 days (it’s best served after 3 days but that’s up to you.)
- If you prefer your gemere less cloudy, strain through a clean muslin cloth or clean pillow case.