My stepfather has cancer.
It’s the type of cancer that is not going away.
He’s had it for quite a few years. It is treatable, but his prostate (with the cancer) is four times the size of a normal prostate organ. This makes it uncomfortable for him to sit, stand or lay down for any amount of time. It’s also created a couple of other types of cancer in the meantime while sitting in the toxic stew of chemotherapy and radiation. Those secondary cancers can be treated. As he has said for years now that it is not the cancer that will kill him. It will be the cure that kills.
After reading many other blogs, including Spider and Jeane Robinson’s daughter and her struggle with stage 4 breast cancer I decided to share some of my thoughts.
One of the biggest challenges is the lack of appetite. I remember this from my Great Uncle Ben, and the latter days of his fight. He had his final menu, and he managed to eat pizza, pickled hogs feet, and banana pudding. Just because it was the only thing that he could taste one last time. But during the fight, there comes a point when the body and spirit has a lack of will to consume any calories. This is due to stomach being upset from the chemotherapy, radiation, or both. Also from just being that tired and unhealthy.
There has to be a way to get the right calories in the body, and settle the stomach. I have to do something.
And I have to make it enjoyable. A labor of joy will carry through to the end result. It will also have to be done everyday. Even when I don’t feel like it. (Much like writing.)
For those of you who know me, I do enjoy beer. Brew my own anti-oxidant enriched toxic cleansing beer? Something that can be sipped, have a good taste on it and end nausea? By looking up more of the health benefits of ginger in general, a decision was made. (And those who are dear to me, know that I have been talking about this for quite a while.)
I’m brewing Ginger Beer.
For anti-nausea, ginger helps calm the stomach. (Don’t believe me? Ask the MythBusters ) Half the battle is getting the bad side effects temporarily relieved, then the hunger response actually has a chance to come through. A decent beer can also provoke and help induce a healthy appetite. It’s also a basic enough recipe that it could possibly be kept brewing on a regular basis, for minimal costs.
This also resonates with many other folk remedies that prove to work. Leeches? Apparently their anti-coagulation saliva also helps stitch together open wounds and clean out infections. Go figure.
Plus I’m going to brew some for myself, something about the Dark and Stormy recipe is really intriguing, must try it out and could possibly be my Beverage of Choice for the summer.
After reading a plethora of recipes, (Or myriad, wait, which one is organized? and which one isn’t? This is mainly showing random thoughts at this point.) I’ve distilled (pun, see how I fit that in?) information to the point where I think I can get a decent Ginger Beer started.
Much like a Mother Loaf, a SCOBY or GBP can be started and carried on, just about infinitely… if the conditions are right.
So, found a calculation on grated fresh ginger root and juice. And so it begins…
Got a small pot of water boiling, and then put the ginger root in, to help cleanse the skin, warm it up a little and get rid of any stray bacteria.
8 inches of ginger root, finely grated, pressed and strained into 600ml of room temperature dechlorinated water. With grating the root and getting everything prepared took about an hour. I now know why most recipes call for ginger powder. But this is a labour of love.
Added the juice of 2 lemons, which not only flavors and adds a citrus base, but also helps further dechlorinate water. (Found the easiest way to get more juice is to pierce the skin with fork, then microwave 20 to 30 seconds. After that, dig the fork back into the lemon breaking it apart, then squeezing it with hands. The seeds and pulp stay in, and you get a lot more juice and oils from the skin.)
Time to give the yeast something to eat. Added 3 tsp of fine sugar, 1 tsp of clarified honey, and 10 raisins. Huh? What? Why? Okay, the honey is also for health reasons, I know that raw honey would probably better, but that could possibly introduce a bad type of bacteria or yeast into the mix. I’ll try out raw honey on a different batch in the future. 10 raisins? Apparently, just more sugars for the yeast to eat, or is it? I’ve read on quite a few recipe and notes, that when the raisins float to the surface, then the GBP is ready to brew into the larger bottling. And the three different versions of sugars? Will give the yeast a variety to snack on. At least I tell myself that, give the yeast a buffet table of eatables.
Next step. Shook it up to oxygenate the water and dissolve the sugar and honey. Lot faster than stirring it. Took a smell, and it’s really lemony, grated up some more ginger root, about 5 inches worth. Another half hour later and put it through a strainer. At this point, the recipe is out the window and I’m doing this by nose and best guesstimate. From the smell, it’s half ginger half lemonade at this point. Pretty tasty on it’s own I’d imagine.
Added 1 packet of champagne yeast to the mix. (Don’t have my own SCOBY yet.) Watching it mix and cascade into the liquid. Smelled that great yeasty goodness, then loosely put the lid on, to allow for gas expansion. Then covered the jar over with a dishtowel. Can’t find information about the yeast, if it is light sensitive or not. I had a feeling it wasn’t, but guess I will find out. 1 entire packet? Excessive? Possibly. The good folks at the wine kit place said, best to add it all in, it will only produce so much alcohol anyways.
So for the next few days (7 to 10) constantly feed it 4 teaspoons of sugar and 4 teaspoons of ginger powder. Also kind of fun watching the yeast take the few parts of the shredded ginger lifting it up and bubbling away. I kept doing this, until the yeast became inactive. No more bubbling, distinctive alcohol smell coming from it. And the starter juice tasted so gingery it was hot on the tongue.
The concoction then gets strained, the yeast sediment left behind can get reused! (Much like a Mother Loaf/Friendship Loaf/sourdough. But with the straight champagne yeast it didn’t get strained out at all.)
Time to get the simple syrup/bottling solution ready. Start off with 2 or 3 gallons of dechlorinated water, boiled with sugar and honey. Tasted it, as the best recipe I found said, ‘so it is sweet like juice’. Kept adding in more sugar, and honey.
Now a very fun tricky part. In order to keep the remaining yeast in the starter juice active, I have to get the bottling solution to the same temperature. So, filled sink with ice and then lowered the pot of the bottling solution in to cool it down. Once they both got to room temperature, it was time to do some magic.
Add in the starter juice to the bottling solution. Then ladled into 1L plastic bottles, put the plastic caps on. I filled the bottles up about 75 percent, then squeezed as much as it can to remove all the air out of the bottle. Place the bottle in a nice warm place, and check them every day. If the bottles are tight in plastic, then release the excess gas and retighten the cap. I placed the bottles into a large tupperware bin in shower stall.
BIG NOTE HERE! No glass here, possible flying shards of death, as the yeast will be still active and producing more alcohol. Also read on many blogs, about people having exploding bottles, cleaning ginger beer off the ceiling, and similar events when they first open up their brew.
It is suggested that after 4 days (once again reading from many websites) place the bottle into the fridge to cool. That will trigger the yeast to stop producing alcohol and then overnight it will be ready to drink.
Well, that was the plan.
Two weeks of waiting. Squeezing out the C02, twice a day from the bottles. The yeast was still very active eating up the sugars. But the biggest difference was between day 13 and day 14. Too sweet on day 13, nice and gingery on day 14. Put all the bottles into the fridge.
And even so, the yeast still continued to eat up the sugars. But it was a big success.
At a beer tasting, I brought 1 liter of the brew. And we had it mid-way through the night. After switching between lagers and ales, and then into stouts we needed a change of pace. And it was a really nice cleanser, too many hops and too many malts at one point. And yet, I think that the brew could have sat a lot longer. It would be a very good addition to have with sushi, as it would cleanse tastebuds with every sip between bites.
Oh yes, and reports back from my step-father that it does help his stomach relax, but he has to watch how much he can have. The new pain killers are definitely not alcohol friendly. But he can fit in the occasional sip here and there.
And that’s all it takes. That one little bit. Overall cost? About 30 dollars, including the 1L bottles, ingredients. And the payoff was my step-fathers gleeful chuckle as he first tasted it.
Join team #effcancer on twitter.
I’m still here,
P.S. Batch # 2 is aging, went with just shredded and juiced ginger and demurred brown sugar. After two weeks, the batch tastes a little watery and does not have the huge ginger profile as the first batch. I am hoping to get carbuoys and an actual Ginger Beer Plant for batch three, using ginger powder, juiced and shredded ginger. If anyone has an actual Ginger Beer Plant they’d like to part half with. Please do leave comment.