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There are three main reasons we hear from people on why they don’t preserve:

  1. They don’t have time.
  2. It’s scary/ they don’t know how.
  3. It could be expensive.

I hope we’re doing our part to debunk all 3 items above.  Today’s recipe makes the absolute best hot sauce using fermentation.  You do require a bit of special equipment (a jar and an airlock) but the total cost is around $5 and everything can be reused.  The total active time is less than 5 minutes (elapsed time is about 3-5 days) and the cost of ingredients is less than $2.  And it’s virtually impossible to mess up.

Here’s a few primers that people new to fermentation may want to start with:

We store the whey in a jar in the fridge for a few weeks at a time and use it for fermenting small batches.

Hot peppers aren’t available locally this time of year but I’m a big fan of practicing my technique and recipes in the off-season so that I don’t ruin a bushel of local product during the actual season.  I happened to have a half-cup of Thai Chiles (they are small, long and red) and was on the verge of losing them, so I decided to test a new version of last years hot sauce by experimenting with whey.

The final product is extremely hot and has tremendous flavor that only fermenting can provide.  There’s a sour kick to it that most can relate to when they think of eating kosher pickles.  It’s earthy, sour, acidic and very potent.  This is a similar style to Tabasco (which is fermented in woods barrels) or Franks Red Hot but its way hotter.  If you’re scared of heat, here’s a handy article explaining why you might actually prefer a HOTTER hot sauce than others you’ve tried.  I’ve had a lot of different fermented hot sauces in the last few years and I’m more excited about this one than any other I’ve made in that time.

Ingredients/ Equipment

  • 1 mason jar (not wide mouth) large enough to fit your peppers comfortably
  • 1 airlock (link above; you can find them at wine or beer home-brew places)
  • 0.25-1 cup hot peppers, washed and stemmed (include the seeds)
  • 1.5 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of whey (the link to the Greek yogurt article above shows how to get this)
  • Water (if you’re using chlorinated tap water, pour it into a bowl and let it rest for an hour or more to evaporate the chlorine)
  • White wine vinegar (needed at end; day 3-5)
  • A spice grinder, blender or other fast immersion blender is handy (I suppose you could pulverize manually if you had to)

Instructions

  1. Place hot pepper, whey, salt and enough water to cover in a jar.
  2. Place airlock on mason jar.  Place in a warm-place in your house (around 70 degrees is optimal).
  3. Over the next 3-5 days, gently agitate the jar 1-2 times a day.  The airlock will keep the air out.  You’ll notice the brine will become cloudy.
  4. When the brine is good and cloudy, strain (and reserve) the brine into a bowl.
  5. Blitz the peppers and seeds in the spice grinder.  Adding a little brine may help in this process.
  6. Pour the brine and pepper puree into a jar (I’m a fan of using all of the brine but that’s up to you).
  7. Add white wine vinegar until you are happy.  I would guess we split it almost 1-to-1 with the brine and pepper.  Taste as you add it.
  8. Place a lid on the jar, store in fridge.

The taste will slowly evolve in the fridge – although it’s ready to serve right then and there.  It’s AWESOME!

Note: watch for mold.  If there’s a lot of head space (i.e. ‘air’ between the surface and the airlock), there will still be oxygen in the jar.  If you watch out for it, you can pulverize the sauce before mold occurs. If mold does happen, you can remove it the day it appears (in theory you can do it several days after but the texture will change) but you’ll be adding oxygen back into the mix.  It’s not the end of the world, you’ll just need to watch it closer.

The final sauce has a thicker consistency than the two commercial brands which strain the solids out.  You can strain the solids if you’d like too but be sure to reserve them and use them as paste.  I just happen to love the texture.

This is a very easy recipe that yields results that are better than store-bought at a cheaper price.  I hope you’ll give it a try and let us know what you think!

If you’re a big fan of the hot stuff, you may be interested in our entire series of Hot Pepper Posts where we tasted a whole bunch of different dried hot peppers and shared their heat and profiles (I am still in love with the Morita Pepper).

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When I was young I remember teachers saying they didn’t pick favorites.  They’d swear that all the kids were equal but different and each had a special place in their heart.  I could say the same thing about my recipes – but I’d be lying.  Some things just work out better than others.  And I’m crushing a little inappropriately on fermented mustard.

If you’ve never made anything fermented before, this is a great place to start.  If you’re unsure of the term lactofermentation, check this out.

The final product is spicy (almost at a horseradish type of heat), sweet and sour.  It’s thicker than store-bought mustard (my seeds were  still fairly coarse after grinding); you could thin it out with more water but I love the consistency and texture that comes from all of these fermented bits.

As far as taste, there’s an underlying sour that can only come from fermentation (think of  kosher deli pickles as opposed to those made in vinegar).  It’s full of flavor and it will continue to improve over the coming weeks even though it’s ready to eat now.

I fermented it with an airlock (that link tells the story) but you could likely get away with a lid though pressure will build up in the jar over the first few days if it’s not vented.  If you don’t have access to an airlock, you could use a balloon like Kaela from Local Kitchen describes here.

I really hope you’ll make this.  And I really hope you’ll let us know what you think!

Ingredients

  • 0.5 cups of whole mustard seed
  • 0.25 cups of water (if your tap water is chlorinated it’s essential you leave the water in a large bowl for about an hour to let the chlorine evaporate or it will hamper fermentation)
  • 2 tablespoons whey (it’s a bi-product from making Greek Yogurt)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 0.5 dried hot pepper (optional)

Instructions

  1. Using a coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle, crush the mustard into powder.
  2. Mix all ingredients in a bowl (this keeps the sides of the jar clean)
  3. Using a jar funnel, pour the mustard into the bottom of a clean jar.
  4. Place airlock on top and leave the jar in a warm place for 3-4 days (the top of a cupboard is great as it’s out of the way and heat rises).
  5. You can eat at any time from this point onwards though the flavor will continue to develop; put a lid on it.  Placing it in the fridge will slow fermentation and leaving it on the counter will allow the process to continue which is good – until a point (that point, specifically, is mold).

There’s not much to it – but it’s a condiment that’s unlike any you’ve ever had.  It may, in fact, be the Teacher’s Pet.

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Lactofermented Apple Slices

When we shared that we were experimenting by fermenting apple slices in water, whey and salt, I was really curious what they would taste like.

It turns out that they taste like apples fermented in whey and salt.

This condiment isn’t for everyone.  I am positive we will find a great use for it but the initial flavor is bizarre (which makes it kind of fun).  There’s only a hint of the sweetness left to the apples, lots of tart from the whey and certainly a hint of salt.  I think I’ll soak some to see how the flavor transforms as well.

There are a few reasons to ferment apples like this:

  • To see what will happen.
  • To make an interesting condiment or ingredient.  I’m thinking that these could go very well as part of a marinade or put into a hot and sour soup or perhaps some roasted squash.
  • The process adds healthy bacteria and enzymes to apples and keeps them preserved without killing them (like a sauce laden with sugar would).
  • Apparently (untested though believable), it makes apples more accessible to those on sugar-reduced diets (like diabetics) as the fermentation consumes the sugar.  This makes sense based on all I’ve read but I’ve never tested it.

We did two batches of 2 cups (1 pint) each – one with the skins on and one with them off.  Here’s how they looked 2 weeks ago:

And how they looked this morning (the ones with the skins are still on the left):

The ones with the skins went soft, a little slimier and browned.  The ones without the skins stayed white and are remarkably crisp.  Skins-off is the way to go!

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 cups of peeled apples shaved into slices (I use a mandoline and core them with a small knife)
  • 2 tablespoons of whey (you can easily create your own by straining yogurt like this)
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • Non-chlorinated water (if your tap water is chlorinated, let it sit in a wide bowl on your counter for about an hour)

Directions

  1. Toss the salt with the apples in a large bowl.
  2. Pack a clean mason jar with the apples.  Use large slices last and wedge them in the thin opening to stop them from floating.  We stop fruit and veg from floating all the time like this and call it seatbelting.
  3. Add the whey.
  4. Top with water, tapping to remove air bubbles.
  5. Place in a warm spot for 3 days.  I like to crack the seal slightly each day but an airlock is fine (in fact, one of these mason jar airlocks would work great and would eliminate the threat of too much pressure building up).  When I opened one jar the pressure was so high that I got sprayed with the contents.
  6. Move to a shady or dark part of the house (room temperature is fine) and let it sit for 1-3 weeks, tasting as often as you would like.
  7. To slow (and almost stop) the fermenting, place the jar in the fridge.

We’ll work on some recipes and see what uses we can find for this.  It’s a little powerful by itself but I’m convinced we can find an outstanding use for it in something!  What would you use it for?

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Although we’ve fermented kraut several times before, this was our first take on Kimchi.  Although I changed the recipe a fair bit it’s only fair to give a giant nod of the head to Tigress whose Kimchi Primer formed our starting point.  I started with her because she’s a fellow chilehead and I knew she’d guide me right.  It’s ironic that she posted another kimchi recipe yesterday – this one covers how to transform it into soup!

When we shared some teaser pictures of the ingredients going into the jar (on Feb 27), we received a few questions about our choice of ingredients.  The choice of cabbage was obvious but the choice of carrots was a little perplexing to some.  I had two main motivations:

  • carrots are available, seasonal and I had them on hand.
  • kimchi is rooted in tradition of fermenting vegetables with seasoning – but there are hundreds of varieties.  Most fermenting traditions come from a time long before the abundance of the grocery store and hundreds of varieties of kimchi were created depending on what people had available and in abundance.

You’ll also notice that my kimchi isn’t made of ‘sheets’ of cabbage; my pieces are smaller than tradition, though they are larger that what you’ll see in sauerkraut.  The reason for this is simple: I used the chopping blade on our food processor.  This decision was largely one to save time.  We were able to make 3 liters (close to 3 quarts) of kimchi over 2.5-3 weeks with total hands-on time of about 20 minutes.  I’m a believer that aesthetics are important in some of my preserves but practicality is essential if one wants to eat more seasonally.

My final product is lacking the signature ‘red tinge’ that most see in kimchi:

The reason for this is also simple: the peppers we dried last year were green.  I’ve often found the bright red colour of kimchi a little off-putting so I was quite happy to have a clearer brine although I wouldn’t be turned off if all I had was red hot peppers.

On the lessons learned side, here’s a few takeaways:

  • I loved the results of two-day process that Tigress uses (though I was a bit skeptical at the start).  Who am I to question her genius?  I should have known all along this would be great!
  • I was very liberal with my hot peppers.  I must continue to remember that, when they’re dried, a little hot pepper goes a lonnnnng way.
  • I love ginger.  If you don’t, it’s important to take great care to chop it really fine or the odd bite will throw you for a loop.

Ingredients

  • 6.5 tablespoons of fine sea salt.
  • 12 cups water.  If you use tap water which is chlorinated, measure it into a large bowl and leave exposed to the air for an hour or two to let the chlorine evaporate (it can inhibit fermentation otherwise)
  • 2 pounds of cabbage as mentioned I cut it with a food processor – a more authentic kimchi would but the leaves into 2 inch squares)
  • 1 pound carrots
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh ginger, chopped fine (remember that I love it)
  • 3 tablespoons garlic (also a love of mine)
  • 1.5 tablespoons cayenne
  • 1.5 tablespoons paprika
  • 1.4 teaspoons raw sugar (this helps with the fermentation)
  • As many dried chiles as you can handle, chopped well.  But be warned: their heat will spread liberally.
  • I also used a fermenting crock, clean mason jar (1 quart) filled with brine and a few plates I don’t often use.

Directions – Day 1

  1. Dissolve salt into water.  If you used heat to do so, ensure it cools to room temperature before proceeding (trick: dissolve the salt into 1 cup of boiling water before adding the rest at room temperature to help speed the cooling).
  2. Place cabbage in pot, cover brine (remember to fill mason jar and place a lid on it before proceeding).
  3. With plates to submerge and weight them down with the mason jar (I like to keep the lid out of the salted water as the metal lid will likely corrode). If the liquid doesn’t cover the cabbage, gently push down to release the liquid.  After a few hours it should be completely covered – if not, mix some more brine or cheat with a little bit from the mason jar).  You may have too much brine – store excess in the fridge until day 2 as you may need it then (but after day 2 you can discard it)
  4. Let it sit overnight.

Directions – Day 2

  1. Remove the brine from the cabbage – but do not toss it, you’ll need it soon (removing the brine helps you distribute the spices more evenly).
  2. Toss the rest of the ingredients in with the cabbage.  Toss really well to ensure ingredients are spread throughout.
  3. Use your fist to push firmly down on the veg and further release the liquids.
  4. Cover everything with brine.
  5. Clean the plates from the previous day and cover the veg with them again, the key here is to ensure everything remains submerged.
  6. Weigh down the plates with your brine-filled mason jar.
  7. Store in a relatively cool place.  Tigress recommends cooler than 68 degrees.  Just keep in mind that the warmer the location, the faster the ferment.  And while fast may be convenient, I believe that better things come to those who wait and that complex flavours develop over longer periods of time.  Ours took almost 3 weeks to complete.
  8. If any pieces of cabbage have floated to the surface, remove them by skimming them off (continue this practice through the process)

Directions – The following Days

  1. Check after 3 or 4 days and check daily.  I use care not to disturb the pot (but don’t be overly concerned).  Taste as it goes until you are satisfied with the results.  If mold/ mould appears, don’t be overly concerned: skim it off and clean anything that came in contact with it above the surface of the water (like the mason jar).
  2. When it’s done to your liking, fill mason jars and store in your fridge.  This will slow (and practically stop) the fermentation process and this should easily keep for a year or more.

The carrots  add an underlying sweetness to the heat and sour of the rest of the ingredients; we’re thrilled with the results!

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One of the benefits of cooking with fresh ingredients is that you can preserve unused leftovers for a future date.  We had ‘extra’ cranberries that were leftover from the holidays and decided to preserve them; had we bought sauce (or ‘jelly’), there would have been few options to preserve it as it is, essentially, an end product.

I decided against making sauce; we just don’t have enough occasions to eat it and I really enjoy making it the day we use it.  We had a fair number of cranberries left and wanted to take them in a different direction – so we decided on fermenting them (this ‘recipe’ takes about 10 minutes of active time).

We had 2 pounds of cranberries.  Enough to easily fit in a large (2 quart) mason jar.  I love the 2-quarts (which may be tough to find in the US) as they are large – and wide-mouthed.  This makes using another jar as a ‘weight’ easy.  The key to fermenting is ensuring the product is completely submerged by the brine so we place a jar filled with brine on top of the cranberries as a weight and pack the jar just enough that the smaller jar can sit inside the larger while ensuring the tops of both jars are more-or-less level to assist in removing the smaller jar when needed.

If you can’t find a large mason jar, using a crock r a 1-quart jar is fine (just use a 1-cup or half-cup jar as your weight) and cut the recipe in half (or use two jars).

Before sharing how to make this easy recipe, let’s share some ideas on what to do with the finished product.  I should mention that I’m jumping the shark a little bit here as we are about 6 days into the fermentation and, while it’s not complete, we had our first tastes last night and think we know where it’s going and what we’ll do with it:

  • They can be eaten as-is.  They are less bitter than you imagine a cranberry to be and have become sour like you would expect with fermentation (i.e. a kosher pickle).  Treated as a relish (you could also add some lemon confit) this could be ideal with a strong fish.
  • They can be rinsed (removing some of the salt profile) and added to salads or even a stir-fry.
  • They could easily be added to stuffing (rinsed or not).
  • I added maple syrup to a small dish of the berries and maple syrup and it was delightful as-is or could be added to yogurt.
  • I keep thinking of placing a few of these in a bottom of a shot glass, covering it with vodka, waiting a few minutes and…  Well, you get the picture.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds of cranberries (or as much as you want).  Inspect and pick out any ‘bad’ ones
  • 7 cups of room temperature water plus 1 cup of room temperature water
  • 5 tablespoons salt
  • Ginger – we used a solid hunk, about an inch wide.  I leave the skin on but you can peel if you prefer.

Instructions

  1. If your water source is chlorinated you want to measure it out as soon as possible – let it sit in the widest vessel you have for 30 minutes or so to let the chlorine evaporate (I’ve always believed this to be important but don’t have the scientific proof this works, would love to know if anyone does).
  2. Combine the salt and 1-cup of water and heat until dissolved (stirring will help).  Once it’s diluted, add to the 7 cups of water (this will help cool it which is important to the process).
  3. Finely chop the ginger (I put it in the food processor and chop it well).
  4. Chop the cranberries.  I use a food processor (if you do the same, only add a bit at a time – you still want large chunks and if you fill the processor more than 40 or 50% you’ll have a lot of very fine pieces).
  5. Pour the cranberries into a large wide-mouthed mason jar. Once the water is at room temperature, cover the cranberries with it – remembering to leave room for the ‘weight jar’ that will sit on top.
  6. Jiggle the jar to allow the liquid to settle through the fruit.
  7. Add the weight jar, fill it with brine.  The extra brine will be useful if you have any spilling during fermenting.
  8. Store in a warm place, covered with cheesecloth.  Know that fermenting like this can cause the liquid to overflow (which is why we don’t use a lid as this would cause excessive pressure) so place it somewhere that is 70 degrees plus and won’t be ruined if it overflows (I keep it on a plate on the counter).
  9. Check every day – if there’s mould (there likely won’t be) on the surface, it’s ok to skim it and set it aside.
  10. Check after 3-5 days (sooner if it’s hot).  Check by removing the weight jar and tasting.  If it’s too salty, rinse.
  11. When the pickles reach the flavour and texture you want, remove the weight jar (this will leave room for expansion; don’t worry about adding all the extra brine if things are covered) and store in fridge (this will slow fermentation).
  12. Let us know what you think!

How do you like to preserve cranberries – or how would you like to?

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This is a great end-of-season preserve.  We bought up the last of the hot peppers we could find to make a powerful hot sauce that will warm up our cooking all winter long.

I’ll start with the fine print: this recipe is not a preserve.  It should store in the fridge for plenty of time (we made 2 quarts of it) but we did not waterbath it.  I opted against canning it as this is also a fermented hot sauce and all of the goodness of fermenting (i.e. healthy bacteria) is killed by a waterbath. Storing this in the fridge slows the fermentation process and adding vinegar helps keep it stable.

The final product is very hot (it may settle a bit with time) while retaining the sour tang of the fermentation process and vinegar that was added.  It’s a fairly chunky consistency and it has a lot of flavour.

Ingredients

  • Hot peppers (this recipe uses a ratio so any number will do – we used a LOT).
  • Garlic (I use lots – they are in the fermentation as well)
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Vinegar

Step 1 – Fermentation

When working with hot peppers it is always with considering working with gloves or risking the consequences of a hot pepper juice bath on your hands and anything they touch.

  1. Fill a large bowl with enough water to easily cover your peppers, measuring as you go.  Let the water sit for an hour if your tap water has chlorine in it – this will help remove it (which you need to do in order to ferment).
  2. dissolve salt for your brine.  After reading David’s article on Food with Legs, I opted for a 3.6% brine as opposed to my usual 5% mix.  I was thrilled with the results.  To create an approximate 3.6% solution, add 2 tablespoons of salt for every quart (30 ml per liter).  I tend to dissolve the salt in the least amount of water possible and then add that to the bigger bowl.  For example, to make 5 quarts of brine, you’d need 10 tablespoons os salt.  Pour 4.5 quarts of water into a bowl, dissolve the salt in half-a-quart of water and then combine and bring to room temperature.
  3. Wash your peppers, peel garlic.  Use as much of either as you’d like.
  4. Place your peppers and garlic in a crock (David shows you how to use a mason jars; you can see our version here as do we here) and cover with the room-temperature brine.
  5. Weigh the peppers down; we use plates to hold them in place and weigh that down with a mason jar filled with brine (don’t use water as it will dilute)
  6. Leave in a warm (i.e. not drafty) place in your house covered with a loose-fitting lid or towel to keep out the dust and bugs.
  7. Check your peppers each day – ideally all will stay submerged (if any float to the top, remove from the brine).  Skim any mould that forms (I use a fine colander for this purpose).  You can begin tasting after about 7 days.  I test them by feeling a pepper – it should be soft – but not mushy.  You can chop these up and eat them or cook with them as you go.
  8. Your peppers are done when they stop bubbling or reach the consistency that you like.  Our house is not the warmest these days so it took just over two weeks.

Making the hot sauce

Note that you may have to work in batches – I use two bowls at all times in this process – ingredients travel from one bowl to the food processor and into the second bowl to ensure everything gets well mixed.  You may also wish to work in a well-ventilated area.  This process can scatter the room with a lot of spicy flair.

  1. Remove the peppers are garlic from the brine (don’t discard the brine).  Blend fine with a food processor (I use a high-speed one to start the process before putting it in a larger one for a longer thrashing).
  2. Measure the puree.  We had 6 cups of garlic-pepper mash.
  3. Do the following steps a bit at a time (i.e. you may want to use less than the 2 cups of vinegar I use):
    1. Add vinegar to your mix.  My recommendation is 1/3 the volume of the mash (2 cups for us).
    2. Add brine to your mix.  My recommendation is 1/3 the volume of the mash (2 cups for us).  Remember that the brine now contains salt, a natural sour flavour and also packs some heat.
    3. Taste your concoction (I really wish I had something more than a spoon to taste them with).  You can add vinegar or brine to taste.
  4. Place in clean, resealable jars (I use mason jars) and place in fridge.

This is just awesomeness.

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Making Ginger Beer is awesome and easy – although you require a little patience; its biggest downside is it will take at least 2-4 weeks before it’s ready and demands your attention at the start of the process.  The upside is the depth of flavour, natural carbonation that is something magical to have created.

Our recipe is based on the writing of Sandor Kraut though the quantities of ingredients and technique are pretty similar across the Internet as I suspect they have been for hundreds of years.

There are two parts to the process – the initial small fermentation (called the ‘bug’) which gets things really kicking (almost like a starter for sour dough), and then a secondary fermentation with additional ingredients.

Ingredients

  1. Water
  2. Ginger (a large piece about 8 inches long)
  3. 1.5 cups of sugar
  4. 2 lemons (it just isn’t the same without them)

Instructions

  1. To start the bug, place 1 cup of room temperature water in a jar or bowl (I use a mason jar).  If your tap water is chlorinated, allow it to sit open to the air for an hour before proceeding (this will help eliminate the chlorine and will help the fermenting).
  2. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar and 2 teaspoons of finely chopped ginger.  Stir well.
  3. Cover loosely with cheesecloth; I use a single layer as natural yeasts will enter the jar but flies will not.  I hold it in place by screwing a band around it (just not using the lid).
  4. Store in a warm, dry place.
  5. Add ginger and sugar (the same amounts) every day, stirring after.  Repeat until your contents become fizzy (you’ll be able to hear it).  This should take a couple of days and up to a week.  Our apartment has a bit of the initial chill of winter in it so it takes its sweet time.
  6. Boil 2 liters of water with six inches of chopped ginger root (for a strong flavour, you can use less if you’d like) and 1.5 cups of sugar.
  7. Allow the mixture to cool completely and strain the contents to remove the solids.
  8. Add the juice of two lemons, and this syrup to your ginger bug.
  9. Strain the mixture to remove solids.
  10. Add water (again a good practice is to let the chlorinated water sit for a bit) to increase the contents to 4 liters (roughly a gallon)
  11. Bottle in clean bottles – you can get them from brew-your-own beer stores, reuse Grolsch pop-top bottles or use beer bottles if you have a capper.  We’ll share how to sterilize/clean later this week (it’s a post unto itself).  Avoid regular plastic pop bottles – the pressure of fermentation is intense enough to stretch and eventually explode them.
  12. Store until the bottle is hard to squeeze (in the case of plastic).  It should take 2-3 weeks.
  13. Refrigerate before opening and know that this can be a little more prone to making a mess when opening so be near a sink, with a glass!

It’s really fantastic…

If you make Ginger Beer, do you do anything differently?

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