Fermented Foods: Ginger Bug and Ginger Beer/ Soda (Part 1)

My husband and I had a strong addiction to soda. There was nothing like the burn of the carbonation going down our throats. A little over ten years ago, we gave up the stuff. Now the constant features in our house are water and wine. Nowadays, soda only shows up in our house when guests come over.

imageWell, there is an exception. In fact, there will be all sorts of exceptions in this post. This recipe will, also, contain sugar. Gasp! Before you click off, hear me out til the end and then decide if this recipe is worth your time or not.

I, personally, don’t desire soda anymore. But there are many people who do, like my husband. Or more accurately, he craves a bubbly beverage. How can I make a drink that is bubbly, but is really good for you as well?

imageThat’s where fermented beverages come in. This ginger soda is similar to Kombucha in that it is, also, a probiotic drink. In my opinion it, also, has the fizziness and sweetness of Kombucha. But, there is one big difference. This one is really fun and really simple to make. The worst part of the whole process is being patient. You don’t need any special supplies or spend a lot of money.

All you will need is ginger, sugar, unchlorinated water, lemons, a 2-liter plastic bottle (I used a old water bottle) and salt. These are the total ingredients you will need for both the ginger bug and the soda.

We will focus on the ginger bug first. This bug – there really should be another name for this – is the starter we will need to make the ginger beer or soda. It will take about 5 days to process. And you will need to continually feed it to keep it active. But, don’t limit using this starter for soda alone. You can use it as a starter for fermented fruit, ketchup, vegetables, etc. Only your creativity limits you. Be aware that the starter has a ginger taste, so it might put a little of that flavoring in whatever you use it for.

imageBut, why is this unrefined, no sugar added wife posting a recipe that adds sugar? I have a strict diet, that only allows a little wiggle room. But, this fits into my wiggle room without noticeable consequence. How? In order for bacteria to grow it needs to feed on something. In this case, the bacteria is feeding on the sugar that is being added to the ginger bug and ginger beer. The feeding results in the carbonation in the soda. If there is no sugar for the bacteria to eat, the bacteria will die. In other words, the sugar added to the ginger bug and soda is for the bacteria, not for you and me. Though the soda is still sweet, it’s a light sweetness. And since the soda is meant to be drunk in modest amounts at a time, it is not something I am too concerned about.

FYI: Fermented foods contain some alcohol in it. It is the by-product of bacteria eating sugar. For the most part, the alcohol level is so low that it’s undetectable. But especially in the case of this ginger beer or ale, the longer you ferment it, the more alcohol it will have in it. This has a low fermenting period, so the levels will be low. But, hopefully with knowledge comes wisdom and you will use this according to what’s best for you. Be wise my friends.

Also, a word about food safety. Make sure you sanitize your utensils and bottles and containers properly before using them for your fermented foods. We don’t want bad bacteria to enter your foods. It’s not hard to sanitize. I place everything in boiling water for 15 minutes. Use tongs to get them out and allow to cool and dry completely. There are other methods as well. Become familiar with them and do what’s best for you.

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Ginger Bug (Starter for your Ginger Beer/Soda/Ale)

What you will need:

Ginger (organic is best)*

Unchlorinated water (distilled is best)#

Sugar (white or unrefined)**

In a glass container, pour in 1/2 cup water, 1 TBSP of sugar and 1 TSBP of grated ginger (do not peel). Place a loose towel over it or cheese cloth secured with a rubber band. This will keep dust and bugs out of your mixture while allowing it an airflow. Set in a room temperature area, away from the sun. Each day for five days, add 1 TBSP of sugar and  1 TBSP of grated ginger. By the fifth day, it should be fizzing. It is now ready for use. Use 1/4 of a cup at a time.

With the remaing mixture: In order to keep your bacteria alive you must continue to feed your mixture. Now feed it every day by adding 1 TBSP of water, 1 TBSP of sugar, and 1 TBSP of ginger. Or you can place it in the fridge and feed it once a week.

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* If you cannot find organic ginger, peel the skin before using.

# I have yet to find distilled water in Bolivia, so I just boil the water. The chlorine in your water will kill the bacteria in your bug, so don’t use it.

** I have seen notes advising not to use honey for your ginger bug. The reasoning is that because honey has antibacterial properties, it will prevent your ginger bug to grow. I have used raw honey with success, but it took longer than with regular sugar. Use as your own risk.

Have you made a fermented drink? Tell me how it turned out.

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