Last week I started a Ginger Bug. It’s now one of my kitchen children, along with my sourdough starter, beet kvass and kombucha that I feed, monitor and nurture regularly to keep our flow of fermented and probiotic rich foods going in our household. Sometimes I feel like I run a lab instead of a kitchen! Nontheless, I thought a nice bubbly, yeast-powered DIY soda flavored with bay leaf and fruit would be a good second submission for Fiesta Friday Challenge #1! I’m also cross-pollinating and bringing it to the FF#16. By the way, Angie at the Novice Gardener and her wonderfully creative blog and all of our Friday partyers have made Fridays my favorite day. Many thanks to the co-hosts each week for putting together this fun blogging event!
What is a Ginger Bug?
A blend of fermented yeast (“wild” yeast, not purchased or powdered yeast) and sugar water, Ginger Bug captures beneficial microorganisms like wild yeasts and bacteria in the same way sourdough starter does. The wild microorganisms “digest” or eat away at the sugar in the Ginger Bug, and produce CO2. When mixed with your chosen base, such as fruit juice, pureed fruit, or sweet tea, the microorganisms in the bug begin to consume the sugar in the base, and, as they do, they reproduce and emit carbon dioxide. The result is a bubbly and wildly delicious naturally fermented soda rich in probiotics – great for gut health (which, maybe unbeknownst to you, can the gateway to the improved health of so many of the body’s other systems — skin, immunity, hormones, neurological/brain wellness, even fat metabolism and muscle/lean tissue maintenance.
How to Make the Bug:
To make Ginger Bug, you need fresh ginger, a sweetener (but not a non-caloric one like Stevia or Splenda) to feed the microorganisms, and filtered water. To make sodas, choose flavorings – it could be fruit juice, pureed fruit, cocktail “syrup”, herbs, flowers, or even roots and bark for a root beer. While the Bug itself benefits from a loosely lidded container, the sodas benefit from a tightly capped environment which prevents the escape of CO2 produced during the fermentation process. This gas helps to ensure that the resulting homemade soda is fizzy just like you want it, when opened.
I used whole, unrefined cane sugar, but you can also use Jaggery or Palm Sugar. If you are concerned about Sugar, realize it’s not for you but for the fermentation process. In other words, its gets “digested” and transformed into something else, rather than remaining “sugar.” Sugar feeds beneficial bacteria and wild yeasts. Without it, the bacteria and yeast have nothing to eat, and cannot reproduce. Much of the sugar in fermented tonics is consumed by beneficial microorganisms who then transform it. This is similar to what the wild yeasts do to gluten during the making and baking of natural sourdough bread, which is why it’s so much more easily digested than commercially yeasted breads.
Yield: about 1 pint
Whole Unrefined Cane Sugar or jaggery
Break off a knob from your hand of ginger, peel away its papery skin and grate it until you have 2 heaping tablespoons. Place the grated ginger in a small jar, whisk in 2 tablespoons unrefined cane sugar and 2 tablespoons filtered water. Cover the jar loosely and allow it to ferment in a warm spot in your kitchen.
Every day for at least 5 days, mix 2 tablespoons grated ginger, 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons water into the jar. The ginger will begin to foam and bubble at its top, and will smell yeasty like beer. After 5 days you can use it for soda, or store it in the refrigerator, and feed it 2 tablespoons grated ginger, 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons water once a week.
To use your ginger bug in preparing homemade sodas, simply strain off 1/4 cup of the liquid and add it to 1 quart of a sweetened herbal infusion, to fruit juice, or to a combination of the two. At this stage, I mixed in 1/2 quart pureed pluots (4 pluots with enough water to make 1/2 quart) and 1/2 quart of coconut cream and water mixed together. I also added 4 fresh bay leaves to each flavor. Mix it well, and transfer it to a flip-top bottle where you can allow it to ferment about 3 days. Next, transfer it to the refrigerator, and allow it chill before opening. To create the coconut creamsicle, after I opened both bottles I poured a large amount of the coconut cream/water mixture into a glass, then topped it with a small amount of the pluot mixture.