Make: How to Make a Ginger Bug + Real Fermented Ginger Ale

Once you learn how to make real, healthy ginger ale…you’ll never drink soda again.

I once heard someone describe the process of fermentation as a spiritual experience…and ever since, the idea has stuck with me. Think about it. With a few small steps and a bit of tending, you’re rewarded with profound nourishment for body and mind, a substance — whether it’s kombucha or kimchi or kefir — that will drive impurities from the corporeal body and fortify the soul. Under your care, it brews itself, nature’s alchemy demanding nothing but a bit of attention and maybe a quick stir every now and then. I think about this spiritual connection every time I spy my quickly-expanding fleet of kombucha SCOBY’s sitting on the shelf, every time I’m left wondering what to do with the remaining liquid from homemade sauerkraut (drink it). Fermentation requires that we place our trust in nature, that we learn to read the signs; as a reward we’re bestowed with better health, increased energy and a system that runs like a well-oiled machine.

I’ve been making a point to incorporate more gut-healing fermented foods into my diet recently, which means my countertop and shelves are brimming with jars of mysterious-looking mixtures that bubble and fizz, the most intriguing of which is my most recent obsession: a ginger bug. I learned about ginger bugs (or ginger cultures) earlier this year, and no, they’re not little scurrying creatures. A ginger bug is a fermented culture made from water, sugar and chopped ginger root, and from it, you can make a naturally fermented soda full of probiotics and good-for-you enzymes. Not even remotely related to the sugary nightmares found on store shelves, fermented “soda” uses naturally-occurring yeast in the air to ferment and bubble and, after a short time on your shelf, you’re rewarded with a healing brew that will ease an upset stomach or just refresh on a hot day. Below is a recipe for both the “bug,” which takes several days to develop, as well as an all-natural ginger ale, but feel free to experiment with different mixtures for the final “soda” once you get the hang of it!

A note on sugar: for the bug/culture, regular white sugar is necessary. This is what the enzymes feed off of — other sweeteners will not work.

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How to Make a Ginger Bug

Ingredients:

1 extra large piece organic ginger (if using non-organic, be sure to peel it)

1/2 cup white sugar

2 cups filtered water

Tools:

1 quart size mason jar, sterilized + air-dried

Wooden spoon

Grater

Coffee filter or cloth

Rubber band

Grate or finely chop 3 tablespoons of ginger. If using organic ginger, there is no need to peel it, but non-organic should be peeled.

Place 3 tablespoons of the sugar and the grated ginger in the mason jar and top off with the filtered water. Stir with a non-metal spoon (wooden or ceramic). Cover the jar with the coffee filter and use the rubber band to secure it in place. Store in a room-temperature place, away from direct sunlight and other fermenting cultures like kombucha to prevent cross-pollination.

Every day for the next several days (about 5, but sometimes less and sometimes up to 8 days), add 1 tbsp chopped ginger and 1 tbsp white sugar and give it a stir with a non-metal spoon. If you see mold form on the top, you can scrape it off, but if mold appears more than once, toss the whole thing out and start over (hey, fermentation takes patience). You’ll know the culture is ready to go when it becomes somewhat cloudy, smells a bit like yeast and fizzes when you stir it.

Once it’s brewed, you’re ready to start making “soda”!

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To keep the bug alive: feed it daily with 1 tsp sugar and 1 tsp chopped fresh ginger. You can also house it in your fridge to give it a rest, but you’ll need to reactivate it by bringing it to room temperature before feeding it again.

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How to Make All-Natural Ginger Ale

Ingredients:

1/4 cup ginger bug

4 cups boiling water

1/4 cup grated or minced fresh ginger

1/3 cup raw sugar

3 tbsp raw honey or maple syrup

Tools:

Large glass bowl

Wooden spoon

1-liter glass bottle with a sealable flip top

Coffee filter or cloth

Rubber band

Place the grated ginger in the mixing bowl and carefully cover with boiling water to create a ginger tea. Allow the water to cool completely.

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While the water cools, pour the sugar and maple syrup into the glass bottle. Add the ginger bug and cooled ginger tea, and stir to combine (you can also seal the bottle and turn it over a few times to mix it). Uncork the bottle and cover the top with the coffee filter, holding it in place with the rubber band. Allow it to sit for 24 to 48 hours, then seal, turn it over a few times to mix. Allow to ferment for 3-5 days with the cover sealed (this is what creates the bubbles). Enjoy!

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+ Learn how to make sourdough

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Comments

  1. Living overseas, if I can find the corked bottles, they’re about 15-20 USD EACH! Would a tight sealing other kind of jar be an OK substitute?

  2. Cindy – You can use a tight-sealing jar, like a Mason jar, but you will have to “burp” it occasionally to let out the gas to be on the safe side. If you’re in Europe, you could purchase a flip top beer (I know Grolsch produces varieties in flip top bottles) and reuse the bottle.

  3. In your recipe in the directions it says to daily add 1T sugar and 1T ginger. Under the picture it says to add 1T sugar and 1 tsp ginger daily. Which is it? Thanks

  4. Just a caution, I followed this recipe and used the same bottle as in the pictures and it exploded while finishing the fermentation process. I was lucky to not be harmed because glass literally exploded all over the kitchen. Luckily something was right in between the bottle and I because we pulled out a 6 inch shard that would have shot right into my chest. Was super scary so I advise not using the bottles with the flip tops as pictured. And also burping it in a mason jar, even though the recipe doesn’t say to do this. If even one shard flew into my eye I could have been blinded. It was not worth it.

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