I keep hearing that fermented foods are good for you, and I do like yogurt. I also like beer and wine – those are fermented foods… right? 🙂
When I was a little girl we enjoyed camping in the Sierra Nevada Gold Country and on our way we sometimes stopped at a steak/hamburger joint called Black Bart’s. The story I remember (no guarantees this is fact, just memories of good times from years ago) is that the restaurant used to be a saloon of sorts and Black Bart himself, a famous bandit at the time, used to frequent this establishment. One of the drinks on the menu was sasparilla and another was ginger ale. Real brewed sasparilla and ginger ale. But, because I was a little girl, I couldn’t drink it because it contained alcohol! Ginger ale with alcohol? Well… of course. Why do you think they call it ale? The recipe I found called it ginger beer, probably because Americans forget that an ale is an alcoholic drink, unlike the chemically laden stuff you buy at the store to mix with your drinks. And Sasparilla? Well, that’s what eventually became known as root beer. Beer! Of course, commercial sodas sold in grocery stores worldwide do not have alcohol. I found several recipes online to make ginger ale and they all looked pretty easy, so I decided to dive right in. All you need is some fresh ginger root (it’s actually a rhizome, but whatever), organic sugar and filtered water.
This is the recipe I used – of course I tweaked it just a bit:
Make the Ginger Bug:
Day 1 finely chop up about 3 teaspoons of peeled ginger, add to 1-1/2 cups of filtered room temperature water and then add 3 teaspoons of organic sugar. Stir to dissolve sugar. Every day after add about 2 teaspoons of the finely chopped ginger and 2 teaspoons of the organic sugar and stir. It’s actually best to stir twice a day. Also, never use a metal spoon. Apparently metal reacts with the acids in the ginger ale – and not in a good way. By about day 3 or 4 you will see the mixture turn cloudy – that’s good. Then, about day 5 or 6 you should be seeing small bubbles appear around the edges, especially when you stir or agigate the mixture. By day 7 or 8 and at least by day 10 you should see a little bubbly foam rise up when sugar is added to the mixture. Now the ginger bug is ready to be made into ginger ale!
To make the ginger ale, first take care of your bug. Strain the ginger bug through a cheesecloth or coffee filter into a large container (a 1 gallon container with a tight lid is perfect). Wash out the original container the ginger bug was in and place the used ginger back into this jar. Now add 1-1/2 cups filtered water, 2 teaspoons each of the finely chopped ginger and sugar, and you now have a new ginger bug. Feed it just like you did before. If you don’t want to make a new batch of soda every week, you can keep the bug in the refrigerator. Just feed it once a week and it will stay alive. Once you want to make soda again, take it out of the fridge, feed it, and in a couple of days it should be ready to go again. Back to the ginger ale – now add the juice of three lemons, 3/4 cup of your organic sugar and 1/2 gallon of filtered water to the container. Seal the top down tight. If you are using a glass container, as I did, beware that the pressure inside the jar could cause the glass to explode! Be sure to open the jar once a day to prevent explosions. You can see from my picture that I used a Vlassic Pickle jar that had a metal lid, so I was careful to avoid letting the metal touch the ginger ale. Also, the lid was one of those “pop top” type – like canning jars – and I was able to tell if there was a lot of pressure in the jar if the top was popped upward and I couldn’t push it down! I also kept the jar inside a larger container – just in case. 🙂 Alternative you could keep it in a plastic container. I personally prefer not to use plastic when possible. Let the ginger ale ferment for about 5 or 8 days. You will know it’s ready when you get a lot of fizz upon opening the jar – just like soda! Once it reaches that point it is ready to drink. Put it into the refrigerator and in a few hours you will have yourself a nice cold refreshing fizzy drink. And it’s good for you!
Oh – about the alcohol. All of the web sites say it’s negligible – less than 1%. In fact, some over-ripe bananas may have more alcohol than the ginger ale when properly brewed. You see, most alcoholic ales (or beer) are brewed for 6, 8 or even 10 weeks to get the alcohol content up. The ginger ale takes quite a bit less time than that – thank goodness! For my next experiment I am going to try making strawberry soda using the ginger bug. Apparently, once you have a good ginger bug going, you can make all sorts of sodas, by adding different ingredients into the fermentation stage. Also, once the bug is going good and strong you can substitute most of the sugar with honey. It will give the resulting ginger ale a different flavor, but the resulting drink will be doubly good for you!
By the way – after making my second batch, I found that my last piece of ginger was trying to grow! Poor thing. I read (during my research on how to make ginger ale) that you can easily grow ginger (yes, even the stuff you get at the grocery store) and harvest enough every year to keep your ginger bug alive without having to buy more ginger. Now that sounds pretty sustainable to me! So, I took the last piece of ginger that was growing and placed it into a pot. I sure hope it grows well, because I am liking this ginger ale! Have you ever brewed ginger ale before? I know there are quite a few variations on growing the ginger bug, including some that boil the root and water first, then add the sugar; and others that add yeast (isn’t that cheating?) This variation worked well for me, but I am always experimenting and tweaking recipes to make them better. Do you have any suggestions? Shared at these fun parties: Freedom Fridays; Friendship Friday; From The Farm Blog Hop; Eat, Create, Party; Pinworthy Projects Party;Farmgirl Friday; Friday Flash Blog Party; Weekend re-Treat; Family Fun Friday; Friday’s Five Features; Real Food Fridays; Friday Favorites; Old Fashioned Friday; Fridays Unfolded; Inspired Weekend; Anything Goes Linky; Show Off Friday; Craft Frenzy Friday; Weekends Are Fun;Front Porch Friday; City of Links; Super Saturday; Show Stopper Saturday; Simply Natural Saturdays; Strut Your Stuff Saturday; Saturday Sparks;Saturday Show & Tell; Show and Tell Saturday; Spotlight Saturday; My Favorite Things; Get Schooled Saturday; Serenity Saturday; Simple Saturdays; Frugal Crafty Home; That DIY Party; Nifty Thrifty Sunday; DIY Sunday Showcase; Snickerdoodle Sunday;Submarine Sundays; Simple Life Sunday; Think Pink Sunday; Homesteader’s Hop; Sunday Showcase, Clever Chicks, Homestead Barn Hop, Natural Living Monday, Moonlight & Mason Jars; The HomeAcre Hop; Share Your Cup Thursday; Home and Garden Thursday; Fabulously Frugal Thusday;Simple Lives Thursday; Mountain Woman Rendezvous; Catch A Glimpse Party; Create it Thursday; Time Travel Thursday;Think Tank Thursday; Green Thumb Thursday; Krafty Inspiration; Homemaking Party; Treasure Hunt Thursday; All Things Thursday; Inspire Us Thursday