For hundreds of years (and probably much longer) cultures around the world have made various forms of naturally fermented “sodas” from sweetened herbal teas or fruit juice mixes. These natural fermented drinks contained beneficial enzymes and probiotics to boost health and were a far cry from the unhealthy versions we have today.
This version uses a fermented ginger culture to create a naturally fizzy soda! Ginger is and delicious herb that has been used in many cultures for its health-boosting properties. From my herb profile of ginger:
“Ginger has been used in Chinese Medicine for thousands of years and is said to help:
Soothe digestive disturbances | Alleviate nausea (great in early pregnancy) | Reduce fever | Calm coughing and respiratory troubles | Stimulates the circulatory system | Helps relieve muscle aches and pain | Can help get rid of dandruff | Emerging evidence shows it helps lower cholesterol | Japanese research has found Ginger is effective in lowering blood pressure and cancer risk”
This natural recipe for ginger ale uses fresh ginger and a cultured ginger mixture (called a ginger bug) to create a naturally fermented and naturally fizzy ginger ale. Though this mixture can contain a small amount of alcohol if left to ferment at room temperature for weeks, we use the short brew method to create a fizzy soda without the alcohol.
Homemade ginger ale is soothing for digestive disturbances and contains probiotics and enzymes. As with any fermented product, I’d suggest starting with a small amount (4 ounce or so) and working up as all the probiotics and enzymes can cause an upset stomach in those who aren’t used to consuming fermented products. I found small amounts of this mixture helpful in early pregnancy to ward off nausea and any time one of us has an upset stomach. It also just tastes great!
This recipe makes 2 quarts of natural ginger ale, though the recipe can be adjusted up or down by using a ratio of 1/4 cup sugar per 1 quart of water and adding 1/4 cup ginger bug starter per quart of water.
Natural Ginger Ale
A naturally fermented old-fashioned ginger ale (also once called Ginger Beer) that contains beneficial probiotics and enzymes.
Recipe type: Cultured – Beverage
- A 1-2 inch piece of fresh ginger root, minced. Adjust this to taste. I use 2 inches as I prefer a stronger ginger taste.
- ½ cup of organic sugar or rapadura sugar. if using plain sugar, add 1 tablespoon molasses for flavor and minerals.
- ½ cup fresh lemon or lime juice
- ½ tsp sea salt or himalayan salt
- 8 cups of filtered (chlorine free) water
- ½ cup homemade ginger bug (or can use ¼ cup whey for a faster recipe though the flavour won’t be quite as good.) See below for recipes for Ginger bug. For whey see here http://tinyurl.com/ocjfu82
- Make a “wort” for your ginger ale by placing 3 cups of the water, minced ginger root, sugar (and molasses if needed), and salt in a saucepan and bringing to a boil.
- Simmer the mixture for about five minutes until sugar is dissolved and mixture starts to smell like ginger.
- Remove from heat and add additional water. This should cool it but if not, allow to cool to room temperature before moving to the next step.
- Add fresh lemon or lime juice and ginger bug (or whey).
- Transfer to a 2 quart glass mason jar with a tight fitting (air-tight) lid. Stir well and put lid on.
- Leave on the counter for 2-3 days until carbonated and transfer to the fridge where it will last indefinitely.
- Watch this step carefully. Using whey will cause it to ferment more quickly and it will take less time. It should be bubble and should “hiss” like a soda when the lid is removed. This is very temperature dependent and the mixture may need to be burped or stirred during this fermentation time on the counter.
- As with any traditional fermented drink, it is more of an art than a science as it depends on the strength of your culture, the temperature of your house and the sugar used. The final mixture should smell of ginger and slightly of yeast/fermentation and should be fizzy. Watch carefully that it doesn’t become too carbonated as this will cause too much pressure and may result in an exploding jar!
- The mixture can be strained and transferred to Grolsch style bottles before putting in the fridge (we like these bottles).
- Strain before drinking.
Get over to wellnessmama.com for great recipes and healthy family info.
By Katie – Wellness Mama (Source: wellnessmama.com; June 19, 2013; http://tinyurl.com/pltcvj5)
How to make ginger bug – http://tinyurl.com/pw7uxsk
A ginger bug is a culture of beneficial bacteria made from fresh ginger root and sugar. It is similar to a sourdough starter for bread or a kombucha scoby for making kombucha. The ginger imparts its flavor and as it naturally ferments, creates a mixture of beneficial bacteria.
Though not overly tasty by itself, the Ginger Bug is the base for many homemade sodas and tonics. We use it to make Root Beer, Ginger Ale, Fruit “sodas” and more.
The recipe we use is an adaption of the recipe in Nourishing Traditions (p. 591) and is the culture we use for all homemade sodas. There is also an easier way to make soda that doesn’t require a ginger bug if you prefer to skip this step, but to make an authentic soda, the bug is needed.
Once this ginger bug is made, it can be kept alive and used continuously to make healthy soda at any time.
- 1-2 fresh ginger roots
- ½ cup white sugar (important for starting the culture. Honey, stevia or other sweeteners will not work)
- 2 cups of water
- Quart size mason jar
- Cut a piece of ginger root about 1.5 inches long to make 2-3 tablespoons of grated ginger. You can also finely chop instead of grating. There is some debate about if it is better to peel the root or not. My genera rule is that non-organic ginger gets peeled and organic just gets rinsed before grating.
- Place the ginger in a quart size mason jar and add an equal amount of white sugar (2-3 tablespoons). Nourishing Traditions insists that white sugar is needed to create the bug and I’ve had the best success with this, but a local friend claims that unrefined sugar or sugar with 1 tsp of molasses added works better. Try what you have and adapt as needed.
- Add 2 cups of filtered water to the mason jar. Make sure that the water has been filtered so that it does not contain chlorine which can affect the culturing process.
- Stir with a non-metal spoon and lightly cover. I cover with a coffee filter and rubber band.
- Each day for the next five days, stir the mixture at least once and add 1 tablespoon of grated ginger root and 1 tablespoon of sugar. (note: depending on temperature, it may take up to eight days of adding sugar and ginger to create the desired culture).
- You can tell if culture is active if there are bubbles forming around the top of the mixture, it “fizzes” when stirred and it takes on a sweet and mildly yeasty smell. It will also become somewhat cloudy and opaque. If mold appears on the top, scrape it off if it can be removed. It this happens more than once, you will need to start again. If the mixture hasn’t taken on these characteristics by the 7-8th day, you need to discard it and start again.
- Keep the culture away from other cultures like sauerkraut and kombucha or it can cross culture.
- Once the ginger bug has cultured, it can be used to create fermented sodas and drinks at the ratio of ¼ cup ginger bug starter per quart of sweetened herbal mixtures (for ginger ale or root beer) or diluted fruit juice (for fruit flavored sodas).
To keep the bug alive and continue growing it, you will need to feed it regularly. Add 1 teaspoon of minced ginger and 1 teaspoon sugar per day if kept at room temperature. You can also “rest” it in the fridge and feed it 1 tablespoon each of ginger and sugar once a week. To reactivate it, remove and let it reach room temperature and begin feeding it again.