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Homemade Ginger Ale, Part 1: The Ginger Bug

I’ve been a little quiet on here lately. I have a phone full of photographs of my various projects just waiting to be written up so I hope to share a few of them with you all soon.

I’ve chosen today my new hobby: making my own ginger ale! I’m not completely new to fermenting. I’ve been brewing water kefir for about 5 years now and keeping my grains alive was enough responsibility. I started making sourdough bread at one point but the pressure of keeping my sourdough starter alive became too much. Ginger ale, on the other hand, has been pretty easy, as long as you give it the attention it needs when it needs it…come to think of it, ‘saying it’ out loud, it does sound like quite a chore, but if you like kitchen experiments then you’ll not mind the extra tasks.

This first post will be all about how to make your own ginger bug which you can use to make all kinds of soda drinks…I’ve so far made one but I’m on a journey!

Where to start. The ginger bug is a starter culture that, once made, you can keep feeding and keep alive until you need to use it again. My ginger bug is a couple of months old now and it just needs a little attention once a week to keep it going.

To start off your ginger bug you need about three tablespoons of chopped organic ginger. I chopped mine into small pieces, leaving the skin on. Put it in a jar that can hold about a litre of liquid. Add three tablespoons of pure white sugar and two cups of non-chlorinated water.

Stir the liquid until the sugar dissolves. I have read that when fermenting you shouldn’t use metal spoons etc, perhaps because stainless steel is antibacterial.

Next cover the top of the jar with a piece of cloth or muslin held in place with an elastic band. This allows air to enter but will reduce the chance of cross contamination if you have other fermentation projects on the go, e.g. sourdough starters, kombucha. You should also not place the jar next to any of these if you can help it.

Leave the jar on the kitchen counter, not in direct sunlight and then continue to feed it daily with another table spoon of chopped ginger and one tablespoon of white sugar. It will take 5-7 days until the ginger bug is ready to use. I like to write the dates I start ferments on the jars so I know where I'm up to.

Over the 5-7 days the ginger bug will likely be cloudy and start to get small bubbles developing on the surface. These appear like white foam and can look a little strange. The smell will start to develop to and become more yeasty and gingery. You will also see small bubbles rising from the bottom of the jar. After 5 -7 days you should see that the ginger bug is alive and active and it is now ready to use.

So why ferment your own ginger ale?

Well, I'm no expert but I have read that there are many benefits to drinking fermented ginger ale. First, it has anti inflammatory properties as it contains gingerol, which is thought to be beneficial in treating internal inflammation. It is also said to improve circulation as it relaxes the blood vessels. And finally, during fermentation probiotics are formed which aid digestion and fight harmful gut bacteria. These are some of the reasons I started fermenting my own drinks but in addition to these, they taste delicious and are a great alternative to fizzy drinks.

I hope you have found this blog interesting. My next blog will cover how to use this ginger bug to make your own ginger ale!


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