I started my first Ginger bug today!
Ginger Bug is a slang term for a lacto-fermented starter, a culture made from ginger root. Ginger Bug is used to make fizzy beverages such as the real old fashioned healthy ginger ale, root beer, sarsaparilla soda, and strawberry or other fruit sodas. Ginger root contains lactobacillus, a friendly bacteria. Lacto-fermented beverages are full of probiotics and very healthy. Lacto-fermented beverages and foods aid in digestion; the good bacteria improve the health of our digestive tract. These fermented beverages are called ale, soda, or beer, such as ginger ale, sarsaparilla and strawberry soda, or even root beer! In olden times, before the explosion of mass produced soft drinks flooded the market, our ancestors made fermented drinks that were thought of as healthy drinks. Nowadays we all hear that sodas or soft drinks are bad for us because of all the added sugars, dyes, and chemical they contain. When you learn to make lacto-fermented beverages and see all the sugar you will add, you may think it is bad using all the sugar but the difference is that the lactobacillus eats the sugar in the homemade fermented beverage and the resulting byproduct makes the fizz and produces the probiotics, much like the yeast does in bread making or in beer making.
Although ginger root is most often used, other roots also contain lactobacillus and can be used to make a lacto-fermented starter. Lactobacillus is a friendly bacteria that aids digestion and has many other healthy benefits. You may of heard of sourdough bread starter, that starter uses yeast whereas “Ginger Bug” is made with bacteria. There are many different ways to make a starter for lacto-fermented beverage. Kefir grains make kefir water, and Scoby is the mother in the Kombucha, but I will save that for another article.
My ginger Bug should be ready in about a week to make some ginger ale, fruit soda, sarsaparilla, or root beer. Stay tuned and if you haven’t joined the mailing list for my blog, sign up with your email and you will never miss a post!
One fruit soda I think I will create is a strawberry, pineapple, lemon soda. I will use fresh fruit to make my syrup and then add the ginger bug starter to it and bottle it. The other one I plan to make is Sarsaparilla. Did you know that is made from the Smilax root? This is a little bit of trivia that my Master Gardener friends can appreciate. Even if you aren’t a Master Gardener, if you live in Florida and are garden savvy, you definitely know what that plant is!
You may also find it interesting that the National Institute of Health even recognized the benefits of lactobacillus!
Check it out here: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/790.html
Update March 22nd
Recipe for my ginger bug:
For the Starter:
4 cups spring water
3 tbsp chopped fresh ginger (washed – leave peel on)
2 tbsp white granulated sugar
Put all ingredients in a clean quart jar and stir, cover with tightly woven cotton cover, and secure with a rubber band.
Feeding during the ferment:
You will stir twice a day and feed once a day.
To feed, add 1 tbsp sugar and 1 tbsp chopped ginger, then stir.
Keep covered so no gnats or other contaminants can get in the vessel. NEVER USE CHEESECLOTH to cover. Cheese cloth has too loose of a weave and will alow gnats to get inside the vessel.
You can stir more often that twice a day to encourage probiotic growth.
The 4rth day you should see foaming and smell wonderful sweet aroma of ginger wafting from the jar. You will want to drink it! I have used my ginger bug to culture sodas at only 4 days old, but some people wait a week. After a week you can store any unused portion in the refrigerator and then you need to feed and stir once a week. Refrigeration slows down the process of the fermentation.
To get entire process including making old fashioned sodas using the ginger bug as starter, go read this post, there is also link to PDF that you can download: https://maggiescornerdotorg.wordpress.com/2015/10/25/making-a-healthy-old-fashioned-probiotic-soda/