It's simple to make, and requires only two ingredients: Fresh, organic fresh ginger with the peel intact, and sugar (see note below). To begin, mince or grate about an inch of ginger and add it to a tablespoon of sugar in a quart jar. Stir together with 2 cups of dechlorinated water (read here about how to dechlorinate your own water). Chlorine can inhibit the kind of growth we're aiming for, and it's easy to remove if you plan ahead. In this article, I discuss the merits of an awesome, low tech water purifier that removes chlorine and renders any water safe to drink, or ferment with.
A note on sugar: The natural fermentation that occurs in the formation of the ginger bug will be more successful if it's fed the trace minerals, particularly iron, that naturally occur in unprocessed sugars like sucanat and rapidura. There are lots of variations on these "evaporated cane juice" type sweeteners. If you are using plain white sugar, you should add a dollop of blackstrap molasses once in a while to beef up the nutrients in order to help the ginger bug grow.
Cover your jar with a cloth and rubber band, so it can breathe but stays free of dust and fruit flies. Give the starter a stir twice a day, and once a day add a teaspoon each of sugar and minced or grated ginger. In a couple days it will start bubbling when you stir it, but it's really ready when you can hear it bubbling before you stir it. It takes about 3 days to mature, or longer in a cold room.
I use about a cup of starter liquid for each gallon-size batch of soda I make, or 1/4 cup of starter per quart for smaller batches. Just pour your ginger bug through a strainer into a measuring cup and it's ready to use. Heat will destroy the enzymes, so make sure whatever you're adding it to has cooled to just warm.
|From Left: Honey Wine, Kombucha, and Rootbeer. The wine & rootbeer were both started using a ginger bug.|
Now that you have a lovely, bubbling ginger bug going, Try out my recipe for delicious natural ginger ale. The ginger bug can be used for many other natural fermentation projects, so don't limit yourself to ginger ale. But it's a great place to start!
My friend tried making this from frozen ginger and got no action, so the natural enzymes present in fresh ginger might be deactivated by freezing. Also, I've read that the required enzymes are concentrated in the skin, so I would avoid using peeled ginger, and always buy organic if you can find it.
For more on ginger bugs, as well as a whole world of fermentation ideas, check out the original source of my inspiration, two books by Sandor Katz. Both probably available from your local library, but also definitely worth owning. If you buy either through my ad links below, Amazon gives me a tiny bit of cash. Thanks in advance!
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How to Make a Ginger Bug Natural Soda Starter
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