How to Make a Ginger Bug for Traditional Sodas

Making a ginger bug for traditional soda making

Can you believe that tomorrow is May? May! The fifth month of 2017. That is one month away from halfway! I sometimes have to take a minute, have a breath, and swallow the anxiety that the year is passing right on by and I’m not making the most of it. I have a tendency to mentally get ahead and find I have to reign myself in. Remind myself to live in the moment and enjoy the right now. That tomorrows chores, plans, desires will arrive and I will make the most out of them at that time. It can be hard! But breathing helps. Let’s breathe…

Ok! I’ve mentioned a ginger bug in previous posts and you may be wondering what that is. It’s sounds pretty cute. Maybe like a lady bug or a bumble bee but with red hair? Well it’s actually a mixture of filtered water, finely diced organic ginger and sugar. Stirred together, fed daily and fermented into a probiotic rich, fizzy liquid that will give you the power to make homemade sodas. It’s quite similar to a sourdough starter in such that there are wild yeasts everywhere and when given the right environment they will flourish. This is good for us as our bodies like and actually need these healthy bacteria’s.

The ingredient list on store bought pop is frightening, never mind the amount of sugar that’s in it! No one, and I mean no one, needs to drink that. There are healthy alternatives out there to satisfy that need for fizzy sweetness. Kombucha is a good sub, but without acquiring a SCOBY (the bacteria culture needed to make it) it’s tough to get started on that. A ginger bug can be made by anyone who grocery shops and owns a knife. With some patience, you could be making your family and yourself  a healthy treat! The days are getting nicer, the need to be outside stronger and local fruit will soon enough be ripe for the picking. Why not learn the art of traditional soda making to enjoy in the backyard with friends and family this summer?

Things you will need:

  • A wide mouth glass jar (Something larger then 500 ml up to 1 L. Perhaps repurpose a pickle jar? I use a dijon mustard jar.)
  • A sharp knife
  • A cutting board
  • A wooden or plastic stirring utensil (I use a chopstick)

Ingredients for Ginger Bug:

  • 2 tsp finely diced organic ginger (skin on), plus enough whole ginger to feed daily for at least a week. (wash ginger before dicing)
  • 2 tsp white sugar, plus more for feeding
  • 1/2 C filtered water

Fermenting ginger to make a ginger bug for traditional sodaAdd the 2 tsp diced ginger, 2 tsp white sugar and 1/2 C filtered water to your jar and stir vigorously. Cover with a coffee filter and elastic band and set aside somewhere warm, out of direct sunlight.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “that’s it?!” And that is! For the day. I like to compare it to feeding the dog. If you have time in your life to feed a dog then you have time to make a ginger bug!

The next day finely dice another 2 tsp of ginger. Add to your jar along with 2 tsp of sugar. Stir vigorously. You won’t need to add water for the first week of fermenting.

Continue adding the 2 tsp diced ginger and sugar daily, stirring well. You should slowly start to notice bubbles forming  and some activity when stirring. After about a week to ten days your ginger bug should be ready to use. If it’s not there yet don’t give up hope! Depending on the temperature in your house it may take more or less time. So long as there’s no mold and you have a nice boozy, fermenting smell going on, just keep at it. If there is any strange odors or mold discard and start over. I’ll tell you, I started this a couple times and threw it away. A lack of feeding brought on by laziness on my part was mostly to blame. Trying out ferments in the winter can also take longer which can lead to a false sense of failure.  Being patient and consistent is a recipe for success.

Fermenting ginger to make a ginger bug for traditional soda

Once your ginger bug, or “slurry”, is active you are ready to try making soda. The ratio you want to stick to is 1/4 C ginger bug, strained, per 1 liter of juice. The possibilities are endless! Any juice or sweetened herbal teas can be transformed into traditional soda. To replace what you’ve taken from your ginger bug add back a 1/4 cup filtered water and feed as usual.

Fermenting ginger to make a ginger bug for traditional soda

To make Traditional Soda:

Add 1/4 C strained ginger bug to a 1 L swing top bottle and fill with sweetened juice. Swirl around and cap. Remember that the bacteria in the ginger bug will eat the sugar, creating gas, which is then what turns your flat juice into a fizzy soda. With that in mind you’ll want your juice to be sweeter to start as the longer it ferments the more tart it will become. This is really a matter of preference. Over time you will get an idea of how much sugar to add to what. Do taste tests and make your own judgment calls.  And don’t forget that the gas making the soda fizz creates pressure!

My rule? Three days on the counter at average temperatures. Less when it’s hot, more when it’s colder. Use your judgment, burp your bottles if you feel you need to, keep them in a container and prepare yourself for the possibility of exploding bottles. It’s the risk for the reward!

Now I know you’re not going to be making traditional sodas every other day! So when you aren’t in need of your ginger bug you can put it to sleep in the fridge. Once a week take it out, feed it 2 tsp diced ginger, 2 tsp sugar and 2 tsp water and stir vigorously. Let it sit on the counter for a couple of hours and replace in the fridge again. When you have a plan to make a traditional soda remove your ginger bug the day before you plan to use it. Feed it. Place it somewhere warm. Then make your soda accordingly the following day. Easy as pie! (which would be delicious served up with your soda!)

Traditional sodas made from a ginger bug

This process is what would have created traditional ginger ales and root beers in their beginning. There were real ingredients in sodas once upon a time! Wouldn’t it be fun to taste just how those drinks were meant to taste? To offer your sick loved one a real ginger ale instead of a store bought can of carbonated sugar? I do. As the summer comes and goes I plan to make use of local produce to invent my own concoctions of sodas. Will you?

*Please note traditional fermented sodas may have a low level alcohol content. Please sample before giving to children or anyone with alcohol sensitivities.

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