It’s time for more fermenting! Geeze I’m so in love with micro life. This time I made one of the easiest ferments to do at home, ginger bug! A ginger bug is a simpler ferment of ginger and sugar in water. The outside of the ginger (like pretty much all fruits and vegetables) has micro life like yeasts and lactobacilli living on it. These start to thrive when we create a moist environment with sugar for it to consume. Just ginger and sugar and you are there!
Before I get into the mixing of ginger and sugar let’s first talk about the ginger we use. Many fresh ingredients get treated with a process called irradiation. This is a treatment to reduce food borne illness causing bacteria along with reducing the chance of sprouting in certain plants. This is a super common treatment on root veggies especially. Root produce (also called tubers) most often go through this process because it reduces sprouting so they have a longer shelf life. Think about potatoes, ginger, garlic, onions, things that come from the ground and soil themselves. Awesome for some recipes and for making sure you don’t have a short time to use your potatoes but also removes the micro life we want for this ferment. Organic ginger does not go through this process. Be careful with ginger that comes from other countries as well. Even though they can be labeled organic, sometimes they still go through irradiation as a treatment and lose the micro life. In a perfect world you should be able to get some from a farmer at a farmer’s market or even try growing some yourself!
Now that the ginger is in hand it’s time to ferment. Like I said, this is a super easy ferment. By a good amount of ginger and slowly use it up over a few weeks as you make and use this ferment and then either buy more ginger and keep it going or just stop and make a new one when you want. This is not like a sourdough starter that the longer you keep it the better. It’s simply a way to get the micro life starter to make some other beverages.
Starting a Ginger Bug
Ginger (to start but more through time)
Sugar (I use granulated but you could use brown, honey, any syrup)
Take a glass jar and grate 1-inch of the ginger directly into it. Don’t peel the ginger but grate the peel and all. The skin is where the microlife we want lives so all of that goodness right into a jar.
Add about 8 oz. of water into the jar. If you live in an area with chlorinated water use filtered or let the water sit on the counter a few hours so any chemicals evaporate off.
Add 1 oz. (about 28g) sugar of choice into the jar and stir, stir, stir.
Cover the jar with a breathable cloth (like a tea towel) and secure tightly with a rubber band. Set it on the counter and allow to ferment until the next day. If you remember to, try to give the jar a swirl or stir every so often but it’s not 100% mandatory.
On the next day, add another ounce of sugar and stir into the mixture. Cover and let sit for another day.
On day 3, this time you will grate another inch of ginger into the jar, along with the ounce of sugar and 4 ounces of water. If you are getting more that the jar can handle pour some out, then add the new ingredients in.
Continue to feed the ginger bug ever day with an ounce of sugar and every 2-3 days with another inch of ginger and more water until it is bubble and clearly active with micro life. At that point it is ready to use and feed more as you want to use it.
That’s it! Super simple and just two ingredients if you don’t count water. This ferments fast and after two days I saw some activity, after a week it’s super bubbly and has consistently been so. At this point it is ready to use to make some natural sodas or ginger beer so let’s talk about what to use this ferment for!
What to Make with a Ginger Bug
The original use for a ginger bug is to make ginger beer! In recent years, ginger beer has blown up as a beverage especially a few years back during the Moscow Mule trend. Although more popular today, ginger beer has been around for a few hundred years. Sometimes it is made alcoholic but most commonly it is just a carbonated beverage similar to ginger ale. To make ginger beer, simple brew some ginger tea, let it cool, then add some sugar and ginger bug and let it ferment and carbonate in a sealed bottle for a few days. After that just refrigerate and enjoy whenever you want. Not only does ginger already bring a lot of natural benefits as a digestive aid, by fermenting with the ginger bug you are adding probiotics and making something your tummy is really going to like. I recently made a ginger beer brewed with ginger and dandelion root for even more digestive aid and benefits!
Not only can you ferment in a ginger tea but you can really do anything and make natural sodas! I like to add some honey and fruit to a bottle of filtered water and top it off with about 4 oz. of fermented ginger bug and then ferment away. I’ve seen some people strain the ginger out of the ginger bug before mixing, bottling, and fermenting but when I use whole fruit, I strain the chunks when I drink it so I don’t mind the pieces of ginger in the sodas as it ferments. So far I’ve done strawberry soda (honestly the best thing ever), mixed berry (okay taste but not my favorite), ginger and dandelion (delicious and simple in flavor), and pineapple (pretty great and would be perfect for summer). Really have some fun making sodas and coming up with different combinations. I’ve used fresh and frozen fruit with great results. Just make sure the more sugar added the more you burp your bottles so there isn’t an explosion!
Many of the books I read mention more people switching over to this method to make some awesome flavored sodas at home and they are better for you than what you buy at the store. There is still sugar in the beverage but a lot less than in others plus you get those probiotic benefits of the ferment so why not try this out? If you are looking for a fun new hobby to make something at home, make some nice treats for friends and family, or just want to help your diet and your wallet with a simple and delicious new beverage definitely try out a ginger bug!