Fizzy Fermented Drinks – Ginger Beer

Do you find summer makes you crave cold, fizzy drinks? I sure do! There's something about chilled, tangy bubbles on a hot day that just fits. Does that mean I reach for a soda pop? Heck no! And neither should you. Soda contains either sugar or artificial sweeteners and a ton of artificial additives that are all toxic to your body and can lead to weight gain, high cholesterol, stroke and bone loss. Instead of soda, reach for a health-promoting brew!
This month, each week I'll be featuring a fermented, fizzy drink recipe that's delicious AND great for your health. First up- Ginger Beer! 

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Here's why you'll LOVE ginger beer . . . 

  • It's super easy to make and requires only 4 ingredients - organic ginger, lemon, sugar and filtered water. 
  • It's loaded with healthy probiotic bacteria that will keep your digestive system healthy, your immune system strong and help to keep your weight in check.
  • It's full of ginger - a superfood that reduces inflammation, helps digestion, reduces bloating, boosts immunity, reduces the risk of certain cancers and alleviates nausea.
  • You're fermenting! Learning how to ferment foods and including a variety of them in your diet is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself, period.

Let's get started. First thing you'll need to do is create your 'starter culture'. A starter culture is what you grow (or get your hands on by buying or trading with other fermenters) in order to inoculate your ingredients with the bacteria that's needed for the fermentation process.
For ginger beer, we're going to create our own by starting a 'ginger bug'.

Organic grated ginger root, organic sugar and filtered water forms your ginger bug, aka, starter culture.

Organic grated ginger root, organic sugar and filtered water forms your ginger bug, aka, starter culture.

Making your Starter Culture, aka Ginger Bug

To make your ginger bug, aka starter culture, grate 2 tsp of organic ginger root, leaving the skin on. The skin of the ginger is a great source of the Lactobacillus bacteria that's going to ferment for you - so please make sure this is organic. Add grated ginger to a small glass jar and sprinkle 2 tsp of sugar on top. Pour in 1 cup of filtered water, stir and cover with cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band to let air in and keep flies out. Leave in a warm spot to ferment for the next 2-7 days. Every other day, you'll need to feed your starter the same amount of grated ginger and sugar. Once your starter is bubbly, you're ready to make ginger beer.

Once your ginger bug is bubbly, you're ready to make your ginger beer.

Once your ginger bug is bubbly, you're ready to make your ginger beer.

Brewing Ginger Beer

Bubbly bug? Let's brew. 
Boil 2 liters of filtered water and add 2-6 inches of grated ginger, (depending on how strong you want your brew to taste), and 1 and 1/2 cups of sugar. Stir well and allow to boil for 15 minutes, then set aside to cool. Don't worry about the sugar! The sugar is going to be food for your starter. This is what your ginger bug is going to transform into probiotic bacteria, meaning that the sugar content of your finished brew is minimal. Amazing stuff, this fermentation!
When cooled to room temperature, stain out the ginger and add the juice of 2 lemons, your strained ginger bug and 2 litres of filtered water. 

Funnel into sealable bottles. I use glass bottles that have a rubber gasket. You can also use capped beer bottles or sealable juice jugs. 
Leave bottles to ferment in a warm spot for 1-2 weeks. As the bacteria convert the sugar, they'll create probiotics and carbon dioxide, creating our healthy and fizzy brew. Remember that this carbon dioxide is creating pressure in the bottles, so if your house is very warm, it might take only 7 days to ferment, if your house is cool it will take longer. Once it's fermented to your liking, store bottles in the fridge to slow the fermentation process down. 
A note of caution- pressure building in glass jars can lead to them cracking. Once your brew is ready, put bottles in the fridge to prevent excess pressure build. 

Enjoy your ginger beer with a slice of lemon and a smile, knowing that you're drinking to your health. 

This recipe is from Wild Fermentation- The Flavor, Nutrition and Craft of Fermented Foods,  by Sandor Ellix Katz. I'd highly recommend this book, it's one of my go-to favourites. 

Next week, I'll introduce you to the world of kombucha. Brewing your own is tastier, healthier and so much cheaper than store-bought varieties. This is one of my favourite ferments to teach and I've taught hundreds how in our workshops. In the meantime, get your bug going and reach out if you have any questions.