I’m kind of obsessed with all things fermented but at the moment the runaway winner for sure is any kind of fizzy drink I can get my hands on. Especially now that the weather is finally getting hot, and believe me this is an exciting thing as London’s weather isn’t exactly tropical. Sour tonics or traditionally fermented drinks are simply tasty beverages, slightly sweet, slightly sour. Sometimes lightly alcoholic (depending on how long you brew them for) and always teeming with healthful lactic acid bacteria, enzymes and mineral ions.
Homemade fizzy drinks, or soft drinks as they are also known, bear little resemblance to their commercial equivalents. The latter are mostly laden with glucose or corn syrups, additives, colourings and lack any of the health giving properties a home-brew brings.
In a long continuous tradition, by Peoples all around the world, these beverages have always been produced and we are now seeing a revival of traditional techniques. All beverages require a starter culture of some sort ( bacteria or yeast based, or mostly both) and a carbohydrate for the culture to feed on. The carbohydrate can be as simple as sugar-water flavoured with herbs or any kind of juice. The taste combinations are endless. Once the culture has weaved its magic, you will end up with a delicious bubbly beverage.
There are many different kinds of starter cultures and the culture required for this drink can be easily made in your kitchen. Its called a ginger bug (see picture above).
- ground or fresh ginger root
- unrefined cane sugar
- filtered water
- old 500ml jam jar or snaplock jar
- Pour 1.5 cups of water into the jam jar, then add 2 teaspoons of sugar and 2 teaspoons of ground or fresh ginger. Close the jar and shake to mix
- Everyday (for 5-7 days) add 2 teaspoons of sugar and 2 teaspoons of ginger and leave the jar in a warm space, with the lid off
- After 5 days check to see if the bug is bubbling, if not continue for two more days. If after 7 days its still not bubbling you have two options: 1. throw it all away and start again or 2. purchase a ginger bug from the internet (Happy Kombucha is a very good site)
The ginger bug will keep indefinitely in the fridge. In fact I like to think of it as another member of the family who requires a bit of love and attention. Feed it once a week with 2 teaspoons of sugar and ginger, keep it out for an hour and then pop it back in the fridge. If your using the culture to make a drink, simply replace what you have used and then store it back in the fridge.
GINGER BEER – FOR BIG AND SMALL
- 4 litres filtered water
- 1.5 cups sugar (rapadura or unrefined cane sugar)
- 5-15 cm of fresh ginger root, peeled
- juice of 2 lemons
- Make a sugar syrup with 2 litres of water, 1.5 cups of sugar and the grated fresh ginger (5cm will give a mild flavour , 15 cm a strong flavour).
- Boil it up for 5 min until the sugar has dissolved, then leave it to cool down.
- Add the juice of two lemons and enough water to make up 4 Litres in total.
- Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth or a wire mesh sieve to remove the ginger.
- Add a 1/4 cup of strained culture to the mixture and stir.
- Bottle in sealable bottles, like old flip top beer bottles or old juice glass bottles. I like using Kilner home-brew flip top bottles as they give a really good seal.
- `Leave the beverage to ferment in a warm space for 2-3 days, opening the lid everyday to let out the built up carbon dioxide (which creates the natural bubbles in the beverage). Once it tastes to your liking put it into the fridge for 1-2 days to set the bubbles. It will continue to ferment in the fridge, but much more slowly. When you open ginger beer do so over the sink and very slowly as carbonation can be very strong.
With Love x