|This is how I store the fermenting soda...in a warm place with a towel for extra warmth|
|Bottled soda, fermenting soda and ginger bug|
|You can see my temperature strip and airlock in place|
|Ginger "Bug" Notice it is cloudy and bubbles on top. This bug is 6 days old|
Lacto-fermention is a type of fermentation that has been around as long as people have been preserving food. Food can be fermented by molds, yeast, bacteria alone or in combination with each other. Keifer and kombucha are examples of fermention by mixtures of bacteria and yeast. Lacto-fermented soda however is primarily a bacterial fermentation driven by a genus of bacteria called lactobacillus. I have not been able to find any studies about the variance of lactobacillus strains found in lacto-fermented foods, but some strains that seems to be predominant is lactobacillus plantarum, casei, acidophilus and paracasei. In our germ phobic social environment we live in, I have been delighted to enter into this world of home chemistry and rich cultural history associated with fermentation. If you go to pubmed.org you can find many studies that show the link between longevity and fermented foods. Two wonderful resources for fermentation is:
Nourishing Traditions is one of the most important nutrition books and movements of this past decade. If you do not own this book, you might want to. The philosophy of Nourishing Traditions is based on Weston A. Price, a dentist who touted the wonderful effects of nutrient dense foods and the importance of the right kind of fats in our diets. The Weston A. Price organization has lists of local chapters on their website. My local chapter of Weston A. Price offers classes locally, which was my first introduction to the world of lacto-fermentation.
The bottom line is the more beneficial bacteria you have in your gut, the healthier you will be. Fortunately, doctors are finally catching on to this well known nutritional fact. 15 years ago, my dear friend's uncle was a GI doctor. When she mentioned probiotics to him, he laughed. I would guess he does not laugh about the importance of beneficial bacteria these days. Better late than never, huh? I am looking forward to the next big development doctors will realize affects peoples health.
Lactobacillus strains have been linked with improving the immune system, lowering the amount of candida yeast in the intestines and improving the absorption of nutrients. Foods can be lacto-fermented by using a whey starter from yogurt or from a ginger root starter. Both of these starters contain lactobacillus bacteria. Root vegetables, especially ginger root, contain naturally high amounts of lactobacillus, so are a good option for creating a culture instead of whey. I like to use ginger root starter because it does not require a culture that I need to search out and buy. Fermenting vegetables like sauerkraut is made by pounding vegetables and adding salt to inhibit pathogenic bacteria from growing until enough lactic acid is produced that then kill harmful bacteria. Adding whey directly to fermented vegetables eliminates the need for salt however. Lactobacillus from whey or ginger root, feed on sugars present in the food and produce lactic acid that produces a rather acidic environment that is inhospitable to harmful bacteria. Lactic acid is so powerful against harmful bacteria found in foods, that a mixture of citric acid and lactic acid has been used to treat raw surface meat to prevent contamination from e coli 0157 and salmonella in meat packaging plants. Lacto-fermentation is an anaerobic process, and works in the absence of air. Lactic acid effectively eliminates putrefactive anaerobes and butyric-acid-producing bacteria. Food becomes safer to eat after proper lacto-fermentation! And although it may sound complicated, all you need to get started making this soda is cane sugar, ginger root and a jar with a lid. Ok, enough science..lets get started.
To make Ginger Bug you will need:
1 large piece of organic ginger root
Bag of organic sugar (anything except white commercial sugar or honey)
A quart sized Mason Jar with a lid
Fill mason jar with filtered water. Chlorine from tap water can inhibit lactobacillus growth.
Add to the Mason jar EACH DAY:
1 Tablespoon roughly chopped ginger root
2 Teaspoons organic sugar
Each day after the addition of ginger and sugar, stir well, put lid on and keep in a warm place.
In about 3 days, the bug will start getting slightly foamy and smell fresh, sweet and gingery. If it smells at all unlike what I described, throw it out and start over. My starter really gets going after 3 days. It is ready to use day 5-7. The warmer the place, the faster it happens. The top of your fridge is a warm place. I keep mine on my stove near where the pilot light is lit. 80-85 degrees is a good temperature zone.
After your bug is ready to use in 5-7 days, it will have bubbles on the top, the liquid will be cloudy and it will smell clean, fresh, slightly sweet and gingery. You can store any extra ginger bug in your fridge, feeding it every week or so to keep it going. The cold of the fridge will slow it down so you won't need to feed it everyday.
I love drinking ginger bug on its own..I pour a splash into sparkling mineral water. If M has a belly ache, I pour her a little glass. It is perfectly fine to add more water to keep the jar full if you have taken some bug out over the 7 day period. I have kept mine going on the counter for a couple of weeks feeding it every day.
How to Make Soda:
1 gallon purified water
1 1/2 cups organic sugar
6 cups fruit
1/4 cup grated ginger (optional)
zest of lemon
juice of lemon
1 cup of ginger bug
1 rubber cork
5 grolsch type bottles
About your soda equipment. I have a local home brew store that I bought my bottles and supplies. I bought a gallon of apple juice at the health food store, then poured it out when I got home and used the jar with the airlock and rubber cork I bought. Cultures For Health sells a jar ready to go that I really like. Midwest Supplies also has airlocks and rubber corks that are inexpensive. For my thermometer, I bought one that sticks on the outside of my jar, the kind used for reptile aquariums. You should be able to get it at any pet store. It is not absolutely necessary, but I like to know that my brew is in the target temperature range. I bought pH strips at my local health food store to make sure my brew is acidic enough since I am letting others drink my soda. You don't have to do this either. I like my brew pH 4.5 and under. Then I really know lactic acid is being produced!
A word of note: each soda batch I a have made has fermented at different rates. I think it is dependent on the kind of fruit you use, the ambient temperature in your house and mother nature. Don't stress about the variations. It will work out. If at anytime you brew smells weird, throw it out. If it does not smell weird and you see bubbles come up through the airlock, everything is fine. As far as flavors, I have made these soda flavors so far:
raspberry rose (I added 2 tbls. of rose water after the fruit was cooked and it was cooling)
In a sauce pan, add 2 quarts filtered water, sugar, salt, lemon zest, juice and fruit.
I vary on fruit. I am making raspberry rose right now, but before that it was blackberry ginger. Whatever makes you happy! Add grated ginger if you want ginger ale type soda.
Bring to boil and then simmer for an hour. This lets the sugar and flavors release into the water.
After it is done cooking and you like how it tastes, strain the mixture into a bowl and let it sit until you can pour it into your gallon glass jar without it cracking from being too hot. I wait until it is around 100 degrees. I use a funnel to do this.
Add the rest of your water to fill up the gallon. Let the brew cool down to body temperature, or between 85-90 degrees, and then your last step is adding a cup of your ginger bug to the gallon jug. If you add the bug before it is cool enough, it will kill the bacteria.
Stir the bug in the gallon jug, and put the airlock and rubber cork on. Wrap with a towel and keep in warm place for 3-4 days.
In 12-24 hours rapid fermentation may take place. This does not always happen for me. It seems to work out fine if it doesn't. Rapid fermentation is when you see a bubble come through the airlock about every 5 seconds. My brew usually starts bubbling in 48 hours. This is when you want to taste it. The longer the brew sits and ferments, the less sweet it will become. Generally I see a bubble come through the airlock about every 20-30 seconds when it is fermenting. When you taste your brew and it is not too sweet, it is time to bottle. This happens anywhere between 3-4 days for me usually.
Use a funnel and pour soda into grolsch type jars. You can buy grolsch beer and use them after they have been emptied and clean. It is important to use sturdy jars because carbonation can cause your jars to explode. The flip top bottles prevent this from happening and you can use them over again many times.
Keep bottles on counter for a couple of days to build up carbonation. Test one to see how it is going after a day. When you have achieved carbonation you are happy with, put the jars in the fridge to slow down the carbonation process. They will keep in the fridge for quite a long time, just like beer! And if you make some soda..tell me how it went for you!