In my last post, I taught you how to make a ginger bug. We can now use it to make homemade soda. In the picture above you can see that there are tiny bubbles around the edges. When the jar is agitated, many tiny bubbles come to the surface.
I use my ginger bug differently than some other blogs I have read, so I am including only what I have found works for me here. There are a myriad of ways and methods for successfully making sodas with a bug.
For all of my ginger bug sodas, I use approximately 3 Cups of the ginger bug and mix that with approximately 1 cup of various other concentrated flavors, which will yield approximately 1 Liter bottle of soda. Notice that I used the word approximately three times in one sentence? That’s because everything really is an approximation, so don’t get too hung up on the amounts.
To get the three cups of bug, set a small mesh strainer over a 4 cup measuring cup. I have read that you should never, never use metal with cultures and ferments, but I have yet to find a very fine plastic strainer. My cultures and ferments are doing just fine, so I think as long as you do not let them sit in it, they will be fine. Pour liquid off of the ginger bug into the measuring cup until you have about 3 Cups. Leave whatever liquid is left in the jar there and that will help the ginger bug get going again.
To your “old” ginger bug, add 2 T fresh chopped ginger and 2 T sugar of your choice. Then, top the jar off with filtered (and preferable boiled and cooled) water. Let this sit for 3-4 days and you will be ready to make ginger bug soda again. While I don’t think the ginger is necessary, I think it’s a good idea to periodically re-inoculate the lactobacillus into the brew. This way if it has gotten weak for any reason, the bacteria will rebound. At this point, if you do not want to make soda again in 3-4 days, you can put your ginger bug “to sleep” in the fridge. When you are ready, take it out a day or two in advance and feed it a few tablespoons of sugar. The bacteria will wake up and get active again and you will be ready to go. The picture on the left is the ginger bug after adding the fresh water, sugar and ginger. The picture on the right shows how the fresh ginger tends to float. The color of your bug will vary based on the type of sugar you use. Because I usually use unrefined cane sugar, my bug tends to look darker than one made with refined cane sugar.
Flavors: To your three cups of ginger bug liquid, add one of the following flavors. Mix well and put in a 1L glass or plastic bottle. Cap tightly and let ferment for 6-18 hours. The time needed will depend on your kitchen. Ginger bug sodas get highly carbonated with a long ferment and it is possible for your bottles to explode. I have found that my sodas were fizzy in as little as 6 hours on a warm day, so you will need to figure out what works for your bug and your kitchen. Err on the side of caution, please. Many blogs recommend that you ferment the soda in plastic so that you can feel the bulge of the bottle to tell when it is ready. While I try my best not to use plastic, I think this is a great idea when you are starting out. Also, I recently starting doing one litre of soda in a plastic bottle because we are not supposed to use glass at our pool. I will say, it makes it much easier to tell when your soda is “ready”. Alternately, place the majority of your soda in a glass bottle and use a small plastic bottle for a small portion. This will allow you to test the soda without letting the carbonation escape from the large bottle. One word here: making soda does require some attention, unlike, say, sauerkraut. You cannot leave your bottles unattended for more than 6-18 hours or you risk having an explosion, even in a plastic bottle. Don’t let this happen to you! When the proper time has passed for your bug and your kitchen, place your liter bottle into the fridge to chill. I think the sodas are best within three days before the lactobacillus has converted too much sugar to alcohol. After that, make sure you test it! I have left a few in the fridge for a little to long and it was a little more like hard cider than soda pop. When you open your soda to drink it, it’s nice to do this over the sink. If your soda is too fizzy, decrease your fermentation time by a few hours until you get it just right. Less is more with the bubbles so that you don’t lose too much soda!
Two notes about your flavorings:
- The flavor will be diluted 3:1 by the ginger bug liquid, so don’t taste it expecting it to taste like the finished soda. It will not. Especially if you decide to experiment with a “root” beer which can be very bitter undiluted.
- The flavor/wort/juice and ginger bug liquid mixture needs to be slightly sweeter than you want your finished soda since that sugar is what the bacteria eats. Don’t make the mistake of thinking it is “too sweet” and reducing the sugar before you have tried the finished product. If your finished soda turns out too sweet, you can always cut it with sparkling water and reduce the sugar the next time. I do not like super-sweet things, so I think these two sodas fall somewhere in the middle.
Strong Ginger Bug Lemonade: 1/2 Cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1/4 – 1/2 Cup sugar. I like to juice a lot of lemons at one time and freeze them in 4 ounce glass jars. Alternatively, experiment with the bottled lemon juice from the store. This makes a strong lemonade. My daughter and I love it, but I dilute it with sparkling water for my son, who has a sensitive tongue. I love that I just noticed in this picture that I don’t even know what day it is. Ha!
Strawberry Ginger Bug: You can find a recipe using fresh strawberries here. I had, at some time in the past, decided to order freeze dried strawberries to have in the pantry. It had been quite a while and I had not used them, so I decided to play around with them to make soda. While freeze dried strawberries are expensive, they are also shelf stable, so you can have strawberry soda anytime you want. By themselves, they are a delicious, crunchy snack too.
Pour 4 cups of boiling water over 1 Cup freeze dried strawberries and stir vigorously. Let them sit for 15 minutes (or more) so that all of the color and flavor of the strawberries goes into the water. Gently strain the strawberries out (do not mash), putting the strawberry water into a saucepan. Boil the strawberry water, condensing it down to 3 Cups. Add a scant 1/2 Cup of sugar to the strawberry water and stir to dissolve. Cool this liquid. This is your strawberry flavoring. Use 1 Cup of strawberry “wort” to your 3 Cups of ginger bug.
Ginger Bug Ginger Beer: I would feel remiss if I did not include a recipe for ginger beer, since this is probably the original intention for a ginger bug. How much ginger you like in a ginger beer is highly personal, so I will give rough amounts for a mild beer and bracing, hot beer. For a mild ginger beer, microplane or roughly chop about 1 teaspoon of ginger and add it to approximately 3 1/2 cups of ginger bug. Add 1/4 to 1/2 Cup of sugar, erring on the sweet side if you want a sweeter drink. Cap tightly and ferment for the proper amount of time in your kitchen. Open carefully and strain before drinking if little ginger bits bother you. For a spicy, hot ginger beer, juice some ginger and use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of ginger juice with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar. Taste it with 1/2 teaspoon first, please. A little ginger juice goes a very long way. If you have extra juice, freeze it in an ice cube tray. One cube is close to a tablespoon, so cut it into thirds once frozen and you have teaspoons for future use. Because this beer uses ginger juice, you will not need to strain it.
I have experimented with lots of other flavors of ginger bug soda, but the first two are the ones we are really crazy for. Stay tuned for next week when I will walk you through my other favorite soda-making method: water kefir. I’ll also be adding my favorite water kefir soda recipes including “root” beer and cream soda.