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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Home-Fermented Ginger Ale

Good things come to those who wait...
Naturally occuring bubbles have always intrigued me, starting with Perrier.  I just can't get my brain around the fact that water flows from the ground already bubbly.  That is just insane!  To be fair, Perrier does reinforce the natural carbonation before bottling.. but if you did go to the source, it would be eyelashflutteringly bubbly.
Then there are the fermented drinks.  Then there are drinks like beer and champagne that start out flat and become bubbly.  That is equally insane, because in all my past experiences, I have only observed the reverse process.  The drink starts out bubbly and ends up flat.
Then one day, many many years ago in a far away family vacation home on the Normandy coast, my aunt opened a bottle of homemade "Limonade" she had stashed there from the previous year.  It was not too sweet, nice and lemony, and most importantly, BUBBLY!  She explained that she made it herself and the carbonation just naturally happened (but she was giving it to us kids, so it couldn't be like beer or champagne).
I was humored and a bit skeptical about the process, but was too young to actually pursue the curiosity.
Then, some 15 years later, I was gifted a bottle of olive oil with a flip cap.  That bottle made me flashback to that summer in Cabourg.  I decided I would try to make something that naturally carbonates.
As I looked through the different processes, it turns out that consuming fermented foods and beverages brings gifts to your body.  The probiotics in cultured food are a major cruise line all you can eat buffet for your flora.  Come to mama Lactobacillus!
I still would have done it even if there were no bonus points.  I wanted to do it because it's my little experiment at the moment.
For my very first try, I wanted to make ginger ale.  Because ginger is delicious.
You can't say the word "rhizome" in front of me without me yelling out GINGER!
Yes, it has accidentally happened before.
In order to make home-fermented soda, you need a culture.
Ok, everyone belongs to one culture or another, but I mean a pet living thing that you need to feed.  There are different types, but I feel the easiest to make (for me at least) is the Ginger bug.
The Ginger Bug is a mixture of grated ginger, sugar, and water left out at very warm room temperature until it ferments, then can be used as a base for a number of home-made sodas.
Mine spontaneously fermented in 48 hours.  So cool!
Follow Ginger Bug instructions from WellnessMama.
I'm also working a different type of ferment with "Limonade" which calls for rice, sugar, lemon juice, and water, but I'll get to that in a different post.  It's not quite ready yet.
I've made the ginger ale a coupe of times using the same ginger bug I've been keeping alive since the first bottle, so I'm confident in this recipe that has tested out quite well.
Yield 1 L or quart of Ginger Ale
1 inch piece ginger, grated
1/4 cup rapadura or cane sugar
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup Ginger Bug
3-4 cups non chlorinated water (not direct tap water)
1.  Place 1 1/2 cups water with the rapadura, salt, and grated ginger to heat on the stove.  Simmer for 5 minutes until the sugar dissolves.  Let cool!  You don't want to kill your magnificent ginger bug now do you?
2.  Using a funnel, pour the ginger bug, lime juice, and stovetop mixture into your flip top glass bottle.  Top off with the non chlorinated water.  Make sure you don't fill it too high.  Do not close the flip top right away.  Cover with a cheesecloth or coffee filter along with a rubber band.
3.  Leave out at room temperature for 2 days before closing the flip top.  Then leave out for 3 days maximum after bottling.  During this time, it will naturally carbonate.  Check it everyday to see any bubbles.  Once you start seeing them, you can refrigerate, which stops the carbonation process.  If you leave it out too long, you will have a geyser when you open it.
4.  Serve chilled.

The taste is incredible.  It's not sweet at all although there seems to be a lot of sugar going in, very gingery, almost spicy, ultra bubbly, and a bit yeasty.  Everything I love and more...
My experimentation is going to branch out into a few different directions.. I'm so excited!

If this is the first time you are making a home-fermented soda, make sure you open it very carefully over the sink or even outdoors.  The first time, 3/4 of the bottle did an Old Faithful on me all over my kitchen.  I was left with only 1 little glass to taste and the rest to lick off the floor.  I had left it out 5 days instead of 3.. during a "heat wave".
The 2nd time I left it out only 3 days, but filled it just a bit too high.  I opened it outside and held the flip cap down to let some of the air out before totally opening it.  This time, it geysered out but I was able to catch some of it with my glass, and I was left with over half of the bottle + 1 glassful.  Not bad.
The 3rd time, I left it out only 3 days and didn't fill it too high.  The carbonation was strong, but I didn't make a mess.
Different room temperatures may yield different waiting times.

Be Patient...

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