YOU GUYS! I found something online last week and I haven’t slept well since – I’ve been up too late reading, absorbing, learning.
Look, everyone is probably way more hip n happenin than me and already knew more than I do about Reddit, but if not, it’s high time you learn. I’ve ended up on Reddit a few times through random searches, but it never occurred to me that they had fantastic subreddits that are a wealth of information.
So I found the /r/fermentation subreddit, and read about fermenting all sorts of foods. The difference between lacto-fermentation and yeast-fermentation. That you ferment hot sauce, that one was news to me. How to make sour kraut. And this weird little thing called a ginger bug. There were lots of threads about ginger bugs – apparently these are popular. Clearly, I had to try.
What is fermentation? There are 2 main types of fermentation:
- Lacto-fermentation is the fermentation started either with salt (the traditional way) or whey (a different whey – get it! ha). The premise behind it, is to create a probiotic food using salt/salt brine to keep the bad bacteria at bay and help proliferate the good bacteria. *Lacto-fermentation the traditional way is dairy free – the bacteria produce lactic acid, not lactose, but those with dairy issues should avoid eating foods fermented with whey. *
- Yeast fermentation is pretty straight forward – just like when making bread – the yeast eats the sugar and creates waste, namely CO2 and Ethanol. The CO2 is what makes things bubble and gives rise to bread, and beer. The Ethanol is what makes you feel good. Ha.
Why would I eat something fermented?! It is very beneficial to your health to eat fermented foods, especially lacto-fermented foods as they are probiotic. Probiotic intake is incredibly important for your gut health, and as some of us know, gut health leads to all over better health. Probiotics have even been shown to improve immunity, aid digestion, help to absorb nutrients from the foods eaten, and help improve bowel health. Our pal Hippocrates correctly said:
Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.
I know the word fermentation is kind of a major turn off, but don’t think of it like that. It’s not like leaving a sippy cup full of milk behind the couch for a week! Many fermented foods are delicious, and not only are they tasty, they are, in many cases, probiotic foods.
What else? Industrialization has changed the way we (humans) ferment foods. Fermentation can be kind of fiddly, and it’s rare that each batch tastes exactly the same as the one before it. In the past, fermentation was generally done by brining slightly smushed vegetables in a salt solution, now days, commercially available “fermented” foods are processed with vinegar and pasteurized. The acetic vinegar brine and pasteurization effectively kills all of the lactic acid bacteria, voiding the health benefits of the fermented food.
Back to the ginger bug. It sounds weird. I know. Hear me out. What is it? A slurry of ginger, water and sugar, that is fermented. The good bacteria and wild yeasts in the ginger itself populate and eat the sugar in the mixture. Just like in a yeast ferment, as the microorganisms eat the sugar, they release CO2 making the slurry effervescent. When the fermented ginger bug is added to sweetened fruit juice, the microorganisms begin to eat the sugar in the juice, making a healthy homemade fizzy drink.
Here’s a few tips: I dutifully followed many of the recipes online for ginger bug on my first go. I found that it just didn’t work. I also found it kind of annoying to have to grate the ginger, and do it daily. So I slightly modified the recipe. The other thing I found, by accident, was that peeling the ginger root wasn’t necessary – I rinsed and wiped, but other than that, leave the peel intact. Mince – it’s faster, it’s easier and it’s less mess. Mince the whole root and store it in an air tight container in the fridge.
Also, worth noting, my countertops are granite – so they run a bit on the cool to the touch side, and I feel that this is the reason I didn’t get really good bubbly, yeasty, reactions until day 7/8. If it’s not happening in the time frame that everyone else says it would, give it a couple more days before you give up!
Once you strain off the probiotic liquid from your ginger bug, you can allow the “mother” to rest in the fridge, remembering to feed it once a week – 2 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp ginger root!
Homemade Ginger Bug
- 1 large ginger root approx 4-6 inches unpeeled, minced
- 2 tbsp sugar + more
Day 1: In a clean - not sterilized, just clean, quart sized mason jar, add 2-2.5 cups of water.
Stir in 2 tbsp of your minced ginger root and 2 tbsp sugar.
Cover loosely with coffee filter, nut milk bag, anything breathable. Set in warmish spot in your kitchen away from direct sunlight.
Day 2: add 2 more tbsp sugar and 2 more tbsp minced ginger, stir, recover.
Day 3 - 7: feed the ginger bug just as you did on day 2.
Day 8: Strain the ginger bug and use the probiotic liquid to make stuff fizzy!