How To Make A Ginger Bug
What Is A Ginger Bug
A ginger bug is a culture made with ginger, sugar, and water used in making fermented beverages such as homemade sodas, ginger beer, carbonated fruit juices and teas – a.k.a. ginger bug soda.
In baking recipes, it can be used to replace whey; and in bread as a natural leavening agent.
Similar in nature and care to a sourdough starter, it is fed for a few days to begin the culture. Once bubbles are noticed on the top and/or sides of the culture, it is ready to use.
The culture can be kept going indefinitely by feeding daily, or once established, stored in the fridge and fed weekly.
I only say weekly as a precaution. I’ve been known to leave my little bug in the fridge for months without any feedings and it bounced right back. It is a well established ginger bug, I’ve kept it alive for 3 or 4 years now, and it doesn’t seem to mind waiting to eat.
In theory, any fruit, vegetable, or herb with natural yeasts can be made into a “bug”, although they may not be as simple to start, or as long lived as a ginger bug. Whatever you attempt to use as a “bug” will contribute to the flavor of your finished product, so even if you can pull off a zucchini bug, the resulting sodas may not be a popular beverage choice in your household.:)
Ginger peel has a fair amount of natural yeasts to work with. Turmeric is another popular choice (if you can find turmeric root) but rumored to be more delicate natured than a ginger bug — you can also experiment with “fruit bugs” or “vegetable bugs”.
My favorite use for my ginger bug is as a carbonated soda base. A naturally fermented drink is rich in probiotics and enzymes, and homemade sodas not only taste wonderful, but are infinitely healthier than store bought.
Any flavor combination you dream up can be used with your ginger bug base to make an all natural, healthy, carbonated soda drink.
Once you’ve tried it out, you’ll probably come up with a few favorites! They can be stored in a cupboard or the fridge once bottled, and if you happen to have a cola addiction – having a pantry stocked with healthy alternatives is a great way to wean yourself off them!
How To Make a Ginger Bug
To start, you’ll need:
- 1″ fresh grated ginger, peel on
- 1 tbsp. sugar, I use evaporated cane or white sugar
- 2 cups water – dechlorinate if you like, I use water straight from the tap with no issues, but chlorine levels from town to town can vary vastly.
Add your grated ginger, sugar and water to a sterilized jar.
Cover using several layers of cheesecloth held on with an elastic band and leave at room temperature.
Mix ginger bug twice a day using a non reactive utensil (wood, plastic, glass, or stainless steel).
Once each day add:
- 1 tbsp. grated ginger
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- If the jar gets over-crowded with ginger, you can add an equal amount of water, but otherwise it isn’t necessary.
After a few days (usually somewhere around 6 – 8 days) you will notice tiny bubbles along the edges and/or on top. Your ‘bug’ is now ready to use! Don’t worry if the bubbles are not ginormous. Teeny weeny bubbles are just fine!
Using Your Ginger Bug
Use about 1/4 cup of your bug as a starter per quart of whatever you are brewing, or 1 cup per gallon.
Begin by straining the desired amount of liquid into a measuring cup.
Return the pulp to your ‘bug’.
Replace the liquid you used with an equal amount of water, and feed your bug. Recolonize your bug with daily feedings, it should be ready to use or store again in about 2 days.
When your bug is bubbly again, either continue daily feedings, or store in the fridge with a tight lid.
Once every week or so, feed your ginger bug before returning to cold storage.
When I am ready to make more ginger bug soda, I remove the bug from the fridge and strain out what I need. Then I feed my bug and leave it on the counter 1 or 2 days for daily feedings (until bubbly).
The cold, freshly strained (but inactive) bug goes in another jar. I add ginger, sugar, and a few (4 – 5) raisins and let it “pre-ferment” until active. The raisins act as a yeast nutrient and help kick the ginger bugs’ metabolism into gear. This cuts down the time frame for re-activating the ginger bug.:)