The fermentation of ginger became popular in the 18th century, and continued to reach it's peak into the late 19th century. Because of excise taxes on alcohol, most ginger beer or fermented ginger was not brewed into an alcohol but rather a carbonated beverage. Even today, ginger is fermented, rather than brewed, though there are a small number of breweries that do still offer a brewed ginger product with a very low alcohol content.
You can make your own ginger beer from a ginger bug, or *scoby*, which is similar to the *mother* in vinegar, or similar to the fermenting action in sourdough; a build up of fermented yeasts that is fed to keep it active. The combination of good bacteria and yeasts are fed with sugar to produce the fermentation that continues to activate as long as it is fed. In ancient times the yeasts were naturally collected by the scoby directly from the wild yeast in the environment, which is still the way Mead and sourdough are made today, though commercially, they do use commercial yeasts, rather than rely on environmentally available wild yeasts; mainly so they have consistent results.
If you've noticed an opaque coating on grapes, blueberries, plums, apples etc., then you've seen wild yeast. It collects on fruits and plants. Of course in most super markets the wild yeast is buffed off with a cloth so you only see a shiny red apple, not a dull or matte shade of red, that is purely for visual appeal, since most will turn up their nose if they don't see a shiny red apple. If you purchase organic, you may still be able to buy fruit with the natural yeasts on the skin. Or if you pick in an orchard or vineyard, you will see the natural yeast on that fruit.
I recently mentioned to someone that matte finish on fruit was wild yeast, and found that they rejected fruit that looked like that because they thought it was mold. Hence, every reason stores sell buffed fruits, because people have come to expect the visually perfect example of fruit and vegetables. Anything that is not considered visually perfect consumers reject, which has led to the use of more and more pesticides and herbicides to produce those perfect examples. Blemishes are not acceptable in our modern society. I can't tell you the many, many pounds of fruit I've canned that was less than perfect, because I grew up, knowing what the real food looks like. Home-grown is less than perfect; it has it's scabs, and dimples, and bruises and even the occasional worm. All of that is easy to cut off and dispose of, but that is not what our society finds acceptable in the marketplace, even in organically produced foods. Which reminds me, I also pointed out some organic tomatoes to an individual, and asked them if they would purchase that produce, they said no they would not, because the produce was not perfect, it had splits and blemishes. Which again proves my point that our society will not accept less than visually perfect food products. Our society is too far removed from farm life in the 21st century, so rather than accepting nature for what it is; less than perfect, we expect perfect even if that is artificially produced rather than *natural*. Maybe a little parody of what you expect to see, would be a still life painting of a basket of fruit, with perfect color, perfect lighting and shadows. But what about another identical still life, of that fruit in various stages of decay, or with blemishes? Which painting would you purchase? And your thoughts about an artist that depicted the reality would in your mind suddenly have some kind of mental issues and you would reject that work, even if it was painstakingly created. But let's move on to our topic; Gingerbug and lacto-fermentation.
With the movement for healthier living and eating, Lacto-fermentation has been revived in recent years by those looking for healthy alternatives to soda beverages and for the beneficial bacteria found in products like yogurt, vinegar and sourdough, but the majority of the population still relies on and accepts less than healthy alternatives to *real food*.
Ginger bug is easy to make and maintain, with little hands on effort. The ginger is combined with sugar and water, then allowed to ferment. It can be added to fruit juices as a fizzy, carbonated beverage, or made into ginger beer or even a cousin, such as root beer. You may have read in some vintage recipes the use of *Balm of Gilead*, if so that is the bacterial yeast used for making the ginger ferment, fermented grains, kefir and kambucha. You can purchase that *starter*, but you can also make it yourself.
It takes from 2 or 3 days up to a week for the fermentation process, reliant on the temperatures and wild yeasts present in the environment. If you live in the south with temperatures consistently in the triple digits, your fermentation may take a day or two, while those of us in the north, with cooler temperatures may expect a few more days for this action to take place. Regardless a little patience may be necessary as the fermentation action begins to visually show when the bubbles begin to form.
I noticed when I took my sourdough from one environment to another, that it's fermenting action was more active and in fact over active in the desert, versus on the counter in my more northerly climate, as the temperature and wild yeasts obviously had an effect. It didn't start out as an experiment, but ended as a very positive learning experience. If you were to do this with your ginger bug you may experience similar results. But, you can have a successful gingerbug by keeping it in a warm environment, such as on top of the refrigerator or on top of the water heater. Around 90 degrees is ideal to activate the fermentation. You might even try a heating pad, if you can regulate it to a comfortable body temperature or just below. Most kitchen environments are in the warm range of 70 degrees or above especially in the warm months. If you're making your ginger bug in the colder months and have a wood stove, you can set your gingerbug near the heat source, but do not sit it on top of the stove. It just needs a consistent heat source, so if you're air conditioning in the warm months, you'll want to see the gingerbug in an environment where it is not influenced by the cold air. Your pantry or a kitchen cupboard or a warm window out of direct sun, may also be warm enough to keep the gingerbug active.
If you've searched for a gingerbug recipe, you may have found they caution against using sugar substitutes, including honey, because they claim that honey has anti-bacterial, anti-viral components to prohibit fermentation. I differ from that opinion because the centuries old method of making Mead (Honey Liquor) is made by fermenting honey and water with wild yeast, as it sits in the sun for a month or more fermenting. So yes, honey will ferment. I think perhaps those that may have attempted honey fermentation, may have been using either already diluted honey or a pasteurized honey, rather than 100% pure raw honey. Pasteurization destroys most of the benefits of honey and prohibits bacteria which is a natural component of fermentation. You will need to obtain your honey from a bee keeper or organic source that does not pasteurize the honey. Mine is home grown honey that has not been pasteurized, and is nothing but the natural honey extracted from the combs. Perhaps another reason people are of the opinion that honey will not ferment the gingerbug is the practice of peeling the ginger. The skin of ginger has it's own wild yeast, along with many beneficial nutrients that are lost when peeling. Wash, but do not peel the ginger. So, to achieve success, use only 100% pure raw honey, and fresh, unpeeled ginger. In addition, in ancient times, rain water or spring water was used to ferment the honey, so if your water is chlorinated, you will need to de-chlorinate or use well water, filtered, or bottled water. Note: artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes will NOT work, but honey is a natural sugar. If your honey does not work for you, even if the temperature is optimum, water is de-chlorinated and honey is pure, then you should try it with pure cane sugar. Again, the same instructions apply as above, the only difference is that you will be using pure cane sugar instead of pure non-pasteurized honey.
To de-chlorinate, run the tap a few minutes. Fill a clean container with water and allow to stand overnight, then add to your gingerbug.
While we're on the topic of fermentation, you may want to attempt making Mead. Modern recipe methods require a fermentation bottle, with a special vent for releasing the carbon oxide build up, however, if they could make Mead back in 1100 BC simply by setting the honey water in the sun for a month and more, you do not need any special equipment to make it. A recipe was discovered that was written about 60 AD, describing the method for making mead. Rain water or Spring water was added to the honey in a pottery vessel, it was then exposed to the sun for thirty to 40 days. A lid was added to the vessel and it was then set on a shelf near the fire to continue aging. No special equipment, no special recipe and no special additions to the fermentation unless spices or herbs were added for the additional medicinal benefits, INCLUDING Ginger. Though Mead was made for centuries, there are only a very few commercial Meaderies still producing it. It is the home brewer in more recent times that have begun to revive Mead as an alcohol beverage or medicinal tonic. You can find a number of websites with instructions for making Mead, but in the meantime you might want to try my Honey infused Liquor, that takes less time and no special equipment to make (see the link below).
What you Need:
Mason Jar with ring (Clean and sterilized)
Ginger root (grated---do not peel)
Use equal portions of the grated ginger root, honey and water in a mason jar. Place a square of cheese cloth over the rim and tighten the jar ring to hold the cheesecloth. Set aside in a warm environment, such as the top of a refrigerator, or on a water heater, or even on a heating pad if you can regulate the temperature at or below body temperature (around 90-95 degrees is optimum). Allow to ferment two to three days. Feed the gingerbug with equal portions of the ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon, or swirl the contents around in the jar to distribute evenly. Continue to feed the mixture daily until you see evidence of fermentation (bubbling and even a yeast smell are good signs).
To Use: Remove 1/4 cup of the gingerbug. Add it to a quart jar and top off with lemonade, herbal tea, sparkling water, club soda, or lemon-lime soda for a refreshing and healthy beverage. Feed the gingerbug as above to keep it activated. It needs the sugar/honey to feed on.
Tip: You can keep the gingerbug in the refrigerator to stop the fermentation if you're too busy to tend to it. Use no more than a 1/4 cup each time, and feed it as needed.
Note: It can take up to a week for the gingerbug to ferment. Feed each day as instructed above. If it hasn't fermented within a week, it could be that either the environment is not warm enough, or the water was not de-chlorinated or the honey is not pure, unpasteurized honey. If the gingerbug begins to mold, toss it out and start over and make sure you are only using pure honey, pure non-chlorinated water and check the temperature of the area you have the gingerbug fermenting. If there is no mold, or no off smell, you can use it to make ginger tea or add to your herbal tea or allow it to set to see if it will ferment. The only thing you should smell if it has not fermented is ginger and the faint smell of honey. If it is fermented it should have a yeasty gingery smell.
Refer to the link to make your own Honey Infused Liquor (NOT Mead): justfowlingaround.weebly.com/sweets-treats-and-drinks/honey-liquorcousin-to-mead
Refer to the link to make Herbal Tisane: justfowlingaround.weebly.com/recipes-for-self-reliance/make-your-own-tisaneherbal-tea
Refer to the link to make Herbal Infused Honey:
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