A healthy sweet-and-sour softdrink for sunny days – what is better than homemade ginger ale?
I always thought that home-bottled softdrinks = SodaStreamer, which is doubly dubious after the revelation that those machines are made on the occupied Palestine Territories. However, in the last few months we have experienced another wonder of the natural world.
Inspired by Sandor Katz’s phenomenal “Art of Fermentation”, we decided to give it a try. It sounded so simple:
- Mix ginger with sugar and water.
In reality, it is a rich and rewarding experience, where yeasts and lactobacilli work hard on your behalf. The recipe calls for fresh ginger roots, which are abundant where we live.
The starter was created by grating an inch of fresh ginger root and mixing it with a spoonful of sugar and a deciliter water. Then we just let it rest on the countertop, with a plate to keep ants and flies out. After a couple of days it started bubbling and we added more sugar and more ginger. This is very much like a sourdough starter.
To get more strength and volume to the bottled brew, we boiled a couple of litres (quarts) of ginger tea (boil grated ginger and sugar for 30 minutes, strain). Let cool and mix with the starter and let rest at room temperature for a day or two. (We used an airlocked sauerkraut-vessel, but according to Katz, even an open bucket will work, as long as flies are not allowed to drink.
In the close up photo, you can see the vigorous bubbling on the surface – it is ready to bottle. Using a food-grade rubber hose, we could bottle the brew in a matter of minutes. Before placing the bottles in the fridge, we placed them for a day at room temperature. The longer the ginger ale stays at room temperature, the more pressure buildup you get from the carbonation.
WARNING – According to Katz and others – glass bottles can explode from over-carbonation, so beware! He suggests to use one plastic bottle as reference, so that you can press and feel the buildup of gas, and move into the fridge when the pressure is high enough.
It is a strangely rewarding feeling to drink this sweet-and-sour tonic. The lactobacilli have created various acids, and the yeasts have created carbonation. The bite of the ginger is still there, but much milder and in good balance with the sweetness of the remaining sugar. It is a much more complex and interesting taste than the canned “Ginger Ale” from the supermarket.
How healthy is it really? According to Katz, there are numerous health benefits from eating/drinking foods that contain living organisms like the yeasts and lactobacilli in this brew. I am not completely convinced, but it seems plausible that we can benefit from replenishing our internal fauna with new genetic material. On the other hand, the carbonation and the sugar makes it a potent tooth-killer… Probably it will take another decade or two before we get a conclusive report on the invigorating qualities of this tonic brew.
Try it out and let’s taste the results together!