I follow @theculturedclub on Instagram. Not… by the way … ‘The Culture Club’. Am I giving my age away by mentioning that band?? 🙂 🙂 I also have the book entitled ‘The Cultured Club’ ….subtitle ‘Fabulous Funky Fermentation Recipes’ by Derbhla Reynolds. To make my first batch of probiotic fizzy lemonade I just followed Derbhla’s video instructions on Instagram. There are a couple of video posts dated around end of March 2021 on how to make Lemonade from ‘Ginger Bug’. There is also a recipe in the book but it is so much easier to follow a visual when you are starting something new. The ginger bug is like a little production factory of beneficial yeasts and bacteria. When the fermentation process is established it provides a starter culture added to other ingredients to make a fizzy probiotic drink. The ginger bug liquid acts in a similar way to a ‘starter dough’ or ‘yeast’ that is added to a bread recipe.
I have to say I am in love with making my own summer fizzy drinks now. I have tried lemon flavour on its own. Love it! I have tried orange flavour on its own. I’m not so keen on this, it just doesn’t have the same kick [thirst quenching bite] that the lemon has. However, my favourite combination so far is lemon and lime. It is simply delicious. I can hardly stop myself drinking the whole lot once I start.
There are two components to making your probiotic fizzy drink. The first is making the ‘Ginger Bug’ and the second is making the fizzy drink, we’ll say lemonade, but you can experiment with any flavour you like.
Making the ‘Ginger Bug’
Please note that you only need to make this once after which you just keep it alive. I’ll explain how further down.
You will need:
- Organic root ginger and root turmeric – 1 or 2 stems of each
- Filtered water
- A big enough glass jar with a lid [that would hold approx. 1 litre]
Why organic? I haven’t tried non-organic so I can’t say for sure, but many of the commenters on the related Instagram post said their attempts using supermarket root ginger and turmeric didn’t produce results and the advice was to use organic. Perhaps the chemicals used in non-organic doesn’t allow for the same beneficial microflora to grown on the food and subsequently in your ‘ginger bug’ mix. I bought mine at ‘The Green Door Pantry’ a farmers market in Dublin which sells fresh organic produce.
What to do:
Step 1: Cut the root ginger and turmeric into small chunks and place them in the glass jar. Make sure that the jar has been thoroughly cleaned and sterilized (especially if it is a food jar that is being re-used). Next add the filtered water leaving a good inch or two of space at the top. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar. The sugar can be white or brown. I tend to use brown because that is what I usually buy. Stir it well.
Step 2: For the first 24 hours leave the lid off the jar. In order for the mixture to interact with the microorganisms in the atmosphere you will need to place it outdoors, if possible. I covered mine with a Lidl mesh bag to keep out anything that wasn’t ‘micro’ e.g. flies etc. [After this initial ‘lid off’ 24 hours, the lid will always be closed on the jar, except when you are feeding or burping the mixture].
Step 3: Feeding the ‘ginger bug’ initially. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar. Empty a little of the liquid off and add a little bit of fresh water. Repeat this for the next 3 days. The fermentation process is underway. On the 4th day your ginger bug should be ready for use to make lemonade.
Making the Lemonade
You will need:
- A separate glass bottle [you can use an old wine bottle with a screw top]
- Ginger bug starter liquid
- Lemons / Limes (I find the juice of 3 in total is enough to add to make a pint of liquid)
- Filtered water
I use measuring spoons for the ginger bug liquid and sugar, but the amount of juice from the fruit doesn’t have to be exact. You could add 100ml or more. You can adjust this to suit your own taste. Derbhla’s instructions says to add 200ml but it’s up to you!!
- 4 tablespoons of the ginger bug solution
- 4 tablespoons of sugar
- 100-200ml of fresh squeezed lemon/lime (or other flavour)
- Filtered water [Enough to fill the rest of the bottle to about 1 to 1½ inches below the neck]
What to do:
You can directly use the glass bottle to mix. If so, you may need a plastic funnel otherwise it might get messy. I use a separate plastic pouring jug to mix and then add the mixture to the bottle, before adding the water.
Scoop out 4 tablespoons of the ginger bug syrup from the jar (the ginger and turmeric solids remains in the jar). Add 4 tablespoons of sugar. Add your 100-200ml of freshly squeezed juice. Mix. (Add this mix to the bottle now if you are using the jug). Now fill the bottle up to no more than 1 to 1½ inches from the neck with filtered water. Put the cap on and give it a good shake up and down to mix it well.
Leave your lemonade to stand for 3 days at room temperature. The warmer the temperature the quicker it will ferment. More fermentation equals more fizz. After 3 days have a little taste to sample it. If it is fizzy enough for your liking you can now put it in the fridge to chill. Once chilled it is ready to use and enjoy. Otherwise, you can leave it to ferment for another couple of days and then refrigerate it.
‘Ginger bug’ maintenance
Okay …. don’t panic, it really is NO big deal. Feeding and temperature are key factors in keeping your ‘ginger bug factory’ alive and ready for lemonade production.
Now that your ginger bug is established, feeding it is just a simple matter of adding one spoon of sugar, emptying off a little of the liquid and replacing it with a little fresh filtered water. That’s it!!
You will notice when you add the sugar the ginger bug fizzes up before your eyes.
If your ‘ginger bug’ is sitting with it’s lid on at room temperature 20°C, or warmer, fermentation will happen. If that is the case you may need to ‘pop’ or ‘burp’ it once a day. My ‘ginger bug’ is in a flip top jar [photo above]. I just flip the lid open to release the gas. It makes a sort of popping sound, similar to when you open a bottle of fizzy drink. Close it again straight away. Warning: Due to carbonation, pressure can build up in the closed jar over a few days and result in an almighty pop when you open the lid or, worse case scenario if you have left it much longer, the jar may explode!!! So, if in doubt place the jar in the fridge until you plan on using it again. The cold temperature slows down the fermentation process completely.
For example…. if you only want to make one bottle of lemonade per week and you fear you might not remember to ‘burp’ the ginger bug, OR, if you are going away for a few days or weeks, the best thing to do is to simply place the jar of ‘ginger bug’ in the fridge.
To start up fermentation again, take the ginger bug out of the fridge the night before or early on the day you want to use it again, letting it reach room temperature for at least a few hours before using it. When you have taken out your starter liquid to make the next bottle(s) of lemonade, remember to feed it again (one spoon of sugar, remove some liquid and top up with fresh water).
Why bother making your own?
For one thing it is just so delicious. It is made with natural fresh healthy ingredients. What about the sugar?? The sugar is NOT for you it is what feeds the friendly yeasts and bacteria. They get the sugar and we get to enjoy the by-product – a probiotic drink!! That means it is full of beneficial, gut friendly bacteria. Without going into too much detail, it contains many and varied strains of friendly bacteria including lactobacillus which has many health benefits.
Comparing this drink to a shop bought fizzy lemonade which contains all sort of sugars and chemicals and which might at best be ‘thirst quenching’, but is definitely not health promoting.
More than 2000 years ago the father of modern medicine ‘Hippocrates’ suggested that all diseases begin in the gut. We now know that 70-80% of our immune system lies directly behind the gut wall. Increasing the amount of friendly microbes you consume in your diet is key to crowding out pathogens (harmful, disease producing microbes) and is one of the best ways to support your gut, brain and immune health.
It is now widely accepted that adequate beneficial bacteria act as immune modulators. This means that they are instrumental in regulating how our immune system responds when it encounters harmful (pathogenic) bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites (microbes). A modulated immune system responds appropriately, neither over or under reacting to a threat. This ‘appropriate’ balanced response is when the immune system is working at its best.
Not to mention that this is a really, really cheap and tasty way to enjoy homemade lemonade while at the same time benefiting from the probiotics it contains.
I hope you will give it a go and enjoy the fruits of your labour.
The Cultured Club’ ….subtitle ‘Fabulous Funky Fermentation Recipes’ by Derbhla Reynolds.