How to Make a Ginger Bug (Plus, What IS a Ginger Bug, and How Do You Use It?)
I'm always on the look out for new and delicious fermented food and drink ideas. Although I love Kombucha, I've grown a little tired of the same-old same-old Kombucha tea all the time. And I LOVE me my Beet Kvass, another incredibly delicious and healthy drink....but I was looking for a new choice. Perhaps a slightly sweeter drink. And I came across a Ginger Bug when reading my Wild Drinks & Cocktails book by Emily Han.
The very next day, while doing my normal shopping at Sprouts market, I stumbled across a whole pound package of fresh, organic unpeeled Ginger Root! It was a sign! Time to get that Ginger Bug going! Here are my adapted steps (because I love a lot of Ginger) for making a delicious, healthy and probiotic-filled Ginger bug!
**And to find out how to make Ginger Beet Kvass, a fermented nutritional powerhouse drink, take a look at this article!
FTC Disclosure: There are affiliate links scattered throughout this article, and if you click through, I may make a very small commission at no extra cost to you.
What is a Ginger Bug?
EWWWW! It does have kind of a creepy name, right? It kind of connotes a lumpy, tan bug crawling along on the ground.
But a Ginger Bug is simply a fermented ginger fizzy starter that can be added to water, kefir, teas, Kombucha, etc. to create a delicious fizzy soda while adding probiotics to your diet.
The neat thing about creating a Ginger Bug is that the starter uses the wild yeasts that are naturally floating around in the air in your environment, as well as any yeasts on the surface of the ginger root. That's why you do not want to peel your ginger for this starter!
NOTE: According to Emily Han, author of the book, Wild Drinks and Cocktails, you definitely need to use organic ginger because non-organic may have been irradiated, which will kill the beneficial yeasts and bacteria.
How to Make a Ginger Bug
This is one of those ferments that doesn't need an airlock because air actually needs to circulate, just like with making Kombucha or a sour dough starter. After you're done feeding it each day, just cover the top of the jar with a paper towel, clean cloth, or coffee filter and secure with a rubber band to keep the buggies out. I just store mine on the kitchen counter or windowsill.
Grate 2 to 4 tablespoons fresh ginger root, organic unpeeled.
Add 2 tablespoons sugar
Cover with water in a pint or quart Mason jar.
Grate 2 tablespoons fresh unpeeled ginger
Add 2 more tablespoons sugar, the ginger, and again, cover with water--about 2 tablespoons should do it, more or less.
Same as the second day---You should be seeing bubbling at the surface by now, but if you are not, don't worry. It can take up to seven days, depending on the temperature and the quality of the ginger root.
Every Day After:
Keep doing the same thing. This is maintaining its feeding. Eventually, you will have enough liquid to get your Ginger sodas going! You'll need about 1/2 cup strained Ginger Bug Starter Liquid or so to start your sodas fermenting.
You need to keep up with it every day, just as any fermented starter needs care. You'll have to feed it consistently (rather like a little pet)---but even if you don't, it's super easy and relatively quick to make a new one. If you love Ginger like I do, then I know you'll want to make a Ginger Bug to have ready to go and create lots of sodas!
What to Do if You Can't Keep Up the Feeding Every Day?
Good question! And no worries!
Just like with a sour dough starter, you can put it in the refrigerator and just feed it once a week. If you want to use it, just take it out of the refrigerator, give it a basic feeding, as in Day 2 above, and allow it to get bubbly again. It might take a day or two, but it should revive just fine!
And if this is too much trouble, it's so easy to make a new starter, you could just do that.
Why You Should Make a Ginger Bug (Why is a Ginger Bug So Good for You?)
Well, there's Ginger. And there's fermentation. Between those two incredible healthy factors, this simple combination of Ginger, sugar, and water packs a powerfully excellent punch!
A Tiny Bit About Fermentation:
Let's start with fermentation. Fermented foods have been consumed by all cultures the world over for thousands of years. Indeed, fermented foods are one of the traditional ways to preserve foods that actually increase the nutritional health benefits of the food itself.
You can find out lots more about fermentation in these articles:
8 Fermentation Myths: Find Out the Truth About Fermentation. There are other fermentation articles on the blog too!
A Good Bit More About Ginger:
Now, let's move on to Ginger. Ginger is a common culinary spice and digestive tea, but it's also an herb that contains powerful anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories that are just plain good for you.
According to medical doctors, including Dr. Axe, Ginger can help with these important things:
Stroke & Heart Disease (Find out more about Herbs to Use for a Healthy Heart in this article.)
Indigestion & Nausea
Immune System Health
Respiratory System Health
Bacterial & Fungal Infections
Ulcers & Acid Reflux
Pain (since it's an anti-inflammatory herb related to turmeric)
You can find out more details about these health benefits of ginger in this article.
How to Use Your Ginger Bug
To make soda:
Essentially, you simply strain off about 1/2 cup starter, a half cup sugar, and combine with half-gallon of juice, water kefir, or tea. Allow to ferment for a few days, then enjoy your natural fermented soda!
As a delicious addition to teas or water
You can add your ginger starter to any cup of liquid you'd like to drink it with (although I do not recommend dairy). I like to add some to my water. The ginger taste is always exquisite and this adds benefits to your drinking water. WIN.
What About the Sugar?
Yes. You are using sugar to create both your ginger bug and to make your subsequent sodas. The sugar is necessary to feed the yeasts and bacteria and by the time it's fermented, there is very little sugar left in the drink! How cool is that?
I honestly can't say how much sugar remains and how much is actually consumed, but I can tell you the longer you ferment your drink, the less sweet it will be.
Final Thoughts on a Ginger Bug---
I still can't get over the name. I just can't....can you? But don't let that stop you from trying this insanely good for you fermented starter.
I only mentioned a few uses I'm aware of above, but my brain is saying: How about on ice cream? How about in a cocktail (if you drink)? How about added to a salad dressing? Really, the things you can do with your ginger bug starter are probably endless!
Ginger is so easy for us to obtain these days. Although it can be tough to grow, unless you are in a nice warm place or have a greenhouse, luckily it's readily available in good markets these days!
I like to have Ginger in the house at all times any way because it's one of those excellent home remedy ingredients for so many things. Here you can see how I use it to make Fire Cider, a delicious daily tonic drink that helps your immune system and all your organs!
Oh, yes! I nearly forgot! If you are interested in learning about all kinds of fermentation along with how to combine your newly learned fermentation skills with herbs....you must check out the Craft of Herbal Fermentation from the Herbal Academy of New England. They have courses for everyone and everything...and I can personally attest to how much I enjoyed the Herbal Fermentation course!
Have you made a Ginger Bug before? What did you think? What are your favorite ways to use it? Share in the comments! We love to hear from you!
Hugs, Health, & Self-Reliance,
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