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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ginger Ale and Root Beer - Getting Down with Fermentation

 Rooty toot toot and ginger yum yum!

You know, I really have been making jam. Lots of it. It's just that, after several cycles through the seasons, I've figured out some of my favorites and I just keep making them. There is far less experimentation on the jamming front and a lot more in other areas. For example, I've been having a great time in my garden. I really have a crush on my garden. I love it. I bring it presents. I talk about it obsessively. I talk to it and its members. (Mostly when I'm alone.) Here's a picture of my little paradise. Not so much food, but lots of herbs and flowers and flying visitors. The view from the chairs is better than the view of the chairs. Just know, it's marvelous.


So between jamming and getting dirty, I have been thinking about fermenting. Controlled spoilage is one of the most genius things that human beings do. I have come into several very large crocks, and I harbor ideas of making sour kraut and curing olives, but I decided to start small, with sodas. I like a bubbly sweet drink now and then. And, I do like to add a splash of homemade syrups to soda water. But then I found out that I could drink a pro-biotic rich bubbly drink that was not kombucha. (I do not like kombucha. I know the world does. Not me. It tastes like socks.) These fermented sodas are just so right for me!

Ginger, my bug.

Rather than tell you the whole business of making a ginger bug and brewing the ginger ale, I will refer you to Wellness Mama. Katie is a wealth of knowledge about good, healthy, for real food. I hope you visit her site, because it is inspirational and I want to give credit where credit is due. I pretty much followed her steps to create the ginger bug. It is equal parts fresh, grated ginger and pure cane sugar, mixed with pure water in a very clean jar. Much like sourdough, you feed it periodically until it gets bubbly. I love it when things come ALIVE! Also like sourdough, you can keep it alive.

First stage of soda fizzilation.

I will share with you my root beer, because it is a recipe that can be personalized for your tastes and the availability of roots and herbs in your area. I'm already dreaming of all the other flavors that can be brewed this way. Once the ginger bug is good and fizzy, you brew a strong tea, using the flavors you prefer. (The ginger ale starts as a strong ginger tea.) Once the tea is cooled to room temp, you add the ginger bug and a few extra goodies, put it in a couple of jars with tight fitting lids and let it sit. It bears watching. I left mine in the big jars for about a week. I then, filtered it and bottled in these sturdy models, designed for home brewing.

I buy mine by the case and they come with Grolsch-style swing caps.

 Gettin' Fizzy wid it. Fo' shizzle.


 They have been sitting at room temp for another week and are just right. I'm putting them in the fridge today, because I'm going on vacation and don't want them to get explodey. 

So far, 4 out of 4 tasters think this root beer is amazing.

Root Beer
3 quarts pure water
1/4 cup dried Sarsaparilla root
1/4 cup dried Sassafras
1 tsp.dried licorice root
1 tsp. dried peppermint (winter green is traditional, but I could not find it locally)
1 stick cinnamon
1 allspice berry
1 cardamom pod (bashed)
1/2 a vanilla bean

Bring the water to a boil and add the spices. Simmer gently for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to come to room temp. Strain and add the following:

2 tbsp. molasses
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup lime juice
3/4 cup ginger bug

Stir to dissolve the sugar. Bottle in two quart-sized mason jars. They need not be sterile, but should be very clean and do use new lids. Allow to sit until bubbly - up to a week, unless it is very warm. Strain through a fine sieve and bottle in very clean bottles. (You can use coffee filters or cheese cloth for more clarity.) Allow to sit at room temp for about a week. Store in the fridge once desired fizziness is reached. 

I found that the two quart jars filled 3 of my brew bottles, with a little left over. 

Enjoy!