I think most kids like soda and other fizzy drinks. Mine do, at least, but we're an "as unprocessed as possible" home, not to mention pretty frugal home, so soda is something I don't generally buy. For the past while, kombucha has been our replacement soda. But the thing is, in order to make kombucha, you have to have access either to a kombucha mother or some ready kombucha with which to grow your own kombucha mother. What if you don't have a source for kombucha making equipment? Can you still make lacto-fermented drinks and get also the taste benefit, and also the health benefits?By making lacto-fermented soda.
Lacto-fermented soda is made by adding a probiotic culture to juice or any other sweetened drink, and letting it ferment. This transforms the drink into a fizzy, sweet and sour, nutritionally beneficial drink that tastes good.
You can make lacto-fermented soda with whey strained from homemade kefir or homemade yogurt (just stick them in a cheesecloth, and use the liquid that drips out), but we're a dairy free home, so dairy based lacto-fermented sodas don't work here.
Fortunately, you can make your own vegan probiotic starter culture- a ginger bug- with just 2 easy to get ingredients.
How to Make a Ginger Bug
First, I have to give credit to this post on A Life Unprocessed, as that's where I learned how to make a ginger bug as well as lacto-fermented soda.
Making a ginger bug involves "catching" the natural yeasts and bacterias and other microbes that are in the air by making a solution in which they will thrive, and then feeding the colony of probiotics that starts to grow, until you have a very thriving probiotic starter.
2 cups water
1 inch of fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon sugar
1. Wash your ginger root, and keeping the peel on, grate it.
2. Add sugar and water. You can use regular white sugar, refined cane sugar, brown sugar, or unrefined cane sugars like sucanat or rapadura. Honey probably will not work for this as its an anti-microbial. Even if you avoid sugar for health reasons, you don't have to worry so much here as the sugar gets eaten up by the probiotics.
3. Put in a glass jar, cover with a cloth, and rubber band it on. This keeps out dust, but allows air to come in.
4. Every day, add 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of grated ginger, and mix it well. This is how you're "feeding" the ginger bug. (Kind of like how people feed their sourdough starter.) If you're in a very warm climate, do this twice a day, as the probiotics grow much faster in warmer climates.
5. After two to four days, your mixture will start bubbling a lot and smell very yeasty. It should be bubbling even before you feed it, not immediately after. When this happens, your ginger bug is ready.
You may notice that you ginger bug starts developing this clear/opaque white layer of cellulose type things across the top, similar . Don't worry- its totally fine.
6. Now that your ginger bug is ready, you can either use it now, or you can refrigerate it for later use. If you refrigerate it now, when planning on using it, remove it from the fridge, and then add some sugar and ginger to liven it up again, wait for it to bubble, and then use it.
7. To use your ginger bug, strain it out into a cup and use. (I find that the best way to do this is to put a mesh strainer across the top of the jar, and pour the starter out through the mesh, keeping the ginger behind. You want to save all the ginger.)
How to Make Lacto-Fermented Soda
1. Use 1/4 cup of starter for every quart of soda. You can make a soda out of any sweetened drink, like fruit juice, sweetened tea, ginger boiled in water with sugar, etc... Just keep in mind that the fermentation process will make the drink more acidic (but not overly so), so try to balance it out by adding sweetener as needed. Also note the since the probiotics need sugar to grow, if the drink isn't sweet, you'll need to add sugar.
Probiotic sodas made with a ginger bug also have a slight gingery taste, so only use drinks whose flavors won't clash with the ginger.
My favorite lacto-fermented soda was one I made out of sumac lemonade. It had a beautiful bright red color, almost flourescent, and when ready and fizzy, was just as fun for my kids as one of those food coloring dyed sodas.
I've also made with lemonade, and a combination of lemon, limes, and tangerines.
2. Make sure your drink is room temperature or slightly warmer to the touch, but definitely not hot. (Heat will kill the probiotics.) Mix well. Cover with a cloth and rubberband or a bottle cover.
3. Twice or three times a day, give the liquid a mix.
4. After 3 days, move the liquid to a sealed bottle. When sealing the bottle, the carbon dioxide has no where to go, so it starts building up in the liquid and making it fizz. You can use a mason jar for this. I tend to use recycled plasic soda bottles. The reason for this is when carbonizing, pressure builds up inside the bottle or the jar, and if too much pressure builds up, it can explode. I can tell when my soda is ready when in a plastic soda bottle, because the carbon dioxide inside pushes the sides of the bottle out, making it hard and very full feeling, like an unopened bottle of store bought soda. If using a mason jar, be careful and "burp" the jar after 24 hours.
5. Once fully carbonated, or after 24 hours, place the soda in the fridge to cool, and to prevent explosions.
So what about that ginger left in the jar? How do you make more starter? Just stick it in the fridge, and when you need more, add some more water and sugar, put it on the counter for 24 hours, and use it again. Once in a while add some more ginger, but it isn't as important at this stage.
In case you were wondering what the health benefits are of sodas fermented with a ginger bug, its hard to get a specific breakdown of the nutritional benefits of a ginger bug, including which probiotics, but... here's the medicinal benefits of ginger, as well as the benefits of lacto-fermenting.
“The proliferation of lactobacilli ... produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid... promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.”
Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions, pg 89
From Dr. David Williams' newsletter Alternatives:
"Traditional fermented foods help balance the production of stomach acid. Fermented foods have the unique ability to.. [and] ease digestive discomfort related to having either too much or too little stomach acid.
Fermented foods help the body produce acetylcholine, [...] a neurotransmitter [which] increase the movement of the bowel, can alleviate constipation problems, [...] acts as potent digestive aids.
Traditional fermented foods are beneficial for people with diabetes[-] improving pancreatic function, [...] carbohydrates in lactic acid–fermented foods have been broken down or "pre-digested," [...] and don't burden the pancreas.
Fermented foods produce numerous unknown compounds that destroy and inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria, such as cholera and typhoid... lactic acid bacteria found in sourdough bread, and discovered that it seemed to be more effective than other strains at killing microbes [...] quickly eliminated the super-bugs currently resistant to most antibiotics.
Health Benefits of Ginger
- Ovarian Cancer Treatment as per study at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.
- Colon Cancer Prevention as per a study at the University of Minnesota.
- Morning Sickness as per several studies that concluded that ginger is just as effective as vitamin B6 in the treatment of morning sickness.
- Motion Sickness Remedy.
- Reduces Pain and Inflammation-ginger has anti-inflammatory properties and is a powerful natural painkiller.
- Heartburn Relief when taken in the form of tea.
- Cold and Flu Prevention and Treatment.
- Helpful for stomach flus or food poisoning, positive effects ginger has upon digestive tract.
- Migraine Relief- it stop prostaglandins from causing pain and inflammation in blood vessels.
- Menstrual Cramp Relief
- Prevention of Diabetic Nephropathy
Are you a soda drinker? What is your favorite type of soda? Do your kids like it? Have you ever heard of lacto-fermented soda before? Have you heard of a ginger bug before? Have you ever made either? If so, what flavor did you like to make?
Does this seem like something you'd try?
Do you try to have probiotics regularly, either in pill form or via fermented foods and drinks? What do you take to give you probiotics?