When I was a child, we used to peel and cut ginger into matchstick shaped strips, add salt and some lemon juice. After a few days, it would turn into a beautiful pink condiment. Making ginger ale is almost the same.
There is a faster recipe with baker’s yeast as well. However, I prefer the probiotic version where we harvest the microbes from the ginger and turmeric roots. I will break the recipe into two parts, making the ginger bug (the culture) and then using the bug to make the bubbly drink.
Ginger Ale Recipe
- bottle with airtight jar
- 60 gm Ginger peeled and grated
- 250 gm Sugar White sugar, honey or jaggery
- 1 liter water sterlized
- 1 piece lemon
- Fresh turmeric and spices to taste
Making Ginger Bug
- It takes about a week to harvest a culture of wild micro-organisms. Clean and peel a few ginger roots. Grate it finely
- Add 2-3 tablespoons of sugar to it. Add half a cup of water and squeeze a lime in it. (acidic medium keeps the mold at bay)
- Cover and feed with a teaspoon of grated ginger and a teaspoon of sugar every 3rd day.
- By the end of the next 7-10 days, we can see bubbles on the side of the vessel, and the liquid becomes cloudy. If it smells sweet and yeasty, we are ready to make our drink.
Making Ginger Ale Beverage
- Take 225gms of sugar, and dissolve it in 2 liters of 60 degree C water
- Cool it to less than 30 degree C and add 50-80gms of ginger bug to it.
- Place the mixture in an airtight bottle (swing-top bottles or old soda bottles are the best) for 2-4 days for natural carbonation. It would turn milky white with natural fizz. I serve it cold with a dash of mint on a hot summer day.
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Different groups have customized the recipe as per their likings. Some add malt extract instead of sugar to make ginger beer. Others use wine yeast to make an alcoholic version. However, drinking them fresh and using the wild ginger bug is what I prefer. Adding some grated fresh turmeric root (few grams per liter) infuses fermented turmeric into the beverage as well.
There is a very similar African beverage called Sweet Potato Fly, which is also made in a similar way. Here instead of ginger and sugar, we use a boiled sweet potato to make a carbonated beverage using wild ferments.