If you've never had homemade Ginger Ale or Root Beer, you're missing out.  You can actually make some delicious fizzy beverages without having to buy anything special and it all starts with a thing called a "ginger bug."

This is basically a fermented drink and the fizz comes from the CO2 expelled by the bacteria in the bug, only there's no yeast required.  Well, technically there is yeast involved, but it's just the wild yeast that blows around; the stuff that beer brewers aren't a fan of.  No need to go to any specialty stores since you only need three ingredients: ginger, water, and sugar.

This process, like any other that involves fermentation, won't be instant gratification, but I think it's worth the wait.  The first thing you have to do is make the bug.  I use a nice clean mason jar and add the following:

  • 2 cups of filtered water (not tap water - the chlorine will kill it)
  • 2 tbsp. fresh grated ginger (skin and all)
  • 2 tbsp. sugar

Cover it with cheesecloth or a paper towel/rubber band and leave it on the kitchen counter (or somewhere of a similar temperature).  Every day for about five days you'll need to feed it.  Just add two more tablespoons of each of the three ingredients, give it a stir and cover it again.  By the fifth day, you should start seeing some bubbles happening.  Once you do, you're ready to make some ginger bug soda.

The flavor can be whatever kind of juice or tea you like.  I'm partial to classic ginger ale.  I just take a gallon of water, about a pound of grated ginger, some lemon peel and a cup of sugar and bring it all to a boil.  Turn off the heat and let it cool down to room temperature.  Once it's cool, strain it into a gallon sized jug or similar container and add somewhere between a 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of your bug.  It'll need to sit for 3-5 days to build up the carbonation, and, this is important: you need to burp it every day to make sure your container doesn't explode.

Once it's fizzy enough, put it in the fridge to stop the fermentation.  If you let it go too long, you'll end up with a non-kid-friendly, alcoholic beverage, so sample it first.  It should still taste pretty sweet (meaning the bacteria hasn't turned all of the sugar into alcohol).

Root beer is another great tasting beverage, but honestly, it's a bit costly to buy the proper ingredients. If you want to give it a shot, you'll just make a tea in the same fashion as the ginger ale, but you'll use: 1/2 cup of dried Jamaican Sarsaparilla bark (which some believe to be unhealthy, but that's the authentic taste), 1/2 cup of dried Sassafras bark, 1/2 cup of dried Birch bark, 2 cinnamon sticks, a cup of sugar, and a 1/2 cup of dark molasses.  There are plenty of variations online if you want to avoid the sarsaparilla, but it seems to be fine for me.

If neither of those drinks sounds appealing, just remember that this ginger bug stuff is versatile.  You can even make a soda out of sweet potatoes that tastes great.  It's not a lot of work and if you want more probiotics in your diet, that's exactly what you'll be getting with a fermented soda.

On a final note, if you have an aversion to ginger, this can be done with other roots.  This process works because of the bacteria roots have, which basically keeps them from rotting in the ground. Do some research on Lactobacillus, or Lacto Fermented Drinks.

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