Investigation of the culinary practices of Ancestral Societies from around the world reveals that nearly all of them utilized various types of fermented foods and drinks to assist digestion, maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria and keep immunity strong.
Of course, these cultures did not understand the science behind the benefits of fermented foods; they only observed anecdotally that by eating these foods regularly, vibrant health was more easily maintained and chronic disease avoided.
We now know that traditionally prepared fermented foods contain an abundance of beneficial bacteria, enzymes, and nutritional co-factors not present in the unfermented version of the same foods. Regular consumption of traditionally fermented foods makes it far more likely that you and your family will sail through flu season with nothing more than a mild sniffle or a brief fever if even that!
Tasty, traditional ethnic beverages are a fun way to begin the process of incorporating fermented foods into your home. Kombucha was the first traditionally fermented beverage I started with nearly 12 years ago and it is still a regular feature in our refrigerator. In fact, I am using a descendant of the same culture I purchased in 2002, demonstrating that once you have a quality starter culture for a particular fermented food, it can literally last a lifetime and be passed along to your children!
Homemade sodas such as root beer, ginger beer or ginger ale require a different type of starter culture which you can easily create yourself with not a dime out of pocket.
This is accomplished by cultivating naturally occurring and highly beneficial lactobacilli and wild yeasts. Lactobacilli is present on the surface of all living organic matter and particularly abundant on the roots and leaves of plants. These beneficial microbes are captured in an appropriate fermenting medium and “fed” over a period of a few days until the “bug” takes and is ready to use as the innoculant for whatever soda recipe you wish to make.
All you need is organic ginger powder (or fresh ginger), white organic sugar and filtered water.
Cautions for Making Homemade Soda Starter
Do not use nonorganic ginger powder as this will likely have been irradiated, destroying all beneficial microbes. Also, do not use tap water as the chlorine and other chemicals will inhibit the growth of the beneficial microorganisms.
One more caution: be sure to use organic white sugar as nonorganic white sugar is almost certainly at least partially produced from GMO beets unless the package specifically states that it is 100% cane sugar.
Don’t worry that you are using white sugar, as this is feeding/growing the beneficial microbes, it’s not feeding you.
Learning to harness the environment around us for the betterment of our health is a skill that Traditional Peoples wisely practiced but this valuable knowledge has been lost in our modern and by and large germaphobic society.
The truth is not all “germs” are bad and learning to harness the good ones to fend off the pathogenic “bad” ones that can easily take over in our gut is a wise practice through regular consumption of fermented foods and beverages.
In this video below, I show you exactly how to cultivate a “ginger bug” so that you have one ready to go when you decide to embark upon the adventure of homemade soda making. I have articles on homemade root beer and ginger ale once your ginger bug is established and ready to be used.
Starter Culture for Homemade Soda
Adapted from Nourishing Traditions Cookbook
Makes about 1 pint
10-14 tsp organic ground ginger (or the equivalent in fresh, grated organic ginger)
10-14 tsp organic white sugar (use organic, as nonorganic white sugar is most likely genetically modified or GMO)
1 1/2 cups filtered water
Fill a quart mason jar with 1 1/2 cups filtered water. Add 2 tsp ginger powder (or grated, fresh organic ginger) and 2 tsp organic white sugar and mix well. Cover and leave on the counter at room temperature for 24 hours.
After 24 hours, remove the lid and add an additional 2 tsp ginger powder and 2 tsp white sugar and mix again. Cover and let sit on the counter for 24 more hours.
Repeat for a minimum of 3 days and for a maximum of 7 days until small bubbles begin to form on the top indicating the probiotic culture has reached a critical mass and taken hold. Once the bubbles appear, the liquid excluding the sediment on the bottom of the jar can be used as a starter for homemade sodas. Refrigerate and feed the culture 2 tsp ginger powder and 2 tsp sugar once a week if not used within a few days.
If no bubbles appear by the seventh day, toss and start again.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist