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 2 decades ago. It is still a regular feature in our refrigerator. In fact, I am using a descendant of the same culture I purchased in 2002. This demonstrates that once you have a quality starter culture for a particular fermented food, it can literally last a lifetime. You can even pass it on to your children!
Homemade sodas such as root beer, ginger beer or ginger ale require a different type of starter culture. There is no need to buy one. You can easily create it yourself without a dime spent out of pocket.
You accomplish this 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 easily grow in an appropriate fermenting medium at home. Then, you feed them over a period of a few days to achieve critical mass for a starter culture. You know that this “bug” is ready when bubbles appear. The innoculant is perfect for whatever soda recipe you wish to make.
Homemade Soda Starter: Do’s and Don’ts
All you need is organic ginger powder (or fresh ginger), white organic sugar and filtered water.
Do not use nonorganic ginger powder as this will likely have been irradiated. This destroys all beneficial microbes and will prevent the starter culture from “taking”.
Also, do not use unfiltered 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! Manufacturers usually blend nonorganic refined white sugar at least partially with sugar from GMO beets. This is true in North America 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 practiced by healthy Traditional cultures. Our modern germaphobic society remains mostly in the dark about this valuable knowledge. Fortunately, more people are realizing and returning to the wisdom of these ancestral methods to regain their health.
The truth is not all “germs” are bad. Learning to harness the good ones, or probiotics, to fend off pathogenic strains that can easily take over in our gut is a wise practice through regular consumption of fermented foods and beverages.
The recipe below uses the traditional method from Nourishing Traditions Cookbook.
Need healthy homemade soda NOW? Try this easy soda recipe until your soda starter is ready!
Recipe for Homemade Soda Starter ("Ginger Bug")
How to make a starter culture for homemade soda so you can enjoy this traditional beverage with no downside and no extra money spent to buy one!
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.
The equivalent in fresh, grated organic ginger may be substituted for the ground ginger. If using ground, you MUST use fresh as conventional ground ginger is irradiated.
It is best to use organic sugar, as nonorganic white sugar is most likely genetically modified or GMO.
Ginger Bug Starter for Homemade Soda (VIDEO)
In the 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. Refer to my recipes on homemade root beer and ginger ale once your bug is ready to use.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. Her work is dedicated to helping families effectively incorporate the principles of ancestral diets within the modern household. She is a sought after lecturer around the world for conferences, summits, and podcasts.
Her work has been covered by major media including USA Today, ABC, NBC, and many others.