Fermented Ginger Ale

I've become increasingly interested in lacto-fermentation. It's a major tenet of good nutrition as laid out by Sally Fallon of the Weston A. Price Foundation. I won't go into all the science here, but I urge anyone who's interested to follow the links above to get lots of good information about why this fermentation process is extremely beneficial for ones health. It's the same fermentation process used to make sauerkraut and also kombucha, which has gained an immense following in the past few years. I was intrigued by the science, but I really got sold on lacto-fermentation when I started drinking Kombucha and noticed how good it makes me feel. It gives me a wonderful non-caffeinated pick-me-up, and just makes my whole body feel good!

I'd been thinking that I wanted to add more lacto-fermented foods to my diet, and buying bottles of raw kombucha every day didn't seem financially feasible, so I decided to try a recipe for fermented ginger ale from the book Nourishing Traditions. This is a wonderful cookbook by Sally Fallon in which she points out that the sugary sodas of today are actually distorted versions of traditional lacto-fermented beverages. The two that are still common today are ginger ale and root beer. These both started out as lacto-fermented drinks that helped keep people well rather than destroy their health like soft drinks do today.

I've made three batches of this ginger ale in the past month or so, and I've become addicted to it! I really like how the the warm ginger spiciness warms me up on cold days!

The first step is to peel and chop 1/4 cup of ginger. Peeling it takes a long time but like anything else, you get better at it the more you do it. The ginger goes in the bottom of a 2 quart glass jar.

Next comes 1/2 cup fresh lime juice, 1/2 cup sucanat, 2 teaspoons sea salt, and two packages of kefir started. I've been using powdered kefir starter I got from the Co-op, which is a big no-no to Sally Fallon. Her recipe calls for home-made whey, which is the clear liquid you get from strained yogurt. I didn't have any yogurt or whey in the house, and I had a full box of kefir starter, so I decided to break the rules and try it for my ginger ale starter. It's just lactic bacteria and yeast with a little skim milk powder, so it seemed like it should work to start a lactic-fermentation process.

Here are all the ingredients in the bottom of the jar....

I fill the whole thing up with water and shake it up to mix everything together.

The jar sits out on the counter for three and a half days to give the bacteria time to do their thing, and then I put it in the fridge.

I've been drinking a small glass everyday as a tonic. It's really good! It gives me the same pick-me up as kombucha, along with a nice strong ginger kick and just a tiny bit of carbonation. There's still enough sugar to make it slightly sweet, and the lactic acid gives it a vinegar-like flavor which is kind of odd at first, but quite addictive one you get used to it.
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  1. This sounds great, Megan.
    Question, though -- how much whey does the original recipe call for? I don't have kefir starter, but I do have yogurt!

  2. The original recipe calls for the following:
    3/4 Cup Finely Chopped Ginger (I use more)
    1/2 Cup Fresh Lime Juice
    1/4 - 1/2 Cup Sucanat
    2 teaspoons Sea Salt
    1/4 Cup Whey
    2 quarts Water
    You can strain your yogurt through cheese cloth to get the whey. - Enjoy!

  3. To peel ginger really easily just scrape it with a spoon. Saw this tip on a Yan can cook video.

  4. Looks really interesting!
    I will have to try this, thanks; I use ginger for my arthritis (though, Goddess knows, I need no reason to eat ginger. :) ) wonder how it'd be with some cayenne and/or a little black pepper in it?

    BTW, just a suggestion from an old English major: I think you meant "tenet" above. not "tenant"

  5. Thanks for the spell check, Rain. I fixed the mistake! Let me know how it is with cayenne or pepper - I bet it'll be really good. Just remember to add the lime juice. I forgot it in my last batch and it completely ruined it!

  6. Has anyone tried any other sweetener? I'm on the SCD diet and can only do honey or stevia right now.

  7. Is there any chance to produce such a fermented ginger-drink in a vegan way?
    I am glad that kombucha is vegan. Does it work with kombucha? Or wouldnt the kombucha grow because of the oil in the ginger?

    By and thanks!

  8. @Vicki - you can definitely make ginger flavored Kombucha!
    1. Brew your KT as normal
    2. Remove the Kombucha culture
    3. Add fresh ginger slices - they don't have to be peeled and the smaller the piece, the more surface area, the more ginger flavor.

    For more Kombucha flavoring tips, check out this video (scroll down to video #4) - http://www.kombuchakamp.com/how-to-make-kombucha-complete-video-series

  9. Doesn't it taste salty to you? I made this recipe from NT a while ago, and it bubbled and fizzed up nice, and had a nice flavor... except for the powerful salty taste, which RUINED it! How do you get past that salt taste?


  10. Why peel the ginger? Is there a reason the peel can't be in the mix? You're going to strain it anyway. I ignore the peeling part of most ginger recipes and I haven't regretted it yet.

  11. I've made the exact Fallon recipe before with whey and only 1 tsp. salt -- loved it -- but this time decided to wing it without the whey kickstarter, so I used both tsps. of salt. My reasoning is that both ginger and lime have a natural preservative effect, so the salt and the whey are somewhat redundant in this particular recipe. I just tried my whey-less (therefore vegan) batch and when I unsealed it, it had a bit of fizz, I think it will just need extra days at room temp to allow the natural lactic acid process to get underway without the dairy. When I tested today (at three days) it tasted okay, but I did not like the extra salt and I do kinda miss the whey, so I look forward to seeing if the lactic acid catches up with some additional flavor. I actually found this post looking for a whey and yeast starter free ginger ale recipe. I'm also making my first batch of Fallon's Orangina (with the whey!) so we'll see how that turns out.


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