NOTE: This is an extremely active ferment – the process does not consume all of the sugar and this will continue to ferment at room temperature because of that. Storing this at room temperature can lead to explosions, especially if stored in glass. It’s best to store this in plastic or swing top bottles and store in fridge which will slow/ stop the fermenting. This is one of the few circumstances where plastic is preferable because you can squeeze the bottle to test pressure (if it’s rock hard, slowly open it over a sink to release some pressure). Although the risk is real, don’t be put off making this amazing drink. Following this process will keep it safe and it is easily manageable; traditionally this was managed by storage in a cold cellar.
There are two parts to the process – the first small fermentation (called the ‘bug’) which gets things really kicking (almost like a starter for sourdough), and then a secondary fermentation with extra ingredients.
- Ginger (a large piece about 8 inches long)
- 200g of sugar
- 2 lemons (optional, try some with and some without)
- To start the bug, place 1 cup of room temperature water in a jar or bowl. If your tap water is chlorinated, allow it to sit open to the air for an hour before proceeding, or boil and cool it (this will help eliminate the chlorine and will help the fermenting).
- Add 2 teaspoons of sugar and 2 teaspoons of finely chopped ginger. Stir well.
- Cover loosely with cheesecloth, do not seal the jar
- Store in a warm, dry place.
- Add ginger and sugar (the same amounts) every day, stirring after. Repeat until the contents begin to bubble. This should take a couple of days and up to a week depending on temperature.
- Boil 2 litres of water with six inches of chopped ginger root (for a strong flavour, you can use less if you’d like) and 200g of sugar.
- Allow the mixture to cool completely and strain the contents to remove the solids.
- Strain the ginger bug.
- Add the juice of two lemons, and the ginger syrup to the ginger bug.
- Add water (again a good practice is to let the chlorinated water sit for a bit) to increase the contents to 4 litres.
- Bottle in clean bottles – plastic is the safest if you’re worried about explosions. If using plastic, only fill ⅔
- Store until the bottle is hard to squeeze (in the case of plastic). It should take 2 days to a few weeks (the warmer things are, the quicker this will be as long as the temperature is under 38 °C). Open slowly over a sink to release pressure (further fermentation will make sure it stays carbonated).
- Once it’s complete, store in refrigerator; open carefully!