This is another Wednesday post dedicated to Drew and his prowess in the kitchen. A few years ago when he was heavy into the cheesemaking he purchased Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. The book has recipes to make all manner of fermented foods, from kimchi and sauerkraut to kombucha and kefir to miso and tempeh. He lent the book to a grad school friend of his who really got bit by the bug and has since shared many different starters with us. He spoke highly of the ginger ale he made from the book so Drew decided to give it a go.
The basic process was to create what is called a “bug” by placing ginger, sugar and water in a jar that is covered with a breathable lid such as cheese cloth or a coffee filter. It is open to exchange air and pick up any naturally occurring yeasts in the air and begin fermenting. Each day you feed the bug a little and you watch for the bug to form bubbles. Once the bug appears to be active you brew up a ginger tea and then inoculate it with the bug and bottle it. It is suppose to take 10-14 days or so to carbonate at room temp and then it should be placed in the fridge.
Drew kept a very close eye on the bottles (reused from some sparkling lemonade I stock up on when they are on sale). After just a few days he noticed the head room on a few of the bottles had shrunk. Either we have an abundance of potent yeast in our home (not a surprise really given our fairly regular bread baking) or the warmer room temperatures during the late afternoon aided the carbonation process. Not wanting to have an explosion of ginger ale all over our kitchen he popped one open and determined it carbonated and put the rest in the fridge.
My first taste of the ginger ale I disliked. It seemed super dry to me. But, it was served room temp and poured over ice. Later I tried it after chilling in the fridge for a few days and the flavor profile rounded out and it seemed less dry. Because it is fermented to form the natural carbonation it has a bit of a tang that commercial ginger ales do not have, but it matches nicely with the fresh ginger flavor that is also stronger and more forward than your standard grocery store variety.
I thought that ginger and vanilla are a nice flavor combo and that the homemade soda might make a really good float. I was wrong. No, let me restate that - I was WRONG! It was good to be put in my place though. I hadn’t had a spectacular kitchen failure in a while. It was that fermented tang that threw it off balance. It now has me wondering if the taste was in the direction of the stout floats I’ve seen on a few brew pub dessert menus. I’m not sure I’m brave enough to try one to compare though.
Ultimately, we were both pleased enough with the outcome of this ginger ale to pick up Homemade Root Beer, Soda & Pop by Stephen Edward Cresswell. I’ve only had a cursory glance at it, but it looks quite good. It even shares a lot of historical recipes along with modern adaptations. Now we’re just wondering if we can actually buy appropriate roots around here for some of the recipes or if we will be forced to use extracts.