Fermented Things Friday: Ginger Bug for Ginger Ale, with a side note on fruit flies

I wanted to make a new bug. A ginger bug.

As if I didn’t have enough things causing fruit flies to swarm around my kitchen like. well….like fruit flies on a holiday, I guess, which is really what they were. Sourdough, kefir, kombucha, yogurt – yum yum yum! Now, a new one – ginger with sugar! Another treat!

(Ok, and for those of you who ferment stuff in your kitchen, I just learned of the most awesome fruit fly trap that actually works. Shallow dish + 1 tbl.  Apple Cider Vinegar + drop of dish soap. Leave it out. The feast ends when they dip a foot into the soap film, seeking the sweet, sweet ACV, and get stuck. And thus ends the party for them.)

So, I used instructions I found at the blog ‘A Life Unprocessed‘, which were simple and easy to understand. I did look at a few different versions, but this one just got me. Basic process: combine ginger and water and sugar. Feed daily. Stir twice daily. At some point, you ‘ginger bug’ might even be bubbling before you stir it! (Side note: I have experienced, once, with a batch of kombucha, that it started to get bubbly even without me covering it with the intent to carbonate! That was one cool moment. Hub’band and I were talking at the end of the day in the kitchen, and I just heard this popping and fizzing. It was my drink! It was Alive….ALIIIIIIIVE! …. ahem. Anyways….).

After you got yourself a bubbly bug, you can make some ginger ale. Yippeeee!

Things seemed to be going fine – I even had some bubbles in my mixture around day two! Then, all bubbling stopped. Undeterred, I still tried to make some ginger ale with it, and basically, made some ginger juice. (Which we still drank, and which was pretty good. Like a sweet, mild ginger tea.)

What went wrong?

My theories are that it could have been because I didn’t use organic ginger, or that my ginger was old and the enzymes weren’t ‘fresh’ or something. Another thought is that it wasn’t warm enough, or that I should have used de-chlorinated water perhaps. But, most likely, I simply didn’t wait long enough.

After great success with sourdough, kefir, and kombucha, I thought I was unstoppable. The humble ginger bug defeated me – but not for long, I hope.

The only thing now, is to start again. I have the organic ginger. I have the water, the sugar.

I’ll keep you posted. However, if you never hear from me again, and notice that all my posts become related to the liberation of fruit flies, you’ll know they read this post where I give away how to trap them, and they have joined forces and carried me off. 

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Fermented Things Friday: It’s Five O’ Clock somewhere! Hic!

We attempted our first batch of hard apple cider, and I actually think it turned out OK.

If you go into this adventure expecting, at the end, a fizzy, very sweet beverage that may not even taste like apples — you will be disappointed if you taste mine. I was slightly disappointed when I tried it at first, but — well, read on.

I followed the recipe I found on the Mother Earth News archive, and kept it fermenting away for 3 weeks. When I opened it, I think I nearly singed my eyebrows off when I took a whiff. Whooooo boy, that was some strong stuff! Tasting it, though, it was rather like a dry white wine. Very, very dry.

Hub’band and I decided to let it go another 2 or 3 weeks, and try it again. Some home brewers say things like, “forget about it for a year”, and that may be all well and good, but I don’t think I can wait that long! We plan to open it up this week, and re-taste. If it hasn’t changed, we’ll just fizz and sweeten it with a little Sprite, I think.

Our next home brew project will be honey mead, and I will keep you posted on that!

Cheers!

 

Fermented Things Friday: Sourdough Starter

Sourdough bread. Do you love it?

I do.

Enough to add to my ever-expanding array of kitchen counter-top jars.

I also love the idea of capturing wild yeast, for free, and using it to make bread. I’m cheap!

A year or so ago, I made a sourdough starter, but the recipe I had actually added yeast to being with. Now that I’m an experienced sourdough purist (ha! Not really….not at all) I realize that, well, the point of making your own sourdough yeast is to capture the natural local flavor of your region. So, when I started this sourdough starter, I didn’t add anything but flour, and water.

And I waited.

Not long, as it turned out. My starter was showing some bubbles by the end of the third day! Yay!

I followed Katie Kimball’s recipe directions on Kitchen Stewardship, and left my starter in the oven with the light on overnight. I fed it daily, equal portions of water and flour (I did some whole wheat that I was using up, and some milo flour, which is also called sorghum flour).

Then, I made some bread. You can check out the recipe I used here.

first attempt at sourdough bread. Decent rise. A bit too dense. Milo flour gave it funny taste…

It was…..OK.

Not that great. Kind of hard. Funny taste. A little TOO sour.

Here’s what I think happened – the milo flour, that had been in my freezer for a loooong time, is a gluten-free flour. I think that, while I did get rise with the bread, I either didn’t let it rise enough (It is true – sourdough bread takes a lot longer to rise. That is one potential downfall of this amazing bread.), or I should have added some xantham gum, OR, I should have combined the sorghum flour with some whole wheat flour. 

“But wait, are you all, like, wheat-free lately?”

Yeah, I have been. Mostly.

I have been looking into what happens to wheat flour when it gets some fermentation action with the sourdough starter. Some studies indicate that gluten content is affected.  And, what’s more, the glycemic index is lowered, meaning sourdough bread won’t give you the high-then-crash that regular wheat bread will. Further, its made with friendly bacteria.

I have made pancakes with the sourdough starter, and they were amazingly awesome. I used the simplest recipe of all time, from Heavenly Homemakers: 1 cup starter, 1 cup flour, 1 cup milk. Then add a little sweetener, an egg, and some butter. Add a bit of salt, and then a bit of baking soda (watch it foam up and get frothy within a few minutes! My hub’band couldn’t believe it. It was like whipped topping almost!) Whip it up, and sizzle it. (You can even let it sit overnight, for further fermentation benefits.)

Have you ever kept a sourdough starter? I have read of people keeping theirs for YEARS! What have I gotten myself into? Loaves of deliciousness, soon, I hope —

 

Fermented Things Friday: Restored to Life – I give kefir a second try…

My brother gave me a great birthday gift – kefir grains!

I enthusiastically carried them home from my Easter trip, where I saw him and all my lovely family, in a small plastic tub, and then plopped them in a glass jar, topped it with milk, swirled it around for a few days, then tried to drink it.

And almost threw up.

Yuck.

My first impression of kefir? Nasty. Gross. Don’t like it.

I tried to make smoothies. I tried to sweeten it up. I tried to add spices. I just couldn’t do it!

So, I stuck it in the back of my fridge, in some water, and went on with my life.

For about six weeks.

Now, kefir, as its a fermented milk beverage made such by little ‘grains’ (that really look more like blobby mushroom thingys, see below) is kind of hardy, but not immortal. It can be killed. And I tried, oh, how I did.

Well, not really ON PURPOSE…but….

…anywho, for some reason that is unknown to me, guilt perhaps? The mother in me? Mother-guilt? I got it out of the fridge, rinsed them off, and tried to see if I could ressurect the grains.

After two batches of throwing the milk out, I made a successful batch of kefir!

And, what’s more – I drank it!

Here is my new kefir recipe:

1 Tbl. honey in bottom of tall coffee mug

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/8 tsp vanilla extract

Then, I use my in-the-glass whisk, and mix it up so it is relatively smooth; no chunks.

I sip it, enjoy the slight effervescent bite, and can’t believe that I almost let my grains go. I don’t know what it was about this time, but it clicked, and I am really enjoying kefir. I drink it 1 – 2 times a week, as its made, and again, just like the fact that I can do this myself, on the counter-top in my kitchen, and it is a great way to use my raw milk, as well as have a probiotic drink that can boost my immune system, among other benefits. Read more about kefir here, and its amazing properties here!

Fermented Things Fridays: Scoby-doby-doh?

Since the CSA season is wrapping up for me (sniff, sniff), I’m switching my Friday posting schedule to talking about one of My Favorite Things. No, not kittens, mittens, or things wrapped in brown paper, but. BACTERIA! Read on for the first-ever Fermented Things Friday!

I just made my own SCOBY! What is a SCOBY?

Well, for starters, it isn’t a four-legged crime-solving dog.

That would be a “Scooby”.

A SCOBY is a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast.

Yum, right?

Actually, it is!

With a SCOBY, you can make, KOMBUCHA! (You can also make other things….Today we’re going to stick to Kombucha. … and I haven’t tried to make anything else yet…)

Kombucha is a fermented tea (often times black, but sometimes green or white) that is said to do a host of good things, such as detoxifying your body (especially your liver and pancreas). It’s also  high in antioxidants and B-vitamins. Some naysayers cite the lack of Western studies (there are several German and Russian studies) as evidence as proof that kombucha does nothing. I think it is fizzy and refreshing, and a good alternative to artifically carbonated things. Plus, its cheap. Plus, its yet another science experiment on my kitchen counter that I can eat or drink.

Science experiment? Yes. “It’s aliiiiiiiiive! Aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive!” And, it truly is.

The SCOBY is also called a ‘mother’ – because it helps the kombucha grow and be nurtured. To keep your SCOBY mother healthy, you have to feed her well (tea and sugar and starter tea) and she will produce “babies” which can then be nurtured into mother. Ah, the cycle of life (ok, life of bacteria that you can drink — but still! Anyone else hearing the Lion King theme in their heads right now? ….No?….Okay…moving on…)

You can read more about the health benefits here on the Food Renegade blog, and read about the process of making your very own scoby here (which I did just like it says, and it worked!). Check out my start to finish slideshow below!

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