Secretly, I’ve always wished I had red hair, just so I could be called Ginger. It’s such a carefree and colorful name; don’t you think? It’s also shared by a root that many tout as a ‘superfood’ - making it even cooler as a name, especially for a health nut like me. I’m willing to take the nickname, for all who can look past my dark brown hair and moles instead of freckles …
Pungent yet aromatic, ginger is an indispensable spice in my kitchen – often added in soups and smoothies, cakes and seafood dishes, sometimes in powdered form, but always more prized if it’s raw. Its powerful impact on the palate is a boon to some, and a curse to others; but whatever your personal taste, you cannot deny the accolades that it has collected over the years. Wherever you look in natural remedies and in modern medicine, you’ll find ginger being praised for its many medicinal and nutritional properties. If you want to get technical, ginger is rich in “hundreds of phytochemicals, including gingerols, beta-carotene, capsaicin, caffeic acid, curcumin and salicylates” (Food Watch). For all intents and purposes, you should probably know that it has been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer and to treat infections. For me, these benefits – accompanied by its unique taste – are enough to make me want to make it ‘crash’ permanently in my kitchen – always living in the door of my fridge and hanging on my organic spice rack.
The fact that it’s a root (if you want to be technical, it’s a rhizome) and tends to make nauseated and restless people feel more ‘rooted’ on the ground is a pretty cool connection, don’t you think? In any case, seeing that I have a problem with motion-sickness, ginger – previously the crystallized kind, but more recently, just raw or in smoothies – has come to my rescue many times in the past.
However, the “ginger ale” you find at the store really isn’t ginger ale at all, as you can see from the Food Facts information in the image below:
If you simply take the time to read the ingredients, you’ll realize you’re being duped if you buy this drink thinking that it contains anything that even resembles true ginger ale. You’re better off drinking water. Or, if you’re craving that tangy-spicy taste of a cold ginger ale, maybe you can just brew it yourself. Thinking that the process was too complicated for my measly abilities of making drinks at home, I procrastinated in looking up a recipe. Then one day, one of my family members came down with a nasty cold, and I figured I’d try to speed up the recovery naturally, using none other than the homemade ginger ale I’ve been craving.
When I came across Sarah’s recipe for ginger ale on her blog, The Healthy Home Economist, I had no more excuses. I had to try it! I was especially intrigued because it was also a fermented drink. Sarah’s addition of liquid whey (not the processed whey powder, but the liquid leftover from straining yogurt) helps promote the growth of probiotics, making the drink healthy, not only because of the ginger in there, but also because of the good dose of good bacteria naturally in whey that are necessary for a healthy gut!
Instead of trying to explain why fermented foods are healthy for us, here’s an excerpt that’s succinctly informative:
“The probiotic effect, or ‘natural healing force within each one of us’ are real, living beneficial microbes proven by modern science to exist in a wide-variety of lacto-fermented foods. Our flesh and digestive systems are dependent on microbes. When we do not have a diet rich in beneficial (probiotic) naturally-created food, this natural healing force suffers, and in turn, so do we.” (Pickl-It)
Surprisingly, it was super easy to make. I followed Sarah’s recipe, but made a few substitutions – for example, I used raw ginger instead of powdered, and used Rapadura, the least processed, purest sugar available instead of sucanat. Also, I did not feel the need to use raw honey or stevia, but it’s good to have the option to add it in your own drink if you’d like it sweeter.
Lactofermented Ginger Ale – Made from Scratch
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Fermenting Time: ~3 days on the counter and a few hours in the fridge
- 3/4 cup organic ginger, peeled and grated
- 2 quarts filtered water
- 1/2 cup fresh lime juice (about 3-4 organic limes)
- 1/4 cup of liquid whey, preferably raw/from raw yogurt (basically, it’s the leftover liquid after straining yogurt) If you have a dairy allergy, Sarah recommends “the contents of a probiotic capsule, coconut water kefir or the liquid strained from coconut milk yogurt from the store instead as the fermenting medium”, but I haven’t tried this to confirm if it’s the same taste.
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup of Rapadura (pure sugar)
- 2 teaspoons of unrefined mineral salt (I use Himalayan)
- Peel and grate ginger, squeeze limes, and if need be, strain the yogurt you have to get some whey.
- Mix all ingredients (water, ginger, lime juice, Rapadura, whey, salt) in a 2 quart glass jug/jar, but leave an inch on the top, or “else the soda will rot and get moldy instead of ferment”, according to The Healthy Home Economist.
- Stir well and cover tightly.
- Leave at room temperature, on the kitchen counter, for 2-3 days. For more fermentation, and therefore more fizz, store for an extra day outside the fridge.
- Chill in the refrigerator.
- Shake well before consuming. If you find the flavor too strong, feel free to water it down with some filtered water. You can also stir in some raw honey if you’d like it sweeter.
To be honest, this drink recipe rocked my world. For those in my family used to Starbucks specialty drinks and bottled juices, the ginger ale wasn’t ‘sweet enough’. But, an easy solution to that is the addition of some raw honey, stirred into the cup to make it a tad sweeter. I actually really enjoyed making this, though at first it felt like a science experiment with all the mixing that was going on!
Let me know if you ever try this, and what you think of the taste!