Update:  Please do not bottle ginger ale in glass bottles.  The fermentation process will not necessarily stop when it is refrigerated, and the bottles may then explode.  Please bottle the ginger ale in plastic containers.

Background

Ginger Ale was the first and most popular soft drink in early America.  It reigned as the king soda in the United States from the 1860s until the 1930s.  Although modern ginger ale was developed in the United States, its inventors got their inspiration from similar drinks in Ireland and Eastern Europe.  Even though commercial ginger ales today are far different from the original beverages, they are still one of the healthiest (or more accurately, least unhealthy) sodas.

There are many ginger ale recipes on the internet.  Most of them will be easier to make than this recipe; however, only a few of them use natural fermentation.  This ginger ale recipe is naturally carbonated and fermented using a culture of wild yeasts harvested from the air and the skin of the ginger plant.

Equipment

  • Ginger root
  • Sugar
  • Lemon juice
  • Mason jars (and lids)
  • Flour sack towel
  • Rubber band
  • Grater or food processor
  • Spoon
  • Resealable plastic bottle(s)
  • Flavoring items for example fruit

Procedure

There are three stages in the production of ginger ale.  First, the starter must be made.  This is unnecessary if you receive starter from someone else (such as myself).  Second, the wort must be made and the first phase of the fermentation process carried out.  Third, the ginger ale must be filtered, bottled, and undergo a second fermenting period.

Creating the starter

  1. Fill a 1 quart jar about 2/3 of the way full with water.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of grated ginger.  The ginger may be grated or chopped up finely using a food processor.
  4. Stir until all of the sugar has dissolved.
  5. Cover with flour sack cloth and secure with a rubber band.
  6. Every 12 hours stir the starter to mix in air and add sugar as necessary so that it is somewhat sweet.
  7. When the culture takes hold in the starter, you will be able to see bubbles on its surface.  The starter should be ready in three to five days.

First fermentation and making the wort

  1. Prepare your starter ready using the procedure in the previous section.
  2. In a 2 quart mason jar add ingredients in the following ratio:
    • 3/4 cup sugar (or 1 block of panela)
    • 1/2 cup starter
    • 1/4 cup lemon juice
    • 1/4 cup ground or grated ginger
    • Filtered water up to 1 quart total volume
  3. Add additional ingredients as flavoring.  You can flavor it in any way you wish.  Some examples are listed below:
    • Additional ginger and lemon juice
    • Fruit preserves
    • Mashed up fruit
  4. Stir until all ingredients are dissolved.  If you are using panela dissolve by itself in a few hours.
  5. Cover with flour sack cloth and secure with a rubber band.
  6. Every 12 hours stir the wort to mix in air and aid the fermentation process.
  7. Cover with flour sack towel and leave for 3-7 days (taste occasionally to determine proper time to end this step).

Bottling the Ginger Ale

  1. Pour the fermented wort through a strainer into a pot leaving most of the sediment behind in the original container.  This step should filter out pieces of ginger and any other items which you would prefer not to drink.
  2. Taste the wort and add flavorings to optimize its taste.
  3. Use a funnel to pour the soda into plastic bottles leaving 1.5 to 2 inches of head space.  Do not overfill the bottles because they may shatter if too much pressure builds up inside of them from the fermentation process.
  4. Leave the bottles at room temperature for 3-7 days for carbonation to develop.

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Alcohol Content

I do not know the alcohol content of this drink.  I presume there is some alcohol because it is naturally fermented and has sugar.