Adventures in Fermenting

Day 1: ginger bug, fruit kvass and water kefir

I have started a new hobby, or at least I hope I have a new hobby: making fermented drinks.

Ideally I wanted to learn to make bread kvass (Russian rye bread weak beer) but instead I learned how to make a ginger bug for ginger beer, water kefir for naturally fermented soft drinks and also made a random fruit kvass made with pineapple, physalis and apple.

I learned all this on a half day course through The Fermentarium. Our instructor, Anna, was completely excited about fermenting and brought several bottles of fermented drinks along for us to sample. She told us why fermenting is good for you: because of the natural bacteria which boosts your gut health, and it’s rich in vitamin B too.

Coming home from the course, challenge number 1 was find a source of organic ginger root in order to feed my ‘ginger bug’. Luckily there is an organic shop near work so that was easy. I have since fed the bug every day with ginger and organic sugar (fermenting is not a cheap hobby) and have been waiting for signs that fermentation is happening. But nothing yet after a week.

One week old ginger bug

Anna did say the ginger bug can take up to 14 days to get going so I’m not worried yet.

The course also gave us water kefir grains, and these also needed feeding. Water kefir was unfamiliar to me but has been the most successful of the fermented drinks so far. I fed the grains with water and sugar over several days and then drained the liquid off, added fruit (all we had in the house was frozen tropical fruit, which I defrosted before adding to the water kefir water) and left to ferment.

The jars showed definite fizziness after 36 hours so I drained the liquid from the fruit and bottled my first fermentation! After a few hours of chilling in the fridge, we gave it a try, and it was fruity, naturally carbonated and not too sweet. So we have a winner!

I have put the fruit back in with more water kefir liquid, and restarted the water kefir, with more ‘naturalised’ water. Apparently tap water contains high levels of chlorine which is anti fermentation because it’s antibacterial, and fermentation is all about the bacteria. So I leave tap water in a jug for a day or so to let the chlorine evaporate. And I also get to use this jug cover of my Nanna’s, which is cool.

Old style crocheted milk jug cover – back in use as a water jug cover.

One week on and the fruit kvass has only just started to show signs of fermentation – tiny bubbles around the top. I’m just not sure how long I have to leave it or how much fermentation needs to be going on before I bottle it.

I hope to keep you updated on my progress with fermented beverages. I’m thinking of going back to try some of their other courses so I might become a kimchee expert. Watch this space…

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