Friday, 15 March 2013

Fermented Ginger Beer

Home made ginger ale?  Really?  And it's easy?  And if I ferment it long enough, it becomes alcoholic???  Bonus!!  Why didn't I hear about this before??

Of course, ginger is just full of good stuff; it has cancer-fighting properties, settles the stomach, reduces pain and inflammation, reduces heartburn, helps with migraines, menstral cramps, reduces cold and flu symptoms and just about a gazillion other things.  And as an added bonus, fermented ginger ale/beer is chock full of probiotics and beneficial bacteria.

Alrighht, so all that aside, I'm sure what you really want to know is--does it taste good?

At first, I had no idea.  It sounded like it would taste good.  I was still reading Sandor Katz' newest book and loving it, but the problem was... it wasn't a recipe book.  It was a book about fermentation, but more about understanding it than actual recipes, so he gets your taste-buds all watery...and then leaves you hanging.  So I thought, no problem, I can google it.

..Apparently not.  There is an alarming lack of recipes on the internet with really clear instructions on how to a)  make a Ginger Bug, b)  make Ginger Ale from it, and c) how long it takes to become an  alcoholic beverage.  So I had to wing it.  Great science is discovered through the act of "winging" it, let me tell you.

So, how did it turn out?  Freaking awesome.  Spectacularly bubbly and smooth.  But what about alcohol?  Turns out, after 5-6 weeks of secondary fermenting, it still does not have the alcohol content of American beer.

So, feeling like trying it?  THIS is the drink to give to your kids if they don't like kombucha but you want to get fermented foods into them.  Skip the water-kefir-soda and go for this stuff.  Our teens LOVED it.  All you really need is fresh ginger, and some raw, natural sugar.  Seriously?  Yep.

So here's what you do...


First you need to make yourself the 'starter', which in this case, is called a ginger bug.  It's not a bug.  Don't worry.  Even I'm not THAT crazy.  Yet.
Ginger bug on day 2

Ginger Bug:

  • fresh ginger root
  • raw sugar or white sugar
  • filtered water
  • starter (optional)*

Cut off about 1" of the ginger root and coarsely grate it or chop it fine.  Do not bother peeling it.  Throw it in a glass jar that holds about 2c water.  Dump in 1 Tbs sugar.  Add 1 Tbs starter of choice.  I used whey* the first time because I had some in my fridge.  Add about 1 c filtered water.  Stir well.  Cover with a cloth and elastic band.  Store on counter out of direct sunlight.

Stir twice a day.  Once each day, add 1 tsp more ginger and 1 tsp more sugar.  Stir it thoroughly each time.  The idea is to keep bringing air into the mixture.

In about 3 days, it should be actively bubbly before you even stir it.  That's when you know it's ready to move onto making ginger-ale/ginger beer.

*use any active ferment liquid you want; whey, home made kombucha, water kefir, liquid from another ferment like a fruit kimchi, etc.  Next time, I'm trying kombucha.


So, 3 days have gone by and your ginger bug is fizzy.  Perfect.  Now you will need:

  • 2" fresh ginger root
  • 2 litres water
  • 1 cup raw sugar or white sugar
  • juice of 1 lemon (optional, but good)
  • a glass container that will hold at least 2 litres
In a large saucepan, boil water with chopped ginger and sugar for about 5-10 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  When cold, add lemon juice and transfer to large glass container.  Add in your ginger bug.  Same as before, cover with cloth and a rubber band.  Let it sit out of sunlight for a couple more days until it is actively bubbling once again.


I know, I know, it takes time!  Patience, you will be rewarded.  

Strain your ginger beer into lock-top bottles (I bought mine at Ikea and they hold 1 litre).  At this point, it is ready to drink, so you can refrigerate them and drink whenever you want to.  But if you want to try to make them even better, and maybe a little tiny bit alcoholic, store in a cool, dark place for at least 5-6 weeks.  For the first 3-5 days, check in on them to make sure they haven't exploded, and please burp them.  They fizzing action will settle down enough to not be dangerous after a few days.  

After that, it's up to you.  If you truly want the alcohol content, you could try adding champagne yeast or brewers yeast before bottling, but if you do, pour it into a carboy and use a water-seal for 7 days before straining and bottling.  Let me know how it goes.  I haven't gone that far yet.  The first bottle was so fantastic, we gobbled it up in one sitting.  The second bottle is coming with me to the next Symposium planning meeting.  I should have made more.  There's no time like the present.  I own ginger.  And raw sugar.  And 'booch to activate it.  Hmm.....

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Home Made Deodorant

There are really a million things you can do with coconut oil, aren't there?  Several months ago I finally kicked my Secret Antiperspirant habit to the curb.  Why?  What's in antiperspirant, you ask?  Well, for starters, aluminumparabens and triclosan.  Sure, the aluminum and breast cancer link is dubious at best, but the link between aluminum and Alzheimer's is pretty conclusive so if we no longer cook our food with it, why would I want to stick it on my armpits?  Maybe I'll forget that I have armpits?  Alright, I know that's not funny.  Sort-of.  But if you want to read more about the chemicals in deodorant and antiperspirant, start here.

Let me save you money and time and frustration.  Those "natural" deodorants they sell in the health-food stores don't work.  And they are only deodorant and not antiperspirant.  Don't bother wasting money on them.

It did take me a few tries to find a good substitute for my favorite antiperspirant, but in the end I settled on rubbing some coconut oil into my armpits, then shaking some baking soda from an old spice container into the palm of my hand and rubbing it in over the oil.  Easy-peasy, and worked as good as any antiperspirant I'd ever owned.

But then the day came when I was going on a trip and would need to board an airplane.  I was more than a little apprehensive about carrying a white powder in a spice container labelled baking soda through customs.  I was pretty sure it would be taken away from me (may even result in my getting asked to step aside and stripped down in the white room).  So I thought, well, maybe it's time to try to reuse that old empty deodorant container still sitting in my cupboard.  I knew that pure coconut oil wasn't going to cut it--it might melt and make an awful mess of my luggage.  And so the search for a solution began....

It started with a recipe from the Wellness Mama here.

But I didn't have some of those ingredients, nor did I want to have them.  It costs a fortune to buy pure shea butter, and why would I want vitamin E oil in my armpits?  I love the Wellness Mama, and she has good reasons for having those ingredients in there, but since I really liked the baking soda and coconut oil basic recipe, I wanted to keep it pretty simple--and affordable!

I understood that both the starch and the beeswax were necessary.  I definitely had to find, and buy, beeswax (I now have a 10-year supply of beeswax so I may have to make some more beauty-care products at some point in the future).  Then I just kind-of skipped over the rest and modified the original recipe to suit my tastes.  This recipe made a full deodorant container and 3 partly filled cupcake liners worth.  You can cut the recipe down, but those deodorant bars should stay good in your medicine cabinet for a very long time, so why not just make lots?

So here's what I used:

1/2 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup tapioca starch or arrowroot powder
1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup beeswax
10-15 drops essential oil (I used lavender)

In a double-boiler, melt beeswax and coconut oil.  Remove from heat and quickly stir in baking soda, essential oil and tapioca starch.  Immediately pour into silicone cupcake molds or scrape into old deodorant container.

Did this work?  Wow, did it ever!  I tested the deodorant "pucks" the day before we left--easy to handle, easy to store in a zip-lock in my medicine cabinet--it went on a bit sticky and gritty, but it quickly melted and sunk in and was fine (the beeswax leaves a thin waterproof coat on your armpits all day--and night--yaay, 24-hour deo!!)

It occurred to me around mid-day of that first "test" day -- and I had to send my husband a text about it -- my pits smelled like beeswax!  I was having a stressful day, so more than the usual amount of perspiration, and I thought it was pretty hysterical that I smelled very faintly like bee barf.  Of course, if you knew me, you'd know that I have the nose of a bloodhound.  I can smell things no one else can smell.  Steve reassured me that no one else could smell the beeswax, but I didn't care whether people smelled wax -- it was funny that I loved that my new signature "scent" was beeswax and lavender oil.  Pretty inoffensive smells, as far as I was concerned.  Yup, my tree-hugging-hippie was showing once again.  I am a weird paradox of modern-day-woman and hippie-chick.

And what about the old antiperspirant container I stuffed some of it into?  Ok, that was a bit awkward to get it into the container, but it went onto my armpits perfectly.  Loved it on the trip.  It was not confiscated (nor was the whole 500 ml tub of coconut oil I brought with me for face cream, light sunblock and chapstick).  The old antiperspirant container makes application even easier than the pucks I made, so I'll probably melt the pucks enough to stuff into the container when I use up what's in there now.  Whoever invented the antiperspirant container should have made a million bucks because it's awesome.

Do you make your own deo?  What do you use?  Let me know what works for you!