Along the Grapevine


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Two New Flavours of Ginger Soda

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Recycled beer bottles with flip lids

I am not a fan of commercial soft drinks whatsoever, but once I started making my own from ”bugs’, which are fermented roots (often ginger root) with sugar, I have had great fun making and consuming all sorts of variations of fizzy drinks. Especially after working several hours (or at least what seems like several hours) in the garden, I am rewarded with a tall cool drink of whatever mixture I have fermenting in the kitchen.

The process is really very simple, but it does take a little time. I try to make a couple of bottles a day so that I always have some on hand.  To begin, I mix a couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh ginger with an equal amount of sugar in about a cup of water in a covered mason jar. Each day I add half that amount of ginger and sugar until the mixture begins to bubble which is around five days, at which point it is ready to make a drink of whatever flavour I want with a second fermentation.

The second part is where the interesting flavours come in, although because it is a ginger bug, there will be a good gingery flavour already. For these drinks I used ginger-friendly fruits, rhubarb for one and sumac for the other.

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You will need flip top bottles for this so that no gas escapes during fermentation. The bottles I used hold two cups so it made measuring easy – 1 3/4 cup sumac or rhubarb juice (descriptions below), 1 tsp sugar (or a little more if you want it sweeter) and 1/4 cup ginger bug. Mix well, bottle and leave to ferment from 2-5 days depending on the temperature of your kitchen and how much sugar you have used. For a first attempt I recommend opening it after two days to see how it’s doing. If there is no ‘pop’ at all when you open it, leave it for another day or two next time, although it will still be very good, just not too bubbly. Because I use little sugar, I like to leave mine for five days to give it a really good fizz, but then I do have to be careful to open it slowly and expect a little to escape. Kind of like opening champagne! If you want it for later, refrigerate it which will slow down any further fermentation – but not stop it all together.

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Sumac drink after five days of fermentation

For the juices, I cooked some chopped rhubarb covered in water with sugar to taste and strained. For the sumac, I simply used water infused with sumac berries.

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Rhubarb drink after two days of fermentation

After you have used the ‘bug’, add water to replace the liquid you have strained out of it, and continue to feed it ginger and sugar daily. Or put it in the fridge and carry on another day. You will have to remove some of the ginger from time time, which I do whenever I am making a soup, dressing or stir-fry into which it goes very nicely.

Linked to: Fiesta Friday # 76


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Dandelion Gin Fizz

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There is little time left to collect dandelion flowers this year. My spectacular crop is quickly going to seed, especially those plants which have been left unmowed, and which now exceed the typical maximum height of 45 cm. I was however able to collect a bucket full today from the mowed areas to make the season’s last batch of my new favourite summer drink – dandelion gin fizz.

There is no need to give descriptions of this plant for purposes of identification – if you have them anywhere in your area, you already know them. As for foraging, just make sure that they are picked only in clean areas, free of pesticides and other chemicals, or contaminated run-off. Around parking lots, train tracks, heavily travelled roads and polluted waters are to be avoided.

Roots, leaves and flowers are all edible. In fact, it is a common culinary and medicinal plant in many parts of the world. For more on the benefits and contraindications, check this post. Unfortunately, its uses and benefits are still relatively unrecognized in this part of the world, which makes it a great source of experiment for curious cooks.

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Which brings me back to my bucket full of flowers. Last year, at about this time, I wrote my first post on dandelions, including recipes using flowers for dandelion pakoras and syrup. Since then, I have come across a few recipes for lacto-fermented soda, such as this one and of course I had to try it. It is easy, economical, and full of all those wonderful pro-biotics found in fermented foods and drinks. I was also intrigued to think that this could be a home-made soft drink. I am not a fan of the overly sweet commercial fizzy drinks, with the exception of tonic water for my G&Ts, which despite its grown-up bitter flavour, has as much sugar as the worst of them. So I was thinking along the lines of a good gin and tonic type drink as a post-gardening/weeding refreshment.

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I made this one with whey as a fermenting agent. For the whey, you can strain some natural, plain yogurt through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. You don’t need much, and it keeps in the fridge for at least a week, and can be frozen. My next batch I will make with a dandelion bug, that is, a fermenting agent made with edible root, water and sugar. Most ‘bugs’ are made from ginger, but in fact any edible root works – so why not a dandelion root? To get a clearer idea of what I am referring to, check out this post for a ginger bug where the process is clearly explained.

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Dandelion Gin Fizz


The Soda

Fill a clean mason jar about 3/4 full with dandelion petals – only the yellow part.

Cover with boiling, filtered water and let stand for about 24 hours.

Strain the mixture, and squeeze out all the liquid you can from the petals.

For every cup of juice, ad 1/4 cup whey and 1/4 cup sugar syrup (made from heating until sugar is dissolved 2 parts sugar to 1 part water).

Cover the jar with a clean cloth and allow to stand for about five days at room temperature stirring once a day.

Small white bubbles will form on the top. If it goes mouldy, then throw it out. When you stir it, check the taste. It will have a dandelion flavour, but should be palatable.

The Gin Fizz

1 1/2 cup dandelion soda

1/3-1/2 cup sugar syrup

juice of 1 lemon

3 oz. gin

ice cubes

Mix the first 4 ingredients and pour into glasses over ice cubes.

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Not as bitter as a commercial tonic, this drink has a mild fruit taste, something like a pear nectar. The fizziness is lighter than a traditional G&T, but it is every bit as refreshing and satisfying.

 

Dandelion Gin Fizz on Punk Domestics