Ginger Bug, Homemade Fermented Soda Pop.


A little jar of ginger bug, a slurry of ginger and sugar, sits on my countertop next to my sourdough starter, where, fed daily, it bubbles and foams.  I remove a little bit at a time, no more than 1/4 cup, to make old-fashioned sodas like homemade root beer, ginger mint soda, rhubarb soda and others more familiar to those subscribe to the Nourished Kitchen meal plans who find a new recipe for fermented foods tucked into their meal plans each week.

Ginger Bug
Yield: about 1 pint

Ginger bug, a slurry of fermented ginger and sugar, forms the basis for homemade, traditionally fermented sodas including root beer, mint sodas, or fruit-based sodas that are rich in beneficial bacteria.

Ingredients

Fresh Ginger
Whole Unrefined Cane Sugar or substitute Honey, Brown Sugar or Agave
Instructions

Break off a knob from your hand of ginger, peel away its papery skin and grate it until you have 2 heaping tablespoons. Place the grated ginger in a small jar, whisk in 2 tablespoons unrefined cane sugar and 2 tablespoons filtered water. Cover the jar loosely and allow it to ferment in a warm spot in your kitchen.
Every day for at least 5 days, mix an additional 2 tablespoons grated ginger, 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons water into your jar. The ginger will begin to foam and bubble at its top, and will take on the yeasty fragrance of beer. After 5 days, it is ready to use. You can also store it in the refrigerator, and feed it 2 tablespoons grated ginger, 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons water once a week.
To use the ginger bug to make homemade sodas, prepare 1 quart of herbal tea sweetened with a caloric sweetener like sugar (or substitute 1 scoop Body Ecology's Ecobloom). Strain off 1/4 cup of the ginger bug's liquid and whisk it into the sweetened tea. Replace the 1/4 cup ginger bug you've removed with 1/4 cup sugar dissolved into 1/4 cup water. Transfer the sweetened tea and ginger bug to flip-top bottles (available here), and allow it to ferment at room temperature for 3 days. Transfer to the fridge or drink straight away.

How to Use Your Ginger Bug

To use your ginger bug in preparing homemade sodas, simply strain off 1/4 cup of the liquid and add it to 1 quart of a sweetened herbal infusion, to fruit juice, or to a combination of the two.  Mix it well, and transfer it to a flip-top bottle where you can allow it to ferment about 3 days.  Transfer it to the refrigerator, and allow it chill before opening.

*For example-  We like root beer so I take 1/4 cup of the ginger bug put it into a jug, add in 8 cups of filtered water a cup of sugar and 4 tablespoonfuls of root beer extract. Put the lid in tightly. On a Wednesday, it's usually done by Saturday dinner.


What is a Ginger Bug and What Does It Do

A slurry of fermented yeast and sugar water, Ginger Bug captures beneficial microorganisms like wild yeasts and bacteria in the same way that sourdough starter does.  The wild microorganisms, eat away at the sugar in the Ginger Bug, and produce carbon dioxide as a result.  When mixed with a flavored sweet tea, fruit juice or other base, the microorganisms in the ginger bug begin to consume the sugar in the tea or juice, and, as they do, they reproduce and emit carbon dioxide. The result is a fizzy and effervescent, naturally fermented soda that is rich in beneficial bacteria – critical to gut health and immune system function. 

What You Need for Ginger Bug (and homemade sodas)

To make Ginger Bug, you need only fresh ginger, a caloric sweetener to feed the microorganisms, filtered or dechlorinated water and a container to hold the bug.  To make fermented sodas, you’ll further need flavorings – whether that’s fresh herbs, fruit juice or a concoction of herbs, flowers, roots and bark like  I use in my homemade root beer.  While Ginger Bug itself benefits from a loosely lidded environment, homemade fermented sodas benefit from a tightly capped environment which disallows the escape of carbon dioxide produced during fermentation.  This gas, a natural byproduct of fermentation, helps to ensure that the resulting homemade soda is fizzy, bubbly and pleasantly effervescent when opened.

Fresh Ginger can be found in any well-stocked grocery store, and organic ginger can be found in any well-stocked health food store.
Unrefined Cane Sugar feeds the beneficial bacteria and wild yeasts in the Ginger Bug.  I typically use a whole, unrefined cane sugar (like this one), but have recently made the switch to Jaggery (available here) – a traditional Indian sweetener of completley unrefined cane sugar.
Mason Jars hold your ginger bug, and you can find them in grocery stores, hardware stores and online.
Flip-top Bottles allow you to tightly, and safely, cap your homemade sodas as they ferment.  The tight cap ensures that carbon dioxide remains in the bottle, effectively carbonating your homemade sodas.  You can find flip-top bottles in homebrewing supply stores, though I just use mason jars.


When I approach fermented tonics, whether it’s Continuous Brew Kombucha or Water Kefir, readers often wonder at the addition of sugar – seeking to circumvent its use.  When I read these questions, I am often reminded of my friend Hannah’s response, “The sugar isn’t for you.  It’s not for you.” Hannah runs Kombucha Kamp, a site devoted to kombucha’s benefits and uses.  Her statement holds true for Ginger Bug, too; that is, sugar feeds beneficial bacteria and wild yeasts.  Without a caloric sweetener, the bacteria and yeast have nothing to eat, and cannot proliferate.  Much of the sugar in fermented tonics is consumed by beneficial microorganisms who then transform it.


What is a Ginger Bug and What Does It Do

A slurry of fermented yeast and sugar water, Ginger Bug captures beneficial microorganisms like wild yeasts and bacteria in the same way that sourdough starter does.  The wild microorganisms, eat away at the sugar in the Ginger Bug, and produce carbon dioxide as a result.  When mixed with a flavored sweet tea, fruit juice or other base, the microorganisms in the ginger bug begin to consume the sugar in the tea or juice, and, as they do, they reproduce and emit carbon dioxide. The result is a fizzy and effervescent, naturally fermented soda that is rich in beneficial bacteria – critical to gut health and immune system function. 

What You Need for Ginger Bug (and homemade sodas)

To make Ginger Bug, you need only fresh ginger, a caloric sweetener to feed the microorganisms, filtered or dechlorinated water and a container to hold the bug.  To make fermented sodas, you’ll further need flavorings – whether that’s fresh herbs, fruit juice or a concoction of herbs, flowers, roots and bark like  I use in my homemade root beer.  While Ginger Bug itself benefits from a loosely lidded environment, homemade fermented sodas benefit from a tightly capped environment which disallows the escape of carbon dioxide produced during fermentation.  This gas, a natural byproduct of fermentation, helps to ensure that the resulting homemade soda is fizzy, bubbly and pleasantly effervescent when opened.

Fresh Ginger can be found in any well-stocked grocery store, and organic ginger can be found in any well-stocked health food store.
Unrefined Cane Sugar feeds the beneficial bacteria and wild yeasts in the Ginger Bug.  I typically use a whole, unrefined cane sugar (like this one), but have recently made the switch to Jaggery (available here) – a traditional Indian sweetener of completley unrefined cane sugar.
Mason Jars hold your ginger bug, and you can find them in grocery stores, hardware stores and online.
Flip-top Bottles allow you to tightly, and safely, cap your homemade sodas as they ferment.  The tight cap ensures that carbon dioxide remains in the bottle, effectively carbonating your homemade sodas.  You can find flip-top bottles in homebrewing supply stores, though I purchase mine online.

Cancer is not for wimps!! A letter to the world.





Dear.....

It is hard not to reflect on your life when you have taken the journey I have over the past 38+months. I struggle with not letting cancer define me, even though in all honesty, it has completely redefined who I am. And I know that in writing this, I will likely offend all of you at some point, or make you sad, or make you angry, or all of the above. Please know that my intention is none of those things.  I am not writing this letter so that you will take pity on me or treat me with kid gloves. I am simply trying to be honest and say all the things that I never say when you ask me, "How are you doing? No, REALLY, how are you feeling?" Quite honestly, you probably don't want to know the real answer to that question, and you'd get tired of hearing me rant about what it's like to be "the new me" anyway. 

You're right, I look pretty good right now. Thank you for noticing. My hair has grown back (and it is an awesome color); I have color in my cheeks again; I don't look like a sick cancer patient (because I'm still up about 55 pounds from when I started this journey. What I wouldn't give for clothes that fit). My doctor keeps telling me I am doing"really well" at keeping my weight under control, that most people gain a minimum of 100 pounds within a year of having their thyroid killed.
Anyway, If you just met me, or passed me on the street, you would never know the road I've traveled. And that is weird to me. There are at least half a dozen people that I know now who didn't know me "before." Throughout my life, I will continue to meet people along the way who weren't there during the treatments that knocked me on my ass. They've never read what I am writing. They don't know that what I've been through has re-shaped my view of the world. At this point in the journey, cancer feels like such a defining experience that I feel like I need to wear a badge that says, "Survivor" or "I kicked cancer's ass" or something. Shout it from the rooftops? Maybe. Will it ever be something I don't feel compelled to start a sentence with? (I don't actually start my sentences with this, by the way, but there are so many times I feel like I have to). So maybe what I'm really trying to say is, you just never know the journey that anyone has been on or is currently traveling. Kindness moves mountains...maybe we should all start practicing more of it?

When I say, "I'm tired" in response to your question, here's what I probably mean:
a) I AM EXHAUSTED. I WANT TO CURL UP IN A BALL AND DIE FOR A FEW DAYS. I completely understand that I still have my family and home to take care of....is not helping. Some days it takes everything I have in me to feel like a functional human being. And I still cannot do half what I used to be able to do, that frustrates me.  Folks, cancer knocked me on my ass. And then backed up and ran me over. And then did it again and again and again. The chemo regimen I had is called "the red devil" for a reason. There are days where I really and truly cannot get out of bed...for no real reason other than my body won't function. Still. And the PTSD-and/or-early onset chemotherapy related osteoarthritis that makes my body scream, its so loud it wakes me or keeps me from sleeping, pain induced insomnia doesn't help. Or the nightmares that ravage my mind and leave my pillow soaked.

b) EVERYTHING HURTS. Everything. And thyroid cancer turned lymphoma is a pain in the ass. Not sure why one day is better or worse than another. If I sit or stand too long in one position, I cannot move. Watching me get up from a seated position (at a restaurant, off the couch at home to go to the bathroom) is HILARIOUS. It takes sometimes 10-100 steps for my hip/knee/back/leg to actually function properly so I don't look like a 90-year-old hobbling down the hall. At least it makes the kids laugh when they see it.
c) I forgot the question, but you were probably asking how I was doing, so I reply with my canned answer "I'm just fine, thanks".

Here's the thing, every one "does" cancer differently. No two journeys are the same, and I am only speaking of mine. Do I wish I could dance the night away, right now? Sure. Do I wish I could have run a marathon during treatments? Actually, yes. Am I happy if someone you know has the energy to run a marathon during the middle of chemo? YES! I think that's terrific. But THAT'S NOT MY STORY. Chemo made me want to die. Curl up in a ball and die. I remember one stretch where I didn't get out of bed for SIX DAYS. I was either face down on the bathroom floor because I literally could not move or curled into the vetal position on my bed. And I'm sure that I'm so tired now because I wasn't very active during treatments, but save the lectures because I was too busy trying not to die to give a crap about getting exercise. I was way too exhausted to climb the stairs some days. Laundry room down stairs simply didn't see me for months. And I wish I was exaggerating.

When I say, "chemo: the gift that just keeps giving" in response to your question, I might mean a variety of things:
a) I am stupid. HOLY CRAP, legitimately stupid. I have NO ability to retain information. I cannot hold a conversation with anyone, especially with children mine, yours hers, and all others simply left in my care, or  "well-meaning authority figures". It hurts me to listen to myself talk about books with kids now because half way through, I forget what we're talking about. Chemo brain rocks!
b) I am so ADD now, it's frightening. Squirrel.
c) Osteoarthritis BLOWS. Enough said. Okay, maybe not enough. I am too young to have this old woman's disease that bends my back and cripples my hands and feet. IT SUCKS. 
d) It's hard to breathe sometimes...and not because I was trying to exercise. Probably because chemo damaged my heart and radiation damaged my lung.  
e) I can't feel the bottoms of my feet ever. Or my hands sometimes. I no longer have fine motor skills. Opening a jar??? Bwahahaha. That's a good joke.
f) I have a heightened sense of smell. (No kidding, school science fair, I was a judge,  in the gym. The minute I stepped out of the choir room (where we'd received our instructions) door, all I could smell was sugar, pizza, and sweat. Had to leave to vomit over the stair railing outside).
g) My tastebuds are shot (which really blows since I can smell everything now).
h) My hair has grown back thicker (yeah), curlier (boo...chemo curl sucks), and with no gray (yeah...although I color it so you wouldn't be able to tell anyway). Doesn't make any sense to me, but there's the truth of it.
i) I'm sure there are many other things which I'm just not remembering right now...because I'm stupid.

When I say, "I hate everyone and everything, or I'm just fine thank you," I probably mean:
a) I hate everyone and everything.
b) I am so tired.
c) I am sad.
d) I am angry.
e) I do not understand why everyone still cares about stupid, unimportant stuff. (Okay, I really do know, but I get frustrated when forced to confront someone who is taking dumb stuff way too seriously).
f) I'm trying not to say that my PTSD has kicked in and I'm trying to hold it together.
g) My body hurts, not in the general achy sense but it hurt, literally.

What? 

I'm angry? I'm sad? 

"But why? You're all better now, right?" Here's the thing: PTSD is a bigger bitch  than cancer.  And I try really hard every day not to let it get the best of me. Or to let you see it. But the reality is, I am an emotional wreck. WRECK. I've cried twice while typing this post and I haven't even gotten to the stuff that's sad. I am at least able to see the panic attacks coming on now, but that doesn't mean they are any fun. Ask the family about the one I had out for a drive while we were out in the middle of nowhere. I'm sure that the four of them thought someone was going to die. I only have a vague recollection of the event, but it scared me. The best one was trying to have a rational conversation with my ex about my daughter going to camp, and My husband telling me to calm down when I wasn't actually upset, sent me into a crazy screaming tail spin that threatened to kill my marriage. Because my brain was telling me that the panic attack would go away if I could go in my room and hide like it was emergency exit...just to make the noise in my head stop, he followed me down the hallway. I screamed..... Not kidding. The kids sitting in the room next to me were really freaked out.


So, besides PTSD (which, is not just for soldiers, BTW, and which I really need to write about in a post all it's own), what makes me sad and angry?

LOTS!

Ignoring all the "what if the cancer comes back?!" "What if I don't see my kids graduate/get married/grow up?" "What if, what if, what if?" questions that constantly swirl in my head, here are just a few things that I think about... 

I feel guilty about everything my family has had to go through, and the damage that it's done to their mental health. None of us will ever be the same, and whether that's a good thing or not, the trauma wrecked havoc and did it's share of damage. 

I've watched friends from treatment, die....one after another, every month. I am angry for....being alive?!  How is my life worth saving whereas there's aren't?

I get sad when I think of all the things that I want to do that I could have, and maybe should have, done long before now. Why was I waiting to check those things off the bucket list?

I lost a year and a half of my life. Literally. I don't actually know how old I am anymore. I answered the question wrong the other day when someone asked. Seriously. I played it off as I was teasing, but had no idea and had to count.

Cancer is isolating. Whether that's by force, or mitigating inherent health risks of hanging out with people who carry germs, I barely saw anyone during the entire time of my treatments. And now I'm so used to hanging out in my room, by myself, it's really hard for me to remember to be a member of a family, community, neighborhood...how to be a friend. I struggle with getting outside the shell that cancer created.

Treatments have bankrupted us. Not just emotionally, but financially as well. Actually bankrupted. We filed in January.

People including my husband treat me like I am broken,or lost or stupid or that I need someone to talk for me when all I really need, is for them to be quiet to truly hear.

I don't know if I am a survivor. The doctors sure don't call me one (I have to wait 5 years for that), but I feel like I should surely get a label for all that I've put up with! Or a special place in Heaven. Or a better dessert than everyone else. But I also get twitchy anytime someone calls me a survivor...like maybe they're jinxing it for me. 

I think I'm a different person. And I desperately didn't want cancer to change me. But the reality is, while cancer did not change me, living through it has definitely made me a different person. And that makes it feel like I've let cancer win. I struggle every day with feeling like I'll always be "that cancer patient" in your eyes. And my own.

I am nesting in reverse. I am getting rid of EVERYTHING. And medical/science major me who took enough psychology classes in college can see why I'm doing it. I know that I'm doing it because I don't want my family to have to sort through all my things if I were to die. And because things don't mean anything to me anymore. But I can't stop.  Just spent the last two weeks giving away ALL of my jewelry.

I am so mad that there is not a cure for cancer. And that people are still diagnosed with it every day. Research, people, research!!!  I think the government has a cure and we are kept sick on purpose, so we remain loyal to the hand that feeds us.

I get so angry when I see that you are not living your dreams. Or you are unhappy. Or you aren't saying, "I love you" to those that matter. Or caring so much about things that don't matter. SERIOUSLY! Life. Is. Too. Short. And I know that unless you've lived through something like I have, you understand the words that I'm saying, but you don't really GET. IT. You think I sound like the teacher on Charlie Brown. But if you aren't happy, then what the hell is the point of being healthy????!!!

So, before I alienate everyone, I'll wind this up with a few simple statements.

I am  doing just one more round of chemo currently. We thought I was done but my doctor says "just one more, as always". The indecision feels like its enough to crush me. Maybe yes, maybe no, let's just wait and see...

When all is said and done, I still want to be me.

People often don't know what they are talking about. The more wrong they are, the louder they seem.

Cancer is not for wimps.

At the end of the day, there's no prize for being a workaholic, or the "perfect" wife/mother/family, or having the most stuff. Let it go.

Be happy. And let those around you be happy. Whatever that might look like. 

Eat dessert first.

Say what you think and mean what you say.

Sincerely, best regards, etc.etc.

Sarah Shelton

Homemade Ketchup



Fermented Ketchup
Prep time
Fermented condiments like ketchup provide another way to take in your good bacteria, while at the same time eliminating another High-Fructose Corn Syrup-laden food from your diet.
10 hours
Fermentation time
3-4 days
Yield: 2 pints
Ingredients
10 lbs. fresh Tomatoes
½ cup raw honey
½ cup + ¼ cup liquid whey, divided
2 oz. raw apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon cloves, ground
2 teaspoons allspice, ground

Instructions

Make Paste (from scratch)
Wash and remove stems from tomatoes.
Make an “X” shaped slit in the skin of the tomatoes at the stem end.
Boil water in a medium to large stockpot.
A few at a time, drop the tomatoes in for 30-40 seconds. Fish out with a spider or slotted spoon.
Immediately put them in a bowl filled with ice water. Then pinch the tomatoes from the non-slit end. The skins will pop off. Set aside in another bowl. Compost or discard skins.
Cut tomatoes open and squeeze out gel and seeds. (Reserve for another use).
Puree drained tomato flesh in a food processor until mostly smooth (a few lumps is okay).
Pour contents into a slow cooker, and cook for 8-10 hours on low heat, stirring occasionally. During this time, most of the juice should evaporate off, and it will take on a darker color. It won’t be as thick as canned tomato paste. You can cook longer if you want a thicker paste.
Let paste cool.
Mix ingredients
Add paste to a mixing bowl, along with honey. Stir until smooth.
Add vinegar, ½ cup of whey and salt.
Grind cloves and allspice and add to bowl.
Fermentation
Transfer to a quart mason jar or several pint jars (if sharing). Cover with lid (but not ring) and let sit at room temperature for 4 days. After about 3 days, the liquid part of the whey evaporates, leaving the whey powder on top.
Stir contents, then secure lid and put in refrigerator. Lasts 6 months