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Homemade Caribbean Ginger Beer (Fermented Recipe)

Homemade Caribbean Ginger Beer (Fermented Recipe)

This Caribbean ginger beer recipe uses the fermentation process to make a bubbly, refreshing drink! By using a more traditional method, this homemade ginger beer recipe creates a drink that is not only delicious, but also packed with health benefits from fresh ginger root and probiotics. 

The History of Ginger Beer

Ginger beer originated in England during the spice trades of the 1700s, when ginger was one of the most popular spices worldwide.

The word beer technically refers to a fermented grain beverage, such as the low alcohol drink “small beer” that was popular during that time. A ginger alternative, although not made with grain, came to be known by the name ginger beer. 

Although ginger is not native to the Caribbean, the top producer of ginger in that time period was Jamaica. This region was also a heavy producer of sugarcane. With influence of England in the region and the crops grown in the Caribbean Islands – Caribbean or Jamaican ginger beer was born!

The Fermentation of Traditional Ginger Beer

Like a kombucha mother or kefir grains, a truly traditional  jamaican ginger beer recipe is made from a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) that has been passed down through generations.

This particular SCOBY is called a “ginger beer plant”, and has gone by other names such as bees wine or balm of Gilead. It gave the authentic ginger beer a unique taste.

While fermented ginger beer was popular for some time, the manufacturing of drinks using flavorings (like in modern ginger ale), along with the use of commercial yeasts in alcoholic products has caused a downfall in the popularity of these kinds of fermented beverages. This makes finding the tradtitional ginger beer plant SCOBY a hard one to come by. But, with the rising popularity of fermented drinks, it could make a come-back! There are some sources online that claim to sell genuine ginger beer plant cultures, but I have not tried them myself. 

Instead of using a ginger beer plant culture, this recipe uses a “ginger bug”. Making a ginger bug is a simple way to make your own homemade version of a starter culture by using grated ginger and cane sugar. While it’s not going to produce the exact flavor as a genuine ginger beer plant culture would, it’s a great way to make ginger beer that is healthy, fermented and delicious!

Health Benefits of Fermented Ginger Beer

Ginger is well known for its health benefits, including improving gastrointestinal motility, and having anti inflammatory properties.  

This recipe is good for your gut – being a fermented beverage, it is packed with probiotics. Probiotics help the gut by adding beneficial bacteria and yeast, which help to restore gut lining and aid in digestion. 

How to Make a Ginger Bug Culture

Making a ginger bug is very simple, but just like with making a new sourdough starter, it takes a little patience. It will take a few days or up to a week to be ready, and you have to feed it daily. The time it takes your ginger bug to be ready depends mostly on the temperature of your home. The colder the home, the slower the fermentation time. 

Step One

Begin by combining 2 cups of water (filtered and non-chlorinated) with 1 tablespoon of peeled and grated organic ginger and 1 tablespoon of raw organic brown sugar, ensuring the sugar dissolves. Pour into a mason jar, seal tightly, and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours. 

Step Two

Feed the ginger mixture by adding 1 tablespoon of peeled and grated organic ginger and 1 tablespoon of organic brown sugar, stirring well until the sugar dissolves. Repeat this step every 24 hours for 7 days, or until it bubbly and active. It should be constantly producing new bubbles without being touched. 

You must continue feeding your ginger bug daily if kept at room temperature. 

You can store your ginger bug in the refrigerator and allow it to go dormant, but it will need to be fed once weekly with tablespoon of grated organic ginger and 1 tablespoon of organic raw brown cane sugar. Before using it in recipes, reactivate your dormant ginger bug by bringing it back to room temperature and feeding it daily again until it is active and bubbly.

Once you have made your ginger bug, you are ready to make fermented Caribbean ginger beer!

How to Make Fermented Caribbean Ginger Beer

Ingredients:

½ gallon water (8 cups)

1 cup raw organic brown sugar

⅓ cup peeled and grated organic fresh ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves or 4 whole cloves

Fresh lime juice from 2 limes 

Step 1

Combine filtered water, organic brown sugar, peeled and grated organic ginger, and cloves in a stockpot and bring to a boil. It’s important to use brown sugar, the molasses content gives a wonderful flavor to the end result.

Step 2

Once boiling, turn off the heat, cover, and let steep for at least 2 hours. This will make a ginger tea, with a strong ginger flavor.  

Step 3 

After steeping, check the temperature. It should be somewhat warm but not hot. Add the ginger bug liquid. Stir well. 

Step 4

Strain all of the liquid out into a large bowl or pitcher. Squeeze out all the liquid and ginger juice you can from the strained ginger. 

Step 5

Add the lime juice through a sieve and stir well.

Pour this mixture into a large sealable glass jar and/or glass bottle, seal, and allow to ferment at room temperature for a couple of days. After day 2, open and release pressure so it doesn’t explode, then reseal for another day if desired. 

Step 6

After 2 or 3 days, open the bottle and see how the fermentation is going. If it opens with a “pop” and fizzes, it’s ready to continue fermenting in the refrigerator. If not, leave it for another day and check on it the following day. It should be ready by day 3 or 4. Don’t forget about it! You don’t want the bottles to explode. Make sure to burp at least once a day. 

Step 7

Refrigerate, well sealed, in the refrigerator for 1 week to allow the carbonation to continue.

Enjoy!

Serve cold in small portions. It is spicy, strong and refreshing!

My personal preference is to enjoy this drink without ice. I find that adding ice reduces the natural carbonation and strong flavors too quickly.  

Another delicious option is to serve with fresh pineapple juice!

Let me know in the comments below your favorite beverages to make with a ginger bug!

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