This past Monday, summer arrived here in Silicon Valley. I could hear kids splashing in the pool outside. The ice cream truck, which, oddly, plays “Little Brown Jug,” resumed trolling the neighborhood. And with school about to end, parents went into panic mode. But something else tipped me off that summer had begun: My bulk coconut oil completely melted. Time for lemonade.
I don’t know what to call this effervescent drink, other than delicious. It tastes lemony and spicy and refreshes on a hot day as it’s not too sweet. Lemginade? Gingemonade? Pleasemakemoreade? I’m sure it has a name…
To make this fizzy lemonade, you first need to make ginger bug from organic ginger, sugar and water, and nurture it for about five days. Over time, I had accumulated a large bug so I strained it, composted half and started over. I refrigerated the liquid for two weeks so it had less vigor than freshly strained would. As insurance (and an experiment), I used double the usual amount for this batch (so 1/2 cup instead of the 1/4 cup you’ll find in the recipe below). It worked!
One of the many things I love about fermentation is this ability to improvise. Of course, that might drive some people crazy. Recently, I called my mom (an amazing baker) for her date squares recipe, a family favorite:
For the topping, use some flour, a couple of handfuls or so. Add enough oats. Then mix brown sugar and butter in and mush it all up with your fingers until it’s crumbly. For the filling, take a bunch of dates, say, about this much [we weren’t on Skype], and cook them with brown sugar and water until they look right…
I haven’t made them.
Naturally Carbonated Lemonade
- 4 cups water
- 1/2 cup sugar or to taste
- 1/2 cup lemon juice with or without pulp
- 1/4 cup strained liquid from a ginger bug
1. Make lemonade. Boil water in a kettle. When the water has boiled, combine 1 cup hot water with 1/2 cup sugar. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, add remaining 3 cups cool water. You need your lemonade at room temperature. By making it this way—with 1 cup hot water plus 3 cups cool—you don’t have to wait long for the water to cool down. NEVER ADD YOUR BUG TO HOT WATER. You will kill the microbes and the fermentation will not work.
2. Add 1/2 cup lemon juice to the sugar-water. I like to harness the lactic acid bacteria present on the lemons, which will help ferment your drink (but mostly the ginger bug ferments it), so I add the lemon juice after the water has cooled to room temperature.
3. Add the ginger bug to the lemonade and stir.
4. Bottle your drink. Fill flip-top bottles and set them aside for two days, three if you have a very cool kitchen. As the microbes eat the sugar, they release carbon dioxide, which carbonates your drink. BE CAREFUL! If you let the fermentation go too long, the bottles may explode. I have never had this happen but have read about it, so I often put my bottles in a cupboard to ferment. A cardboard box works too. The garage is ideal. After you have made a few fermented drinks like this or kombucha, you will get a feel for how long to let the secondary fermentation go. If you let the bottle sit for longer than a couple of days, PLEASE burp it (i.e., open it) to release gas. I usually do this every two days, sometimes one, depending on how fizzy the drink it.
5. Chill a few hours before serving.
You can also use your ginger bug to make naturally carbonated hibiscus soda. Get the recipe for that here.