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Ginger beer [RECIPE]

Photo by Reese Lloyd.

The following recipe is from the book The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World. Read more from the author, Sandor Katz, here.

Ginger beer is a classic flavor of homemade soda. It can be made lightly gingered, like most commercial ginger ale, or as spicy as you can take it, using lots of ginger. A ginger bug is a simple ginger beer starter (it can also be used as a starter for other beverages) made from ginger, sugar, and water. Ginger beer can also be made with many different types of starters.

Ginger beer and ginger bug recipe

1. A ginger bug could not be easier to start: Grate a bit of ginger (with skin) into a small jar, add some water and sugar, and stir.

Read more: Food

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Beer and cheese ‘r’ us: Why fermentation makes us human

Get a recipe for ginger beer. (Photo by Reese Lloyd.)

Editor's note: Finally, Sandor Katz -- the nation's fermentation expert -- has written a bible-sized book about his craft. Beyond sauerkraut, bread, and beer, The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World takes readers into the outer realms of the theory and practice behind this edgy, traditional approach to food preservation. What follows is an excerpt from Katz' introduction, but it can also serve as a kind of manifesto for his work. See Katz' recipe for homemade ginger beer and "ginger bug" for more on the how-to side of things.

One word that repeatedly comes to the fore in my exploration and thinking about fermentation is culture. Fermentation relates to culture in many different ways, corresponding with the many layers of meaning embedded in this important word, from its literal and specific meanings in the context of microbiology to its broadest connotations. We call the starters that we add to milk to make yogurt, or to initiate any fermentation, cultures. Simultaneously, culture constitutes the totality of all that humans seek to pass from generation to generation, including language, music, art, literature, scientific knowledge, and belief systems, as well as agriculture and culinary techniques (in both of which fermentation occupies a central role).

Sandor Ellix Katz. (Photo by Sean Minteh.)

In fact, the word culture comes from Latin cultura, a form of colere, “to cultivate.” Our cultivation of the land and its creatures -- plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria -- is essential to culture. Reclaiming our food and our participation in cultivation is a means of cultural revival, taking action to break out of the confining and infantilizing dependency of the role of consumer (user), and taking back our dignity and power by becoming producers and creators.

This is not just about fermentation (even if, as a biological force upon our food, that is inevitable), but about food more broadly. Every living creature on this Earth interacts intimately with its environment via its food. Humans in our developed technological society, however, have largely severed this connection, and with disastrous results. Though affluent people have more food choices than people of the past could ever have dreamed of, and though one person’s labor can produce more food today than ever before, the large-scale, commercial methods and systems that enable these phenomena are destroying our Earth, destroying our health, and depriving us of dignity. With respect to food, the vast majority of people are completely dependent for survival upon a fragile global infrastructure of monocultures, synthetic chemicals, biotechnology, and transportation.

Read more: Food, Sustainable Food