Because we like making fermented drinks, we double or triple the soda starter recipe and let the remaining starter “sleep” in the fridge. There the cold temperature slows down the fermentation. When the mood to brew another batch hits us, we wake up the bug!
Restarting your starter
We find this approach useful because making homemade soda needs two fermentation stages: first for the starter, and second for the soda itself. This means that brewing can take anywhere between 6 to 12 days, from start to finish, depending on the weather.
Making a big batch also means we have enough bug for several weeks. We store the starter in the fridge where it requires only a weekly feeding of 1 tsp sugar and 1 tsp of either minced ginger or turmeric as it slumbers.
Remember though that the fermentation process only slowed down. So when storing bug in the fridge for a prolonged period, make sure to still use a bottle or jar with enough headroom and an airtight lid.
And then, when the mood to make soda hits, we get to skip to the good part–the second fermentation because we already have a bug on hand.
How to “wake up” or restart your bug
To wake up your bug from its hibernation, you will need to feed it daily again until it becomes strong and active. In this case, we are waking up Mabi’s turmeric bug for the tanglad turmeric cooler (recipe below).
The first thing to do to wake up the bug is to take it out of the fridge and let it sit on the kitchen counter until it comes to room temperature. You might see very small bubbles form at the surface. Add 1 tsp of sugar and 1 Tbsp minced turmeric, and stir. Leave this on the counter overnight with the lid on. This is day 1.
On day 2, you will begin to see more bubbles on the surface. Feed it again with 1 tsp of sugar and 1 Tbsp minced turmeric. Maybe at this point there’s even a light hiss or fizzing sound when you open the lid. Seal it again.
Repeat the feeding process to wake up the bug until you see more activity. This can take anywhere from 2 to 5 days, depending on the weather, so be patient. It can be anyone of these things: a noticeable pop or hiss when you open the container, foamy surface, or maybe even large or vigorous bubbles. Once you see these signs, the bug is now awake and active, ready to be used.
How to use lemongrass
For this homemade fermented soda we are using lemongrass tea to go with the turmeric bug.
Known as tanglad here in the Philippines, lemongrass is a woodsy aromatic grass that is popular in Southeast Asian cuisine and fairly easy to find.
The tender pale green bulb of the lemongrass is the part that is usually used in dishes and drinks. It can be tough so while it can be used whole, a lot of recipes call for chopping, smashing, even pounding lemongrass to a paste to release its volatile oils before being added to soups, curries, marinades, stews, rice, or drinks such as tanglad tea.
- 10 pcs of lemongrass
- 4 cups water
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup turmeric bug
- juice from a small lemon
- Wash the lemongrass thoroughly and peel off the tough layer of the lemongrass.
- Smash the tender root ends and roughly chop into smaller pieces.
- Add lemongrass pieces and water to a pot. Let it boil for 2 minutes then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes. Add sugar and stir gently to dissolve.
- Remove from heat and let the lemongrass steep until the tea comes to room temperature.
- While waiting, strain the turmeric bug so that you have ¼ cup without any pieces of turmeric.
- Once the tea is cool, remove the lemongrass pieces. Strain if needed.
- Stir in turmeric bug and the lemon juice.
- Transfer the mixture into your fermentation bottle or jar with an airtight lid or cap and set it aside on the kitchen counter to ferment.
- On the second day of fermentation, add ¼ tsp of sugar.
- Leave to ferment for a few days, burping once a day.
Note: I made this tanglad cooler in June, as we began to transition from hot humid summer to warm muggy monsoon season. The cooler started becoming a bit sour on day 3 although I could still detect the lemongrass flavor. It was at this point that I refrigerated it.