Summertime at my house means beet kvass.
Kvass is the forerunner to a host of water fermented probiotic drinks such as water kefir and kombucha. Kvass was traditionally made with rye bread (sometimes flavored with berries, raisins, or birch sap) in Russia and is still popular in places with a Russian influence. Somewhere along the line, some poor sucker who couldn't afford bread made kvass with a beet.
Rye bread kvass was traditionally known as a peasant's drink, so beet kvass is even more 'low class.' That's how we like it at my house! Low class all the way. Why is it that the more 'high class' you go, the worse the food is for you?
So, in keeping with Cool Cucumber's edict, we'll keep this recipe 'rough and ready!'
Making Beet Kvass:
|Take 1 gnarly beet|
|Chop it up|
|Plop the beet chunks into a jug of water...|
OK, now here's where it gets tricky...
You need to add some salt. And cover. And let it sit for 3-4 days, or longer, start trying it after 3 days. When it's deep red and frothy, put it in the refrigerator. Transfer to bottles if you like.
|After Four Days|
OK, I know it's a little harder than that, for instance...how much salt? Well, I don't think the salt is super important, you just need 'some.' I normally use about 1TBS for my gallon jug.
With the batch in the pictures, I'm doing it a bit differently. I'm going to use 1 cup of the juice from an actively fermenting batch of sauerkraut. Another option you'll read about is using a whey starter. I've never used whey starter in kvass or sauerkraut, just salt. Maybe if you live in town and don't have a pile of rotten veggies in your backyard spewing bacteria everywhere you'll need whey starter. I don't know.
I wrap a bit of cheesecloth around the mouth of the jug, some use a loose fitting cap, and others use fancy airlocks like you'd use in wine-making. Just keep the bugs out. The only requirement is that the lid needs to be able to breathe.
As easy as this is, most of you won't try it. It just seems so 'weird.' The first batch I made I was scared to drink...I didn't even know what it was supposed to taste like! When I finally worked up the nerve to try, it was a bit of a letdown. It tastes a bit like dishwater. But saltier. Foot-bath water?
No matter, you need to try it. This stuff is sooooo good for you I can't even begin to tell you in a way that won't put you to sleep, but let me try. Beets are a rich source of nitrates which have been shown to improve blood flow and exercise performance. Beet kvass is a lacto-fermented beverage, meaning that bacteria which produce lactic acid have a hand in making it. These bacteria, which are found naturally on beets, ferment the beet sugars and produce a weak alcohol and lactic acid solution. The alcohol content of beet kvass is similar to kefir and kombucha (not much, <1%). You won't get drunk. Weston A. Price loved his lacto fermented foods.
The ancient Greeks understood that important chemical changes took place during this type of fermentation. Their name for this change was “alchemy.” Like the fermentation of dairy products, preservation of vegetables and fruits by the process of lacto-fermentation has numerous advantages beyond those of simple preservation. The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine. Other alchemical by-products include hydrogen peroxide and small amounts of benzoic acid.
That's the science, here's the reality:
The combinations are endless, but when you spruce this stuff up a bit, it is very, very good. And that color! Just looking at it makes me feel good.
If you are like me, you'll want to read up on it first. Here are some great links that will tell you all you ever need to know. But take my word for it...just do it! Make beet kvass a summer tradition in your house.
Falling Into Grace
The Nourishing Cook
Plan to Eat
Herb and Gardener
Fearless Eating (With a video)
So, who's going to be first? Who's made it before? Any Eastern Europeans in the crowd who can tell us about the kvass sold there?
From what I can tell, beet kvass is only supposed to ferment for 3-5 days. Many commenters mentioned weeks long brewing processes. While this may make a tastier, and even healthier beverage, it may defeat the purpose of the 'kvass' part. All of the traditional Russian Rye Bread Kvass recipes use 3-5 days. I'm wondering if it has to do with this:
|Blue line is yeast living populations/red line is specific gravity|
For those of you that use a long-brew, I'd be curious to have you taste it at day 4 or 5.