When I first head about a drink made out of soaked beets, I just couldn’t wrap my taste buds around the whole concept. When offered a glass, I literally puckered-up like I was about to sip poison, but I was pleasantly surprised! It tasted earthy, a bit salty, a hint of sour, yet a titch of sweetness and a light effervescence that I wasn’t expecting. I liked it!
The history of beet kvass is that the Ukrainians and Russians have been drinking it for over a thousand years–czars and peasants alike. An electrolyte drink, this lactose-fermented beverage could be called the traditional, real-food version of Gatorade since it provides great hydrating balance.
Here’s what Sally Fallon says in Nourishing Traditions about beet kvass:
This drink is valuable for its medicinal qualities and as digestive aid. Beets are just loaded with nutrients. One 4-ounce glass, morning and night, is an excellent blood tonic, cleanses the liver and is a good treatment for kidney stones and other ailments.
Brewing my first jar of lacto-fermented beet kvass was a “Traditional food Recipe” assignment during my Nutritional Therapy program. I was sure I was going to do something wrong and poison myself with spoiled brew or give my husband a food-borne illness when I made him sip some. Ah, how naive I was! It is so easy to make and, as you learn more about fermenting foods, you’ll gain confidence, too. I always have at least a half-gallon jar of kvass stored in the fridge and one brewing every other week.
Kvass is definitely an acquired taste as are most fermented foods. At first, fermented foods may seem only tolerable, but as your taste buds get accustom to the flavors, your body starts to crave it. Your body knows what it needs. Link over to a previous post to learn more about the health benefits of beets.
It doesn’t matter which color of beets you use — red, golden or Chioggia (red and white striped bulls-eye heirloom variety) — to brew your kvass. Red beets make a blood-red elixir, golden beets a yellow-orange tonic, while Chioggia beets brew a pretty-in-pink-lemonade colored tonic.
Enjoy your kvass chilled. with a squeeze of fresh lime, or mixed half-and-half with lemonade. It can be added to a glass of mineral water, used as a liquid base in smoothies, and in cocktails. I use kvass to make salad dressings, in soup broth, or wherever else you would use vinegar.
- 1 half-gallon mason jar with lid
- 2-3 medium sized beets
- 1/4 cup whey (optional)
- 1-2 tbsp sea salt
- filtered water
- Wash the beets to remove dirt and hairs. Remove cut or brusied spots.
- Quarter beets, leaving about 1 1/2 inches of stem if available.
- Put beets in the bottom of your 2-quart jar. Add whey and 1 tablespoon of salt. (Use 2 tablespoons of salt if not using whey.)
- Fill the jar with filtered water leaving an inch of space at the top.
- Leave the jar in a warm spot (usually on the kitchen counter) loosely covered with its lid or a tea towel for 3-7 days. (If a bit of scum forms on top, just scoop it off with a spoon.)
- (See notes below to know when your kvass is ready.) Drain the liquid out of your jar into another clean jar for storage in the refrigerator for 2-6 months. You can reuse these beets for another bath of kvass by just adding more whey, salt and water to the drained jar. The second batch will be a bit weaker.
Ready for more fermentation?
The process of fermentation adds enzymes which make foods more digestible and more nutritious, aids in digestion, and protects us against disease. To learn more about this artisanal process of food preparation, two great book to get you started are Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz and Fresh & Fermented by Julie O’Brien.