I just made beet kvass for the first time, and I want to share how easy it is! I found it full of umami flavor – earthy, salty, and tangy.
Everyone is learning how good fermented foods are — a way to get probiotics into your belly without expensive supplements that may or may not actually get those probiotics to just the right place in your digestive tract to be effective.
Beet kvass is something you can easily make at home that is ready to consume in as little as two days! And…it’s a time-tested traditional food known to have profound health-giving qualities.
My First Batch
Since I wasn’t sure if I’d even like it enough to make it again, my first batch was small. I put one organic golden beet, rinsed but unpeeled and unscrubbed and cut into half-inch cubes, into a quart jar, added 1 tablespoon of salt, a teaspoon of sauerkraut juice (from the refrigerated live kind, not canned), and filled the jar with filtered water, leaving an inch of space at the top. Swished it around a bit to mix before clamping the jar tightly shut.
I left it out on the counter and let it ferment for two days. I opened the jar daily to release gases. No scum formed on the top, but if it had, this is when I’d scoop it off and discard it.
I recommend sniffing and tasting it each day, because with experience, you’ll know when it’s fermented to just the right degree for your tastebuds. It’s warm in Austin, Texas, in early June, and warmth speeds fermentation. It will take longer if your kitchen is cooler. A week is more typical length to ferment.
After two days, the brine had turned golden at the bottom of the jar. I stirred it to mix and then sipped a little, to see if it was palatable to me, because I’d never had it before.
Wow. Yum! I really liked the taste! It had a mineral earthiness from the beet, saltiness, and a sour tanginess from the fermentation and the kraut juice. I drank half a cup and then another! It was as if my body really needed these nutrients.
I put the jar, beets and all, into the refrigerator to stop the fermentation and preserve the goodness. I drank some every day until it was nearly gone.
Making Another Batch
Kvass, like sourdough and kombucha, keeps on giving. When you’ve drunk most of the brine, leave the beets and a bit of kvass (1/2 cup) in the jar to act as a starter for the next batch. Refill the jar with filtered water and add salt. Let it sit on the counter for a few days again. Smell and taste to see when it’s done.
If you don’t have any kvass for starter, you can use sauerkraut juice, whey (not the body-building powder but the byproduct of making cheese or the watery liquid that collects on top of yogurt), or a commercial kefir starter. After making two batches, start over with fresh beets. Use the discarded beets in soups or juices or compost them.
I can’t wait to try it with red beets for the beautiful color! I’ll make a larger batch next time since I like the flavor so much.
Update: It’s now October 2016, and I’ve made beet kvass numerous times, keeping it on hand always. Use red or golden beets, your choice.
I’ve shared my kvass with someone who loves beets but thought it was too salty, and I’ve experimented with using less salt. If you use a starter, you don’t need as much salt.
Right now I’m liking this recipe per half gallon jar:
- 1-2 diced beets, rinsed and unpeeled
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh ginger or 1 tablespoon whole cloves
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup kvass from previous batch (or sauerkraut juice, whey, or commercial starter)
- filtered water
Cover the jar with a lid. Check daily, smelling, tasting, and removing any scum from the top. Refrigerate when it tastes “done” to your taste. Reuse beets once before starting over — more than that and it is too weak and watery. Always save some kvass to use as starter,
Another update, April 2018. Beet kvass has become part of my life. My current batch uses one medium red beet, 1 tablespoon Celtic sea salt, 2 tablespoons of crushed fresh mint, Berkey-filtered water, 1 package of kefir starter, and an air lock (to allow gases to escape and eliminate the need for daily “burping”) in a half-gallon jar.
I got the air lock at the Austin Fermentation Festival. This is my first time using it. It comes with a weight for keeping fermenting veggies submerged in the brine, which isn’t needed for making kvass.
I’ve learned that beet kvass is good for your liver and blood, that it contains electrolytes, and that it is high in folate, which is great for people with MTHFR variants.
Medicinal and Nutritional Qualities
According to the cookbook Nourishing Traditions:
This drink is valuable for its medicinal qualities and as a digestive aid. Beets are just loaded with nutrients. One 4-ounce glass, morning and night is an excellent blood tonic, promotes regularity, aids digestion, alkalizes the blood, cleanses the liver and is a good treatment for kidney stones and other ailments.
Folk medicine values beets and beet kvass for their liver cleansing properties and beet kvass is widely used in cancer therapy in Europe. Anecdotal reports indicate that beet kvass is an excellent therapy for chronic fatigue, chemical sensitivities, allergies and digestive problems.
According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, kvass was historically known to protect against infectious diseases such as cholera.
Beets contain the following vitamins and minerals: folate, manganese, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, Vitamin C, iron, and Vitamin B6. They also contain betalains, phytonutrients with anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and detoxifying qualities, and are the highest known non-grain source of betaine for cardiovascular health and reducing inflammation.
According to Wikipedia, kvass (which simply means “leavened”) is a drink made of fermented bread. It is popular in Russia and has been a common drink in Eastern Europe since at least the Middle Ages. Bakers make it from stale sourdough rye bread, itself a fermented food.
From what I could tell, beet kvass is common in Ukraine and probably comes from there. WAPF describes beet kvass as more medicinal than epicurean but notes that in Ukraine, beet kvass is added to borscht.
Sources say kvass can be flavored with currants, raspberries, lemons, apples, pears, cherries, bilberries, lingonberries, herbs, and birch sap. It is unclear whether these are used as flavorings for bread kvass, or if they are additions to beet kvass, or both.
I’ve experimented with adding ginger, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and allspice to add spiciness to the mix with good results.