Once upon a time, people didn’t know about viruses, bacteria, or hand-washing. They tended to live shorter lives than we do now. They got sick more often, and a whole lot more infants and children died than do nowadays. It was rare for people to live past 60.
But they were observant, and they developed practices like yoga and Qi gong to strengthen and balance their bodies, to keep their energies vital and strong. They created medicines from herbs that we now know have anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal properties, without knowing about these things. They walked everywhere and grew their own food and got plenty of fresh air, sunshine, and exercise.
Think about it: all their food was organic because there was no alternative! They enriched the soil with manure and dead plants. The soil produced healthy food. The water was clean for the most part, the air unpolluted. They saved seeds from the best plants. They stored what food they could, and they fermented foods to strengthen and lengthen the nourishment.
In Russian and Eastern Europe, they made a fermented drink called kvass, from bread and other things. In Ukraine, they made kvass from beets, which are easy to grow, produce leafy greens you can also eat, and keep well. Kvass was common in every kitchen during those long cold winters and kept people healthier than they would otherwise have been.
Kvass may have even kept viruses at bay, or at least minimized the severity. We’re all very interested in that now!
You can make your own beet kvass at home, and here’s what you’ll need:
- A jar — quart size or larger.
- Filtered water (tap water has chlorine in it, which will slow fermentation).
- Good non-iodized salt.
- A medium to large beet.
- A little bit of sauerkraut juice or whey from the top of plain yogurt (not whey powder).
This recipe below makes half a gallon. Put equal amounts of each ingredient into two quart jars if that’s what you have. If you want just one quart, halve the recipe. If you want to make a gallon, double the recipe.
I like to use an organic red beet, medium to large in size. Rinse any dirt off and cut it into half-inch cubes. Do not peel or scrub. You want 1 to 2 cups of cubed beets. Place them in the half gallon jar.
Fill the jar to an inch below the top with filtered water.
Add 1/2 teaspoon good salt.
Add 1 tablespoon of sauerkraut juice or whey.
Stir and put the lid on.
Every day, open the lid to let any fermentation gases off so pressure doesn’t build. If any scum forms on top, scoop off as much as you can.
Knowing when it’s done: The water will have turned a beautiful deep red color that is opaque — you can’t see through it any more. The water has thickened a bit to have more viscosity.
You can start tasting it on day 3. Beet kvass tastes earthy, salty, and tangy. This is hard to imagine because there’s nothing else quite like it. The flavor strengthens each day.
When I tasted my first batch, I didn’t know if I’d like it, and I just tasted a tablespoon of it. Wow! It’s a unique flavor, and my body wanted more so I drank more. I’ve been making it ever since.
Taste it every day for 7-10 days, and when you feel it’s done, put it in the refrigerator to stop the fermentation. Then drink some with every meal.
You can strain and refrigerate it, keeping 1/2 to 1 cup of the kvass and the beets and starting over to make another batch. Add filtered water and salt as above. Remnants from the first batch serve as a starter for the second batch. What’s not to like about that??
I recommend making this plain version the first time. You could add slices of ginger root or whole cloves to the next batch.
In my experience, it’s not worth it to try making a third batch. Too much of the goodness has left the beets by then. Start over with fresh beets and compost the old ones or add them to broth or soup. (They still have some flavor and all the fiber.)
And while you are making it or drinking it, you can imagine old Ukrainian ladies in their babushkas making this for their children and grandchildren to increase their vitality and resilience.
And you can imagine this kvass delivering all kinds of health-giving properties to your digestive system and immune system. (Seventy percent of your immune system is in your gut.) The probiotics from fermenting, plus the nutrients from beets (Vitamin C, folate, magnesium, potassium, iron, and more) make this a nutrient-dense food.
I LOVE this and have been making it since you wrote about it the first time. I only ferment the beets one time and then eat them in salads. My favorite way to eat them, though, is to dredge them in cornstarch and fry them in avocado oil. I’ve also started putting more of the sauerkraut in the beet brine and really love eating the sauerkraut that way. Maybe next I will make some sauerkraut with cabbage and add a beet to the mix.
I’m going to fry the beets after making kvass! Great idea. Beets and cabbage make great companions! Add kraut to kvass, add beets to kraut — it’s art! Thanks for sharing, Peggy.