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Beet kvass is an acquired taste. It’s salty and earthy, with little sweetness, so it’s a great drink if you want to avoid sugars in your diet. It’s essentially an infusion of beets, salt and water, fermented by wild yeasts in the air. If you want a daily probiotic shot to keep you in tip-top shape, go for kvass.
Beet kvass is sometimes thought of as a gut tonic and digestive aid. It has fantastic liver-purifying benefits, with a high concentration of beets in a small glass. It’s also blood purifying and super nutritive, as the fermentation process increases the availability of the nutrients in the beetroot.
Beet kvass is a multitasking probiotic. It’s beautiful as a shot in the morning before breakfast and can be used in place of vinegar on salads. You can add a dash to a homemade juice for an extra probiotic boost or drizzle it over a soup. The leftover fermented beets can be used to make borscht, a traditional Russian soup that is said to give longevity to those who eat it.
Beet kvass is an ancient Eastern European home staple, traditionally made with aging rye bread. It was widely considered to be safer to drink than water, because contaminated water was transformed to a healthy drink during the fermentation process as the “good” bacteria overcame the “bad” bacteria.
As for all the ferments in this book, the fermentation time given in the recipe is only a guide. The temperature, amount of salt, type of water, size of the beets and microbes in your home will all help determine the outcome of your beet kvass.
Beet kvass creates a mild fizz as there is no added sugar in the ferment. While the lid needs to be on tight during primary and secondary fermentation, open it up every day or so to release some pressure, give it a good stir, and check how it tastes. Some fizzing and possibly leaking are normal during fermentation, so place the jar on a tray to collect any liquid.
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Beet Kvass Fermentation Guidelines
Cut the beets into 1/2- to 3/4-inch (1 to 2 cm) pieces; don’t grate them, as this will cause too much juice to bleed into the water, increasing the fermentation substantially and possibly creating beet wine! Choose organic beets if possible and don’t peel them – just give them a good scrub with plain water. You actually want the goodness and yeasts inherent in the skins as part of the fermentation.
Salt is one of the most important ingredients in kvass. Don’t use iodized table salt – it needs to be pure Himalayan salt, or unrefined sea salt. The salt is a catalyst to draw out the water from the beets and create an environment where the “good” bacteria proliferate and the “bad” bacteria aren’t given a chance to take over. The additives that are used in iodized table salt can interfere with the fermentation process. Pure sea salt contains high levels of minerals to feed the “good” bacteria and encourage fermentation.
First fermentation vessel
Use a 1-quart (1 liter) wide-mouth glass, food-grade plastic or stainless steel container with a lid.
Kvass is an anaerobic fermentation process, so it does not require oxygen for fermentation. Keep the fermentation vessel and the bottle tightly closed.
I recommend using a 3- to 4-cup (750 ml to 1 liter) sturdy glass bottle with a narrow neck and a tight-fitting lid. The lid needs a good seal so that the fizz stays in the bottle. A bottle with a flip-top rubber stopper is suitable. You will also need a strainer and a funnel.
Some sediment (called “lees”) may appear in both the first and second fermentation stages. This is normal and fine to drink.
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How to Know When Your Beet Kvass is Ready for Bottling
The kvass should have a slight lemony smell, due to the sourness of the fermentation. You should notice a change from sweet beets to a more sour liquid. There is a clearness and freshness to the smell, like freshly dug soil.
You may see small bubbles on the side of the fermentation vessel. You should also see the liquid absorb the color of the beets, turning it the color of blood. If the liquid is quite viscous, it may have been overfermented and probably won’t be pleasant to drink. It shouldn’t have the consistency of a purée or tomato juice; it should be light, fresh and watery.
You are unlikely to hear active bubbling and fizzing during fermentation, although you may hear a “pop” when you open the bottle to “burp” it.
The final taste of the beet kvass will vary. It’s likely to taste like watered-down vegetable juice, a little salty and a little sour. It should also have a slight savory lemony taste. It will be earthy, fresh and refreshing; the flavor doesn’t linger on the palate. If you are new to fermentation, I recommend you taste the kvass daily during primary fermentation to check its progress.
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Beet Kvass Troubleshooting
What if the brew turns moldy?
If you see mold growing, discard the beet kvass and start again. Even though the mold may be harmless, it’s not worth risking your health by drinking it.
What if the brew is too viscious?
The kvass should taste watery and have a very subtle fizz. If it turns quite thick and viscous, and has a strange smell, discard the brew and try again. It may be bad due to a variety of factors, such as:
- not being stirred often enough
- an imbalance of yeasts and bacteria
- too much or too little salt
- chlorinated water.
What if the brew is too salty?
If your beet kvass is too salty, you can dilute it with filtered water to make it more palatable.
What if the brew turns alcoholic?
Did you grate, rather than chop the beets? If the beet is grated or chopped too finely, it will release too many sugars and could turn alcoholic. Only use chopped beets; don’t grate them.
What if I don't like the taste?
If this happens, you can use the kvass a little like a vinegar, and combine it with some salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice to turn it into a salad dressing.
What if my kvass isn't red enough?
Over the course of a few days, you will see the color of the beet bleed into the clear water, leaving the finished kvass a blood-red color. If it’s a very light pink color, the kvass is not ready. Allow it to ferment longer, stirring it frequently.
What if there is a white film on my kvass?
This white film is generally harmless. Simply scrape it off the top of the kvass and allow the fermentation to continue.
More from Fermented Probiotic Drinks at Home:
Cover courtesy of The Experiment
Excerpted from Fermented Probiotic Drinks at Home: Make Your Own Kombucha, Kefir, Ginger Bug, Jun, Pineapple Tepache, Honey Mead, Beet Kvass, and More © Felicity Evans, 2017. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold.