Easy Ferments to Make Right Now Part 1 Beet Kvass


Photo by Laura Poe

If you are staying at home for an extended period of time, as so many are right now, you may have extra time for fermenting projects on your hands. Whether you are totally new to fermenting or have a bit of previous experience, this is the perfect time to try a few new recipes and fermentation methods. If you have some items in the pantry that you aren’t sure what to with or foods in the fridge that are on their way out, they may just be destined for fermentation. For those who are wanting easy ferments that use what is on hand and can be done in a shorter period of time, here is the first of three simple ferments that come together and are ready-to-eat quickly, getting you the tasty, probiotic-rich foods you want asap.

Beet Kvass

If you have ever wondered what to do with those few beets rattling around in your crisper drawer, may I suggest to you Beet Kvass. Kvass are a family of non-alcoholic fermented beverages, made from a variety of foods, that originate from Eastern Europe; beet kvass is most associated with Ukraine. Kvass is earthy, tart, brine-y and a bit sweet, and is best reserved for beet lovers, if I’m being honest (I’m one of them!).  It is beautiful in color and full of nutrients. Beets are good sources of potassium, vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, and betaine, and their bright red color indicates their high antioxidant content. Because kvass is fermented, it is also full of beneficial bacteria and yeasts to promote a robust microbiome and stimulate immune function.

Kvass is made similarly to brined vegetables, with a higher ratio of liquid to vegetable, resulting in a beverage rather than condiment. To make kvass, simply dice beets, add extra goodies if you like, then let sit to ferment in a salt-water brine. Be sure to opt for diced rather than grated beets, as grating releases excess juice. Beet juice is naturally high in sugar and this extra sugar from grating can make the fermentation tend toward yeast rather than bacterial (so, it can turn out a bit boozy, and not in the good way). Adding a starter culture, such as the liquid whey drained from plain yogurt or strained from kefir, can speed up the fermentation process by inoculating the kvass with live, active cultures. The brine from sauerkraut or lacto-fermented pickles will also work, and keeps the kvass dairy-free if needed. You can certainly make this with wild-fermentation, as the beets are already a source of lactobacilli, but this will just make the kvass take about twice as long to ferment. I have personally found that issues like mold and yeast are greatly reduced when a starter culture is present as well. Whichever method you choose, you can feel free to add small amounts of other ingredients as you like to make it your own. Go savory with herbs like dill, caraway, or garlic, or sweet with a bit of ginger, berries, or apple.

Kvass is used more as a tonic rather than a “beverage” to drink by the cupful; a 4-6 ounce serving is plenty, and is best consumed right around mealtimes to promote digestion. You can simply sip it as-is, or add it to sparkling water or juice to make a kvass spritzer. It is even delicious stirred into borscht (or any soup, really) just before serving to add a splash of flavor and probiotics. Even better, kvass can be thrown in a bloody mary or your favorite cocktail for a nutritional boost and a way to make your at-home party a little bit healthier.

Photo by Laura Poe

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