by Cat, Aug 2007 (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
This fermented beverage comes from the Ukraine, but is popular throughout eastern Europe. Like it’s Russian cousin, kvass, it provides several organic acids essential for proper liver function, including glucuronic acid. It 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. It may be used to flavor soups such as borscht, or as a substitute for vinegar in salad dressings.
Use beetroot for this recipe (not sugar beets), selecting firm specimens. Chop by hand; don’t use a grater or food processor, as too much liquid would be released which would favor the production of alcohol rather than lactic acid.
You don’t really need to add a starter culture, as the salt will protect the brew until native probiotics from the beets take over. But using one, or liquid from another lacto-fermentation product (such as ‘pickled, facto-fermented beets) will speed this up a bit, and allow you to use less salt.
Or, if you make sauerkraut or laco-fermented (pickled) beets, strain off some freshly-fermented sauerkraut liquid or pickled-beet liquid to use instead of whey. This is actually better, as it more resembles the kvass culture. However, the liquid from canned sauerkraut will not work, as the live culture has been destroyed by the heat of canning.
Nourishing Traditions recipe (3) uses liquid whey. While this can be used, it really doesn’t have the best bacterial species for fermenting fruits/veggies – it works better for culturing dairy products.
I use Real salt, a type of unrefined sea salt, but you can use kosher salt or non-iodized table salt; however, the amounts will differ due to different size of the salt grains and their density. While the chart, left, is for much larger amounts of salt, the ratios will be the same. Thus 1 tsp table salt or Real salt (fine-grind) is equivalent to 1½ tsp Morton Kosher salt, or 2 tsp Diamond Crustal Kosher salt.
NOTE: The table salt in the chart above is a fine-grind refined salt, non-iodized. Real Salt is an unrefined sea salt with similar fine-grind as table salt.
My original recipe (based on Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon (3)) called for 2 tsp Real or table salt (non-iodized), but that recipe takes more than a year for the salty flavor to lessen and allow the fermented beet flavor to dominate. A recipe recently added to Mercola’s site (4) calls for only 1½ tsp unrefined sea salt for same amount of beet; according to his article, this produces a good fermented beet flavor in only a few weeks. I’ve not tried that yet, but I’ve updated my recipe to indicate the range of salt that may be used.
Tips & Information
Refer to Nourished Magazine blog (1) for trouble-shooting tips. See also Rejoice in Life’s Beetroot Ginger Beer (Beet Kvass (2)) for a different take on this beverage.
General tips (from the Nourished Magazine article (1)) to improve fizziness of beet kvass:
- Use more beetroot – the sweetness feeds the bacteria which excrete the lactic acid (fermentation product) and gas.
- Leave it at room temperature longer and then also after transferring to refrigerator, before consuming. This is important especially in winter as the lower temperature makes the fermentation process longer.
- Make sure the beetroot is very fresh.
Beet Kvass should be slightly sour and salty, and have a light fizz, and may have a small amount of alcohol (less than 1%). It should also be a gorgeous red-purple color. Whey may leave behind a white solid floating on the top; this is a beneficial mold and is OK to consume, or you can spoon it off.
It should taste a little sweet, a little sour, barely salty and quite fizzy.
After fermenting, keep it in the fridge or other cold storage for up to a week (or longer…it continues to ferment and the flavor gets better and better). But you can drink it once it has chilled. If you won’t drink that much, make a half-batch.
Beet Kvass Recipe
This is adapted from Nourishing Traditions (3), by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, PhD., with additional information from Mercola’s recipe (4). Makes 2 quarts (about) for each full batch.
Ingredients & Equipment:
- 3 – 4 medium or 2 – 3 large organic beets
- ½ tsp – 2 tsp Unrefined sea salt or equivalent amount of kosher salt (see salt chart above; ½ tsp Real salt is equivalent to 3/4 tsp Morton or 1 tsp Diamond kosher salt)
- 3 – 4 Tbsp liquid from another fermentation product such as sauerkraut or pickles (or ½ tsp culture starter mixed with a few Tbsp water)
- 2 quarts filtered water
- half-gallon wide mouth canning jar with lid
- Peel beets (or just scrub well), then cut into 1″ cubes by hand. Place in jar (should fill about 1/3 of the way), and fermentation liquid, whey or powdered culture/water mix (if using any of these) and salt.
- Add filtered water to fill the container within 2″ of the top. Stir well to dissolve salt, then cover securely with lid (or screw on lid and shake jar until salt dissolves). Keep at room temperature for 3 – 5 days. In winter months, the fermentation process may take up to 7 days due to colder room temperatures. Keep the lid tightly closed, but remember to release pressure daily.
- Then transfer to refrigerator. At this stage, it may taste fairly salty if this is the initial batch (not a sequential batch). You may choose to leave it at room temperature for additional days.
- I suggest letting it continue to ferment in the refrigerator for several weeks (or even longer) before consuming, as its flavor continues to improve – gaining sweetness and losing saltiness – with time. This is especially important for the first batch, as it takes a long time for the mixture to create and grow the kvass culture – which is different from that in the whey inoculant. I let my first batch alone for 5 months. Serial batches will not take so long, as the kvass culture has already developed.
- Do not strain before using. Rather just pour off what you want to drink each time (about 4 oz), and return jar to fridge. When most of the liquid has been drunk (but before the beets in the bottom are no longer covered with the liquid), remove enough to use as starter for another fresh (serial) batch (about ¼ cup).
- Refill Batch: Leaving the beets and remaining liquid in the jar, add more filtered water to refill the container; keep at room temperature for another 2 days, then refrigerate.
- This refill batch is slightly less strong than the first; this is normal. Discard contents of jar after finishing refill batch- its culture has been weakened and is not strong enough to culture another batch.
- Prepare as for original batch, using beets, salt and water, plus 2 – 4 Tbsp of the reserved liquid from the previous batch (not from a refill batch). Use 2 Tbsp if making 1 quart, or 4 Tbsp (¼ cup) if making a half-gallon.
- Culture at room temperature for 2 days, then transfer to refrigerator, giving it a taste after a week. If it isn’t ready, let it culture for another week and taste again.
- When it is ready, do not strain. When most of it has been consumed, but there is still enough to cover the beets in the jar, it’s time to reserve some of the liquid for the next serial batch, and then to make a refill batch using what remains.
Testing Original & Refill Batch
11/26/11: Mixed up a half batch (½ gallon) using 1 large organic, scrubbed but not peeled, beet. However, forgot to halve the salt….did halve the whey. Covered and set to rest on counter this AM. 11/29: Transferred to the fridge. 12/1: Gave it a taste – it’s pretty salty and needs to mellow. 4/15/12: Just remembered this is in my fridge for 5 months, and I’m having some liver trouble, so I thought I’d give this another taste. It has mellowed quite a bit, but is not effervescent. Can still taste the salt but it no longer dominates – the dominant flavor is wonderful beet! 4/18/12: Reserved 3/4 cup kvass as inoculant for next batch, leaving about 1 Tbsp with beets in jar, then refilled with more water to jar and let sit on counter 3 days. Moved to fridge. 4/22/12: Refill batch is quite weak but still has essence of beet. Not effervescent.
Testing serial batch: 4/24/12: Used 2 Tbsp of the previous original batch (not the refill batch), 1 tsp Real salt, and 1 large beet, cubed to make another quart. Set on counter to ferment. 4/25: A bit of fizz on top. 4/26: still fizzing.
Testing another serial & refill batch (date unknown): I made a second serial batch, making a half gallon – don’t recall date. Saved some for next batch, then made a refill batch. All good.
Testing new original batch
7/24/12: The saved inoculant had grown a lot of mold on top so I had to throw it out. I started a new batch (half gallon) adding some of the last refill batch and some whey as inoculant, because the refill batch isn’t very fizzy. This batch turned out just right, but I didn’t record date when it was ready. I set aside 1 ¾ cups of the kvass for future serial batches (in fridge). 5/12/14: The reserved kvass is still in good form but no longer fizzy; will make a serial batch using ¼ cup.
Testing serial batch: 5/12/14: Used 1 good sized fresh beet, 1 tsp Real salt and ¼ cup of the reserved kvass from 7/24/11 batch, and a bit of powdered Vegetable Culture; set on counter at 7:30 PM.
Testing new original batch
9/7/16: Testing new batch using 5 medium-small fresh Organic beets, 2 tsp Real salt, 2 Tbsp kvass saved from earlier batch, and 2 Tbsp liquid from lacto-fermented pickled beets, and enough water to.fill a half-gallon jar. Left on counter 5 days before refrigerating; it was still fairly salty. I note that Mercola’s recipe (4) only recommends 1/2 tsp salt for the same amount of beets and finished kvass. November ’16 update: at first, the chopped beets were in the bottom of the jar, but later moved upward; not sure when this happened. 12/23/16 update: Now the beets are floating near middle of jar. Tested a small glass-worth; still a bit salty.
- Nourished Magazine on Boot Kvass: editor.nourishedmagazine.com.au/articles/beet-kvass
- Rejoice in Life’s Beetroot Ginger Beer (Beet Kvass): rejoiceinlife.com/recipes/beetKvass.php
- Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, PhD.
- Mercola: articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/12/26/fermented-beets-benefits.aspx