I can’t remember which company, touting its latest chemical- and sugar-laden beverage, described water as a “yawn in a glass,” but that irresponsible yet effective marketing message stuck with me. You have to admire Big Food’s audacity and creativity. Well, maybe not admire. Acknowledge? (I just watched Fed Up last night, so I may sound a little shrill today…)
Although I definitely do not consider water a “yawn in a glass,” if you go plastic-free or zero-waste, you do limit your beverage options. Fortunately I love tea with milk and I can buy loose leaf tea in bulk and milk (from pastured cows) in a returnable glass bottle. (I could give up chocolate if I really, really had to and perhaps I could even cut all sugar, but giving up milk in my tea would be like kicking heroine.) Occasionally you may want something besides water, milk, tea or coffee. Something fizzy.
To create fizzy drinks, you can ferment a few different foods, such as beets. However, beet kvass tastes sour and I like mine strong. If you need a substitute for soda, you’ll want to try making ginger beer or fermented lemonade instead.
I love the low-tech aspect of beet kvass. You need only a glass jar to ferment it. You don’t heat the water. You don’t cook anything. You don’t can it in a hot water bath. You literally just throw some stuff in a jar and wait a few days for the microbes to work their magic.
I drink a little beet kvass almost every day for both the taste and the microbes. You can read about the health benefits of probiotics on Sandor Katz’ website.
I made a vat of this stuff. You may not want so much, so I’ve adjusted the amounts to render a smaller batch (thus the discrepancy between the photo above and the list of ingredients below, in case anyone wonders…).
- 3 medium beets
- 1/4 cup whey (Strain this from homemade yogurt or store-bought with live cultures. If you’re vegan, omit and the ferment will simply take a little longer.)
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- water (if you have highly chlorinated water, let the water sit for a few hours before you use it so the chlorine dissipates)
1. Chop beets into 1/2-inch cubes. Don’t worry, your hands won’t look like this for long.
2. Place beets, salt and whey in a 2-quart glass jar. Fill with water, stir and cover. If you have a weight to prevent the beets from floating to the top of the jar, put it in. The trick to fermenting vegetables is keeping them submerged in liquid. I didn’t have a problem with the beets floating up to the top this time. But a weight can serve as an insurance policy.
3. Set the jar aside at room temperature. I leave mine out on the kitchen counter or table. You may have to “burp” it every day—in other words open the lid—to release pressure. My jar has a rubber seal, which helps release some of the CO2.
4. In two to three days, after the kvass has developed a dark color, open it and taste. Uh oh! Mine has developed some crud (looks like harmless kahm yeast) on top. (Of course this would happen for my blog post.) Don’t worry! You can scoop off these unwanted microbes and the ferment will be just fine. I waited to write this post after I had consumed every last drop this batch, and I didn’t die.
5. If you prefer a stronger taste, let the kvass ferment for longer. I leave mine for as long as a week. Once it has developed the taste you like, strain it. I use a colander placed over a large bowl.
6. To develop carbonation, transfer the kvass to bottles that have rubber seals. Mine are empty Revive Kombucha (a food group for my older daughter) bottles. The two dollar bottle deposit costs less than buying similar bottles. Use a ladle and funnel if you don’t want everything around you to turn reddish-purple (such a beautiful color though!).
If you don’t want carbonation, put your bottles in the refrigerator now. This will retard the fermentation.
7. Set bottles aside at room temperature for a day or two before transferring to the fridge. (I still have to remove the sticky label residue from these. If I waited until I had perfected everything, I would never post anything!)
8. Place kvass in refrigerator. You’re done!
9. Actually, you’re not necessarily done. You can make a second batch with these same beets. This subsequent batch won’t taste nearly as strong. Return beets to the jar, add water only and follow steps 3 through 8. My second batch wasn’t very fizzy and didn’t taste as strong (or as good) as the first batch.
Sally Fallon says you can set aside some of this second batch of kvass to ferment the next batch instead of using whey. I make yogurt, so I usually have whey and haven’t tried this approach. If you have, please let me know how it turned out. And if you make kvass, please dispense any sage advice you have. I’m fairly new to fermenting. I find it fascinating and wish I could go back to school to study microbiology 🙂