I love beets like I love email spam
Which is to say I don’t. There are some exceptions, though – I adore the salty/crunchy goodness of these rosemary beet chips, and at least a few times a year I crave the unmistakable, earthy tang of this beet kvass recipe.
Ruby red and rich in gut-friendly probiotics, it has long been revered in Russia as a blood tonic, liver cleanser and digestive aid. It’s so woven into their folklore that it makes an appearance in War and Peace, where “Tolstoy describes how Russian soldiers took a ladle full of kvass before venturing from their barracks onto the Moscow streets during a cholera epidemic.” (source 1, source 2) Why might they have done that? Let’s take a closer look . . .
Benefits of Beet Kvass
Beets are a good source of folate, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, iron and phytonutrients such as betains, which have been “shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support.” ( source 1, source 2)
Research suggests that beets may have positive effects on blood pressure, support immune response to common infections, have protective effects on the liver and improve the ability of your body to replenish oxygen during exercise, among many other things. (source 1, source 2, source 3, source 4) One study even found that it diminished the effects of radiation exposure in mice. (source)
When fermented, the nutrients in beets become more bioavailable, whereas cooking destroys vitamin C and some other beneficial components. (source) And of course it introduces beneficial bacteria, which further improve the nutrient profile by producing B-vitamins. (source)
Now, you may be thinking, “That all sounds great, but . . .”
What does it taste like?
Good question! If you’ve tried kvass before, you may have noticed that it can taste a lot like a salt lick – this one doesn’t. Most recipes call for a lot of salt, but a book I picked up a couple of years ago, Fermented, uses only 1/2- 1 teaspoon per quart. Seeing such a low salt ratio gave me the courage to begin experimenting with lower ratios as well, and my batches have turned out beautifully – tangy and robust without being too salty.
Part of the reason for my success may be that I use a fermenting jar with an airlock, which helps protect the kvass from mold and yeast from the environment. However, I have friends that ferment with tightly closed jars with good results.
This version is infused with ginger, which adds a pleasant flavor and also supports digestion. Feel free to experiment with other flavorings like citrus peels, bits of dried pineapple – whatever you like!
Ginger Beet Kvass Recipe
Yield 1 quart
- 2 cups beets, rinsed and roughly chopped (no need to peel)
- 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, roughly chopped (again, no need to peel – see what I mean about how easy this is?)
- 1 quart (4 cups) filtered or spring water (chlorinated water inhibits fermentation)
- 2 teaspoons unrefined sea salt (where to find unrefined sea salt)
- 1½ quart jar with airlock OR a 1½ quart jar with tight fitting lid
- wooden or plastic spoon
- Thoroughly wash and dry your jar and lid before getting started.
- Place beets, ginger salt and water in jar. Stir with a wooden/plastic spoon until the salt is dissolved.
- Close the jar and attach the airlock. Add water to seal it. (If you’re new to airlocks, I’ve included a tutorial below.)
- Allow the kvass to ferment for 3 days – two weeks. I usually ferment mine for two weeks.
- When the kvass is ready, strain the beets and set them aside. Pour the liquid into a clean jar with a tight fitting lid or swing top bottles and store in the fridge.
Optional: Use the beets for one more ferment using the same recipe and 1/4 cup kvass as a starter, then discard them and start with fresh beets.* If you’re using a jar without an airlock you will need to “burp” your jars periodically, otherwise carbon dioxide levels can build up within your jar and create pressure. Check the metal lid every day – if you can’t push it down simply unscrew the lit a bit and then immediately tighten it back down. Using an airlock which allows the gases to release eliminates the need to burp your jars.
How To Set Up An Airlock
When I first starting fermenting, any mention of using an airlock immediately took my mind to space shuttles and astronaut suits. I thought it sounded way too complicated, but it’s not. Though the mechanisms vary slightly, here’s how I use mine.
Using a twisting motion, push the main airlock piece into the top of your jar . . .
Add in the middle piece . . .
And then pour in enough water to bring the middle piece to the top of the airlock.
You will notice that the middle piece floats like a buoy at this point. I’ll explain more about why that’s important in the next section.
The last step to setting up your airlock is to place the lid on top. When excess pressure comes up through the stem (base) of the airlock, it builds under the buoy, which eventually bobs a little and allows the pressure to release through the lid, which has holes in it. All of this is done while the water seal stays intact, which prevents outside bacteria and yeast from reaching the ferment.
I, uh, lost my lid, so I secure the buoy in place with a rubber band.
Depending on how long you ferment you may need to add additional water to compensate for evaporation, but overall it’s very easy.