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I must admit that when I first got the book Nourishing Traditions, beet kvass was one of the recipes that I glazed over and didn’t plan on making. I wasn’t a huge fan of beets then (no worries: I have since discovered this delicious roasted beet salad), and I didn’t even know what kvass was, so I steered clear of it.
When I finally tried kvass, the taste wasn’t as bad as I expected and the health benefits were more than I expected. I’m a big fan of fermented foods like sauerkraut and fermented drinks like kombucha and water kefir. Beet kvass is a nice mix of the two …
Kvass is salty and earthy tasting and after a day or two adjustment, I found that I really like it and my body is now craving it.
What is Kvass?
Kvass is a traditional eastern European beverage that was originally made from fermenting stale bread.
It is also recognized that kvass is safer to drink than water. Tolstoy describes how Russian soldiers took a ladle full of kvass before venturing from their barracks onto the Moscow streets during a cholera epidemic. Because kvass protects against infectious disease, there is no worry about sharing the glass.
Kvass can also be made from beets. The result is not so much epicurean as medicinal, although beet kvass is often added to borscht. No traditional Ukranian home was without its bottle of beet kvass, according to Lubow A. Kylvska, author of Ukranian Dishes, “handy and ready when a pleasing, sour flavor had to be added to soups and vinaigrettes.
Folk medicine values beets and beet kvass for their liver cleansing properties and beet kvass is widely used in cancer therapy in Europe. Anecdotal reports indicate that beet kvass is an excellent therapy for chronic fatigue, chemical sensitivities, allergies, and digestive problems.”
Nourishing Traditions explains that beet kvass is:
valuable for its medicinal qualities and as a digestive aid. Beets are loaded with nutrients. One glass morning and night 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.
My kids love kvass because of the color and it makes a beautiful addition to salad dressings, sauces, or soups because of its bright hue.
Homemade Beet Kvass Recipe
I’ve found it easiest to make kvass with whey (here is how to make whey at home — not the same as protein powder!) or the juice from sauerkraut, but it can be made with just sea salt, though it may take a little longer.
Beet Kvass Recipe
- 2-4 beets
- ¼ cup whey (or juice from sauerkraut)
- 1 TBSP sea salt (or Himalayan salt)
- filtered water
- Wash the beets and peel if not organic or leave skin on if organic
- Chop the beets in to small cubes, but don't grate.
- Place the beets in the bottom of a half gallon glass jar.
- Add the whey/sauerkraut juice and salt. If you don't want to use whey or sauerkraut juice, you can double the salt instead, though it may take longer to ferment.
- Fill the jar the rest of the way with filtered water.
- Cover with a towel or cheesecloth and leave on the counter at room temperature for 2 days to ferment.
- Transfer to refrigerator and consume as desired. I drink 3-4 ounces each morning and night.
Have you ever made beet kvass? What did you think of it?
Discussion (257 Comments)
Yes kvass has got a very long tradition in eastern Europe and I would like to share my family’s delicious recipe.
5-7 beets ( medium sized )
2- 3 L ceramic jar or pot (the old fashioned one our grandmas used to use) don’t ask me why I just know it makes a wonderful kvass.
Boiled salted water ( enough so it covers the beets and fills the jar to the top )
Garlic and lots of it
Ok so first boil the water and add salt ( I’d say 2 spoons ) set aside to cool down – you want your water to be at room temperature
Peel the beets and cut into big pieces
Peel the garlic
Place your beets and garlic tightly in the jar and then pour the cooled water on top and cover with the plate. If the plate goes up cause your beets are floating don’t worry just place a small stone on top. Afterwards place the jar preferably on top of your kitchen cupboards ( gets sour quicker because hot air goes up so it is warmer there ) . If a little mould develops on top that’s perfectly fine just remove it with a spoon. When your kvass is ready you can strain it into a bottle and put in the fridge it will keep for 5-7 days. With this way you will need to be a bit more patient it might take between 5-7 days or more, but believe me it is worth it.
I’ve made ours with just a salt brine and fermented it for at least 2 weeks. It has a more pleasant flavor and less like dirt 🙂
Can you eat the beets after you have finished drinking the liquid ?
Yes, they’re crunchy and delicious! My 3 year old granddaughter loves them and asks for “a lotta” them.
What percent salinity was your brine?
Thank you thank you thank you for sharing this recipe!!! I have been wanting so badly to join the fermented food party but can’t seem to make myself swallow sauerkraut or anything else you’ve talked about, But guess what, I LOVE beets!! Thank you for your amazing blog! You inspire me everyday 🙂
Can the beet kvass be considered a probiotic?
Another good thing to do with beet after it is boiled, to slice it and dehydrate it. It tastes a bit like chocolate! Good for replacing potato chips and keep for a very long time.
Why boil the beets before dehydrating them?
Technically, the kvass made from breads would be beer; the strength of that beer depends on what kind of grain, i.e., sprouted or not, how much bread – to – water, i.e., ratios that govern the specific gravity and extraction of starch and sugars into the wort (the liquid that you have after you strain out the bread crumbs and any “helpers” you may have added, especially raisins, and what kind of yeast you use, for some yeasts produce more alcohol per unit of CO2 than others, it appears, and how may acetobacters and lactobacters (bacteria that digest the alcohol or sugars to make it a bit sour) you may have in your culture. You would not likely have lactobacillus in your culture unless you deliberately added some, but if you are fermenting with only a cloth cover to start, then you’ll have some bacteria plus some wild yeast, most likely. Sprouted grains speed up the fermentation and favor more alcohol production, be they from barley, oats, rye, whatever your grain mix. Raisins have some enzymes that facilitate breaking down starches to ferment better, so the more raisins you have initially, the higher the chances that the brew would ferment past 0.5% ABV and get into the light beer realm for alcohol by volume. So, be careful in giving this to kids as a soft drink, unless they are receiving it with no more than a day’s initial fermentation, and then a second day in the refrigerator. Even then, I would not vouchsafe the ABV of your brew, for it would still be live, and if bottled, so that kids could drink it after one-three weeks could definitely be an intoxicating brew. Follow the instructions carefully, removing the friendly raisins within a day, etc., and get it into refrigeration, drink it soon, etc to avoid brewing something the kids shouldn’t have.
The beet kvasses and others with fruit juice added to the wort or fermenting liquid without any lactic acid culture definitely will ferment to alcohol if the lactic acid fermentation doesn’t get started and an acetic fermentation doesn’t take care of the alcohol. ….not something like wine, however, but easily something like weak beer in ABV, so again, follow directions,
Don’t depend on the liquid being a very effective killer of infectious diseases as some claim, and enjoy it for its flavors, if your health otherwise permits you to drink it. By-the-way, beers were used by many civilizations as a healthy way to drink water, but those tended to be weak beers. Also, the water and grains tended to be boiled as a wort, so that boiling killed bacteria and other biological sources of infection before the fermentation. Wines tend to be much higher in alcohol, so wines added to water by families and traveling armies appear to have made some otherwise untreated water safe to drink after the watered wine rested a while before being consumed. This would not be a universally safe way to treat your local stream water, however.
Thank you so much for this post regarding ferments! I get the grain and add-on worts you speak of,, and that is not my interest. As I think you have so clearly stated, the family of ingredients set to ferment without whey or a lacto starter liquid will convert to alcohol , an acetic ferment. Adding the active cultured whey, or live lacto cultured liquids to a batch of chopped vegetables will produce something in the Kim Chi/Kraut/kvass family, which do not contain alcohol. Does that align with your knowledge?
I’m curious about the liver cleansing properties of this. While I don’t like the smell of beets (they smell like dirt to me), I could probably choke down a glass of this in the morning to replace the (expensive) liver cleansing supplement my naturopath has me on.
Anyone have direct experience??
I always have beet kvass handy — when the prior batch gets low, I start a new one using 1/4 cup of the old batch instead of adding the whey or sauerkraut juice. I also would use 3 beets + 1 small purple top turnip instead of 4 beets. After consuming about half the jar, I add additional water plus a small amount of salt (a teaspoon or less) for a second batch from the original beets/turnip. After the second batch is nearly done, its time for a new fresh batch.
My favorite way to have beet kvass is to mix 3 oz kvass with 3 oz of pomegranate (or concord grape) juice. Great tasting pick me up in the morning.
Thank you. I was wondering if i could use 1/4 c of the previous batch instead.
Kvass is a light form of Beer. And like all alcoholic beverages should NOT be consumed by people with kidney stones, liver and gastric problems. Russians know about it but Americans got it all wrong. I am saying this because Russian is my first language and I just read an article in Russian about it.
I’m not sure why I’m just seeing this, given the date. I’d like to respond to your comments regarding Kvass being a “light form of beer”. I’m not an expert on whether Kvass is healthful for people with liver and gastric problems, I do know that beer and kvass are quite different.
Beer, wine, grain spirits are all ethanol fermentations, where yeasts convert sugars into carbon dioxide and alcohol. Kombucha is a mystery to me as it is in the lacto camp, and does have a slight alcohol content.
Lactic acid ferments include cheeses, kefirs, yogurts, kim chis, krauts, pickled vegitables, and kvass. These ferments use lactic acid bacteria to ferment foods while protecting them from spoilage from molds. Lactobacillaes are salt tolerant, where molds, (other bacteria) are not, which is why a salted environment allows the lacto bacterias prevail. There is no alcohol present in Kvass, unless it is employed in a Bloody Mary, which can be magnificent! I use whey, (acid or sour whey) 1/3 cup per 1/2 gal kvass mix to get the ball rolling. I encourage everyone to experiment with add-ons and spices…Fresh dill, parsley, thyme…mustard seeds, fennel seeds, celery seeds…onions, ginger, lemons…consider carrots and celery and cabbages…And share your results! Pregnant mothers or recovering alcoholics need not worry adout kavass.
When you say “add ons”, do you mean that you add these extra ingredients at the beginning of the fermenting stage, or after the fermenting stage has completed – when it’s time to put the liquid in to the refrigerator? Thanks.
All the recipies I found on line, or in a Katz book were just beets or just cabbage with water, salt, whey. I’ve been playing with different ingredients added to the cabbage or beets to boost flavor and add complexity. Some things, (fennel, parsnips, mint) weren’t that successful. In any event, I throw all ingredients in at the start, then blenderize in 10 days. After a strain, I discard the dry pulp, and then back onto the counter, just for a few more days. Watch for a white film forming on top, skim that of if it appears, (I use paper towel) and refrigerate. My oldest jar right now is about 80 days, and pretty tart. Have fun!
my mother in law made kvass for years,I am going to start again myself,but she used
sodium citrate ( sour salt she called it) my question is I have high blood pressure can
I cut down on the salt and still get a good sour, perhaps using whey? never heard
about that before
Thank you, that’s very good to know! Is it okay to use the juice from canned sauerkraut or should it be from a glass jar?
You can certainly use kraut juice as a starter, but it must be active. Bubbie’s is probably the most prolific commercial variety. Canning in the usual fashion uses heat and will kill all the cultures. Live culture kraut juice is also advantageous for those who are lactose intolerant. Lots just save back 1/2 cup Kvass to start the next batch. I really like the strained yogurt as a potato topping, or spread on toast with some fresh fruit slices on top. Cinnamon under the fruit, a drizzle of maple syrup over, you’ll feel like you can go out and whip your weight in wildcats!
I’d like to try a reply to this…I believe that traditional kvass from Ukraine is made from wheat berries. I think it may have a little alcohol content, but I’m not familiar with the fermentation process. This kind, beet kvass is less common over there from what I could tell, even though they definitely love using beets for many things! Thanks for the warning, though as it could definitely be a problem if people thought they were cleansing their liver, and actually were taxing it! I find that I feel very good after eating beets. I think the beets are primarily where the liver cleansing/blood cleansing properties are. Whereas the sauerkraut juice or whey adds the probiotic punch and fermented quality. Ah, I just found a wonderful article that helped clear up the confusion for me! https://www.homestead.org/food/beet-kvass-miracle-of-russia/ And, also I know this is quite some time since the original post, but I’d love it if you remembered and could link to the Russian article- my husband could read and translate for me! Very interested!
I made beet kvass for the first time last summer. I am still a beginner in the fermented foods department and had a very hard time swallowing it. Maybe I ought to try it again – I love all the health benefits of it!
If you find the flavor is too strong, try mixing it with other beverages. My favorite way to consume beet kvass is mixed about 50/50 with homemade ginger ale over ice and sometimes add a shot of master tonic. Top off with water to achieve desired strength.
Think I am going to make some this week and try it. The flavor of beets isn’t one of my faves so we’ll see. I do love my kraut juice tho….
Di Martin –
Look up some of my earlier posts in this thread for some recipes and flavoring tips. I will be making a new batch of three flavors this afternoon!
I’m bored by simple tastes, too, so I add things like lemon, ginger, fresh herbs, celery, mustard seeds to brighten flavors. I like a red beet, red cabbage, celery, orange, (a quarter with peel) and yellow mustard seed combo. Add 1t sea salt per 1/2 gal jar, and 1/4 C whey or kraut juice, and let it sit on the counter loosely capped for about 10 days. Tighten the cap a couple of times in the first few days and shake the jar to mix ingredients. Make sure to loosen the cap, Kvass builds lots of pressure in the first few days! Enjoy!
Thank you for sharing this great info, have never heard of it and can’t wait it to try it now!
I am intrigued…
Shouldn’t there be some water?
Yes, after adding all the ingredients, fill the jar with purified water. Then cover.
Nourishing Traditions is, by far, the best cookbook/nutrition book available!!
So is it possible to use tap water? I don’t have access to a water filter (yet!) can I use water from the tap??
In Sandor Katz’s book he says that the chlorine and other compounds in tap water interfere with the fermentation. If you don’t have access to spring water, and don’t endorse the purchase of spring water in plastic jugs, ( which I do not), you might try boiling your water in a clean pot, and let it cool before making a batch. Let us know how it goes!
if you opt for only doubling salt, how many days until fermentation?
I use between 1 and 1 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt per 1/2 gallon jar. More in the warm months to protect the mix as it ferments faster. I’m sensitive to the amount of salt in my food, (or drink for that matter!) so the 1 to 2 Tablespoons called for in other recipes put me off. The down side to less salt may be the occasional formation of Kalm, (harmless white yeast that forms on the top). I just skim it off with a paper towel, and refrigerate that batch. I’m also watching the relationship between ingredients and Kalm, it seems like cabbage in the mix inhibits the mold, jury’s still out. Enjoy!
I have Himalayan salt, not the sea salt called for in N.T. I made the fermented carrots and they were way too salty. (I might have added too much without realizing it.) Is it okay to lower the salt in these fermentation recipes? Thanks!
See my comment from Jan 14, 2016 in this thread concerning my experience with salt amounts. I’m kinda sensitive to saltiness of what I put into my mouth, so with my Kvass, I use between 1 and 1 1/2 teaspoon per 1/2 gal jar. More salt in summer or when it’s hot, ( like it is on this leap day of 2016 on the Central Coast of California, 88 degrees today!) Don’t use iodized or table salt, any other naturally occurring salt should be fine. Let us know how it goes!
The central coast?? I grew up there. Where are you located? I am in Washington now, but lived in Paso, went to high school in SLO at Mission and lived in Pismo, SLO. Too cool.
Tammy, I’ve been living the good life in San Luis Obispo since 1965!
Yay, another use for the gobs of whey I always end up with after making yogurt! I have always wanted to do something with beets, too, but have a harder time finding recipes for them. This is the perfect excuse to get some from the farmer’s market since they are in season now. I’ll make some this weekend and let you know how it goes. (^_^)