To make this beet kvass recipe, you only need a handful of ingredients and a little bit of time. And with a little effort, you'll be rewarded with a deeply nourishing tonic that tastes earthy, faintly sweet, lightly sour and salty all at once. It's an acquired taste, much like homemade sauerkraut and other fermented foods whose characteristic sourness can offend tame palates.
What is beet kvass?
Beet kvass is a probiotic tonic made by culturing beets in a slightly salty brine for a few days and up to a week. Its flavor tastes similar to beet juice - earthy, sour and slightly salty.
As beet kvass ferments, the beets release their pigments which gives the kvass a vibrant pink-red color. Fermentation also allows beneficial bacteria to culture and proliferate, making kvass a probiotic tonic with similar properties that you find in other probiotic foods like yogurt or kimchi. In fact, beet kvass has many benefits for heart, liver, and digestive health.
Beet kvass is simple to make at home. And you only need a few ingredients: beets, salt and water. Using a starter culture can be helpful, too, and results in greater palatability and faster fermentation.
When you make this recipe, there's a few things you want to keep in mind.
- Use an airlock lid or a very tight seal. That prevents oxygen from flowing into your kvass. Accordingly, it lowers the chance of mold contamination.
- Use beets with the peel on, but rinse them well. The beet peel can be a good source of lactic acid producing bacteria. In other words, those are the bacteria you need for proper fermentation.
- Foam and bubbles are a normal part of fermentation. If you see bubbles forming, that's a great sign that fermentation is underway.
- If your beet kvass becomes viscous, start over. Sometimes beets and other high-sugar vegetables like carrots produce a viscous texture when fermented. That just means your beet kvass fermented a little too long.
- Give your kvass more time in the winter, less in the summer. Fermentation speeds up in warm temperatures, and slows down in cold temperatures. So it will need less time in summer, and more in winter.
Beet Kvass Recipe
- 4 cups water
- 2 tablespoons starter culture see note
- 1 teaspoon finely ground real salt
- 3 large beets cubed
- Quart-sized Jar
- Whisk the starter culture and sea salt into your water to make the brine.
- Place the beets into a quart-sized mason jar, and then pour the brine over the vegetables.
- Seal the jar with an airlock or a tight-fitting lid, and allow the kvass to ferment 1 week, or until it tastes pleasantly sour.
- Strain and serve immediately, or pour into bottles and store in the fridge up to 1 month.
Using a Starter Culture
Unlike many fermented vegetable dishes, beet kvass really benefits from a starter culture. That's because it ferments for a relatively short period of time. So a starter helps kickstart the process. It also reduces the need for salt, meaning a tastier and more palatable brew.
Options for Your Starter Culture
Plan to use about 2 tablespoons starter culture per quart of liquid in this beet kvass recipe. Or use 1 package commercial starter.
- Fresh and active whey from yogurt or kefir.
- Juice from fermented vegetables like sour pickles.
- Ginger bug made by fermenting ginger and sugar.
- Kombucha or Jun tea also work well.
- A commercial starter culture like this one.
Beet Kvass Recipe Variations
Once you've mastered the basic recipe, you can begin to add different fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices to flavor your kvass. And it's as easy as dropping the seasonings you like into your jar with the beets. No other changes necessary!
- Use Golden Beets instead of red beets.
- Add ginger to your jar for a great flavor and more digestive support.
- Add spices like cinnamon sticks, star anise or cloves to enhance the flavor.
- Add citrus fruit, like oranges to soften and complement the flavor of the beets.
- Add whole garlic cloves if you happen to like strong and assertive flavors.