If you're at the farmer's market and come across an abundance of fresh beets, make this beet kvass recipe. You only need a handful of ingredients. 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 vegetables whose characteristic sourness can offend tame palates.
Jump to Beet Kvass Recipe | What Is it? | Brewing Tips | Variations
What is beet kvass?
Beet kvass is a fermented drink 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. The fermentation process also allows beneficial bacteria to grow and proliferate, making beet kvass a probiotic tonic with similar properties that you find in other probiotic foods such as 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 are 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 skin can be a good source of lactic acid-producing bacteria. In other words, those are the bacteria you need for proper fermentation.
- Pay attention to your water. Tap water can contain chlorine or chloramine which are antiseptics intended to keep drinking water safe; however, they can inhibit proper fermentation. So, use filtered water or allow your tap water to sit out so the chlorine will evaporate before using it for 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.
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 such as sour pickles or sauerkraut.
- Ginger bug made by fermenting ginger and sugar.
- Kombucha or Jun tea also work well.
- A commercial starter culture like this one.
- Bread kvass or fruit kvass can also be used as starters since they contain a wide array of beneficial microbes including lactobacillus bacteria and yeast.
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 are 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 such as oranges to soften and complement the flavor of the beets.
- Add whole garlic cloves if you happen to like strong and assertive flavors.