Making Beet Kvass

Beet Kvass is a slightly effervescent lactic acid fermented beverage which you can easily make at home from beets, water and sea salt.  Beet kvass can be made from fresh harvested summer or fall beetroots, and in winter you can make it from beets stored in your root cellar.  If you don’t have a root cellar full of beets to ferment, you can use purchased organic or biodynamic beets, and many CSAs offer shares of winter vegetables, which will often include beets as well as other interesting vegetables to ferment.

Once finished fermenting, beet kvass has a pleasant, sour flavor, and is often slightly carbonated or effervescent.  It can be consumed as a tonic drink, or used to make a vinaigrette dressing.  Beet kvass, like other lactic acid fermented drinks, is best consumed in relatively small amounts.  It is considered a tonic drink, due to the many health benefits from nutrients, enzymes and beneficial organisms in it.

Beets are not the easiest vegetable to ferment, but I’ve found that this method of making them into kvass is relatively simple.  Take 3 medium beets (size/quantity isn’t really that important), wash them, trim off the small roots and top, and then cut them into large chunks.  Divide them roughly in half and put them into two one quart jars.  You could also make this in one half gallon jar, but I find the flavor and carbonation lasts longer in a smaller quantity.  Once you’ve got the beets in the jars, fill them up with (non chlorinated) water and add salt.  I’ve found that I like the flavor best from adding about ½ tablespoon of coarse Celtic sea salt per quart jar.  I’ve made it with as much as one whole tablespoon of salt per quart and found it was also quite drinkable, so feel free to experiment with the amount of salt.  Just remember that the unfermented mixture may taste quite salty, but once fermentation is done there will be little or no salt flavor left.

Once you’ve added all the ingredients, screw the lid onto the jars (not too tight, fermentation gasses should be allowed to escape), and keep them at room temperature for a few days.  Then move the jars to the refrigerator or a cold cellar for a week or so.  You can start drinking them as soon as you like, but you’ll notice that as the fermentation progresses the salty flavor will disappear, and be replaced by a pleasantly sour effervescent flavor.

After you drink most of the liquid, you can re fill the container with water and perhaps add a bit more salt and allow it to re ferment.   The second brew won’t be as strong as the first.  After you finish the second brew, start over with fresh beets.  This recipe works best with chopped beets, not grated or finely diced.  Grated beets are more difficult to ferment, as you might get an alcoholic fermentation or just a lot of slime and foam.  Fermentation also works best if you don’t open the jars during the first week.

he type of salt you choose is important.  I suggest a natural unrefined sea salt, and never use iodized or refined salts.  Consideration of the water added is also essential, as chlorinated tap water will kill many of the beneficial organisms.  Use spring water, bottled or filtered water for best results.After you master the basics of beet kvass, you can make up your own recipes, or find some others.  Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions has a basic beet kvass and bread kvass recipe.  Wild Fermentation by Sandor Elix Katz also has a kvass recipe, as well as many other recipes and much entertaining discussion of the art and science of fermentation.  Both of these books discuss the many health benefits of eating and drinking lactic acid fermented foods.  Another source of information on the health benefits is Making Sauerkraut and Pickled Vegetables at Home by Annelies Schoneck and Klaus Kaufmann as well as Vegetables First by Louise Frazier.

Lactic acid fermented drinks are simple to make on a small local basis, either in your own home for your family, or on a slightly larger scale to share with neighbors and friends.  It is not a beverage that stores well for a long time or can be shipped long distances, so it seems that it presents opportunity for many small, local businesses to start producing local healthy beverages.  Some of these small scale operations have already appeared, and in the past year I’ve tasted lactic ginger beer, kombushu, fermented wheat grass juice, kvass and other drinks which are now commercially available.