When my friend, and fellow writer, Jeff Harding, sent me the recipe for beet kvass last month, I was immediately excited to give the homemade probiotic a try. A sour drink like kombucha, but one that I could make with my CSA beets? Yes please!
Beet kvass is a lacto-fermented beverage, made with a process similar to basic pickles. It’s a simple combination: beets, water, and salt, plus optional ingredients like ginger and orange zest. Things started out well enough, as the red beets almost immediately created a bright pink liquid and a nice tart flavor. But after a few days, the flavor turned earthy and musky, and after a few days more, the flavor started to veer disappointing. Not sure if I had botched the recipe entirely, or just didn’t enjoy the flavor of kvass, I turned to the glory of Internet recipe research. After poking around on a few preservation and fermentation websites, I realized that perhaps I just needed to let the kvass—which further research explained traditionally includes whey—mature in the fridge to reduce that earthy taste.
After a week or so of resting in the fridge, I was pleasantly surprised by the beet kvass. It’s still a bit salty, but the drink has mellowed considerably, and I can imagine sipping it when I need a nice kick of something fresh and healthy. Enthusiastic fans of beet kvass describe it as a natural energy drink, and like other probiotics, kvass is said to aid in digestion and promote intestinal health. Some drink it as an elixir or daily tonic, but the flavor is a a bit of an acquired taste. Drinking it mixed with sparkling water or using it like a vinegar in salad dressings are options to help adapt to its salty flavor.
Beet Kvass, loosely adapted from The Kitchn
Yield: 1 quart
2 pound beets, well cleaned and diced
2 to 4 teaspoons iodine-free sea salt or kosher salt
1 1-inch piece ginger, thinly sliced
Zest of 1 orange
Place the beets in a clean glass jar. Add the salt, ginger, and orange zest. Cover the mixture with water, leaving 1-inch of room at the top of the jar. Use spring, distilled, or filtered water, as chlorinated water will inhibit fermentation. Cover the jar tightly.
Let the jar sit to ferment at room temperature for several days. Open the jar once a day to release the gas produced and taste the kvass; if any mold or scums has formed, skim off and discard. When the liquid develops a strong enough flavor, strain the beets and transfer to the refrigerator. Let the liquid sit for another few days, until the kvass has reached desired flavor.