In this the last week of our 2017 Unglut Your Gut Challenge, we’re maxing out the good microbes and putting sweet Summer beetroot to work in a jar of salted water. Beetroot kvass is an age-old remedy for robust health – a tonic direct from the good earth, it’s delicious, and gently enlivening with it’s quiet effervescence. It’s also ridiculously easy to leave it brewing on the bench in this warm weather. Like the nourishing kefir, kvass comes from the fermenting traditions of Russia and Eastern Europe, and roughly translating as leavened, refers to the non alcoholic beer-like brew traditionally made from rye bread. What you can’t make with an old rye crust or a couple of beetroots.
This kvass is a very simple ferment of beetroot in lightly salted water, creating a probiotic-rich tonic that’s earthy and complex, and brightly sour in the usual fermented way. Some advise to help the culture along by adding a small amount of whey, strained from yoghurt or kefir, but this doesn’t seem compulsory at all. (Keep it in mind though, if you are experimenting!). The simple mix can take as little as a fews days to a week in Summer before it develops that bubbly tang, or a month or two in the depths of Winter. As well as ambient temperature, the speed of the process depends on other factors like the levels of sugar, and the balance of microbial life. So the general fermenting rule of thumb applies, which is to observe curiously and taste frequently as the flavour develops, so that once you are happy with it the batch goes in the fridge to halt the process while you enjoy the results.
Wash the beetroot, removing any stems, roots, or damaged areas if need be. Chop them into rough pieces, about 1-2cm in size, and place in a suitable wide mouth jar. Add the salt, fill with water to cover and stir to dissolve. A litre jar should fit a big beetroot or a few small ones, and be filled to the top.
Secure with a cloth, and leave to ferment until a deep colour develops and the flavour is to your liking. (The image here was taken in the first week during the cold months, and you can see the colour is still quite light). Some bubbles should be visible, or at least a pleasant zing on the tongue will be a good clue to the success of the process. Agitate the jar by stirring once a day, especially during cool weather, as this will also help avoid any scum or mould forming on the surface over longer periods.
Pour off the liquid from the beetroots when you’re happy with it. You can make a weaker secondary batch from the same beetroots, by just covering them again with water and leaving to ferment. Alternatively, make use of the beetroots in your cooking after round one.
As well as for sipping, kvass is great to use in dressings or added to beetroot based meals. As is the case for kombucha or tibicos, leaving it for a day or two in a sealed bottle* will allow a little CO2 to build and should result in light carbonation. Happy kvass-ing!
*A vessel with a lid that can pop up or down is helpful here, like a passata or jam jar, or even a plastic bottle, as you can see the evidence of increasing pressure and promptly get it in the fridge.
1 large beetroot, or 2 smaller ones
1-2 tsp salt
about 1L water, to cover