• Beet Kvass the Traditional Sports Drink

    Sour. My first introduction to a traditionally made kvass was extremely sour. I was at a Weston A Price conference back east and some brilliant company had taken the initiative, bravely too, to create a fermented grain soda amidst all of the controversy just beginning around Gluten Free diets. I was shocked and so impressed. To be honest, this is the kind of sour that most of us crave in a beer without needing the bitterness or fruitiness or otherness of an artisan alcoholic beverage. In fact, I realized, this is clearly where our all american and all-too physiologic craving for lemonade comes from. And traditionally, it was intended for the same purpose. Interestingly enough, the ancient name kvass or kvaser actually comes from the same nordic roots for beer or leaven so you can understand the similar nature of its manufacture.* Maybe thats the hook!

    Health Benefits

    efficient hydration
    supports healthy liver
    blood building
    gently cleansing
    contains lots of probiotics
    rich in electrolytes
    improves energy
    clarity of mind
    Kvass, like many of the traditional biers found its beginnings in the need to hydrate and replace electrolytes after physical activity. Of course, the intention of a probiotic tonic is to help restore that exact balance in the body, BUT if you add a bit of sugar or malt and leave it exposed to wild yeast, you will absolutely end up with an alcohol. However, without that addition, there is little potential for alcohol to develop to a concentration of any consequence and it takes more time to do so. In fact, the bacteria continue to feed on the sugars in the grains themselves and stronger populations of probiotic cultures will continue to develop indefinitely. The more they feed, the sharper or more bite develops in the kvass. This doesnt necessarily make it more active but the flavor profile is increasingly pronounced.

    Delving into its history a bit moreKvass hails from the Caucasus Region of Eastern Europeand was part of a greater food thrift effort around stale bread. Popular among Russian peasant laborers, it was common for someone to sell by the glass like we see lemonade stands on every corner in the summer time. When properly made, the bread crusts are heavily soaked, usually blended with a few dried herbs and fruits (to attract a bit of yeast, like a sourdough starter) and a pinch of salt then allowed to ferment naturally in the open air for a few days or until it becomes active. The result is a milky, thick, clean tasting sort of gently effervescent and sour beverage that is deeply nourishing and energizing. Just the ticket for a hot day! Once upon a time, it wouldve been hard to find a Ukranian kitchen that didnt have a batch going all the time.

    So theres Kvass and then theres Beet Kvass

    Beet Kvass is a version that is made similarly sans bread crusts, which makes it much more amenable to those with grain allergies or intolerances. It is closer to a lacto-fermented soda then a true kvass but the health benefits are at least as good and then some. The addition of whey adds specific lactobacillus cultures as well as helping to improve insulin sensitivity. The beets themselves have a regenerating effect on the body by improving cellular function where it has been disturbed by aggressive illness or its treatment (i.e.: cancer, MS, etc). In addition, they help to support the healthy function of the liver and build blood in a deficient situation. Beet Kvass is a wild fermented infusion of beets, herbs, spices, and more that creates a rich and earthy tasting tonic that is as delicious as it is marvelously restorative to your system!

    How to enjoy it?

    Drink it chilled, like a tonic
    turn it into an adult beverage with splash of gin and a twist of lemon
    use it like a salad or vegetable dressing or add it to your existing dressing
    use it to make a cold soupthink gazpacho style borscht or okroshka!
    blend it with pickle brine or vinegar to pickle eggs
    How to make it? Easy. Check out the Recipe from Nourishing Traditions:

    3 medium beets, chopped coarsely

    1/4 cup whey (drained from your favorite plain yogurt)

    pinch of salt

    citrus peels, spices, herbs, ginger rootget creative, what flavors do you love?

    filtered water

    Process: Put all of your ingredients into a clean large 2 quart jar, fill with clean water, and cover the mouth of the jar (i use a paper towel and rubber band) so that it can breathe but you can keep the bugs out. Let it sit out for 2 7 days. The top will inevitably collect a bit of mold and wild yeast (white looking powder) but dont worry about it. When you are ready to strain out the ingredients, you can scrape these off the surface first. They will not contaminate the body of the liquid. The populations of good bacteria youve just fostered are strong enough to resist any sort of pathogenic overgrowth.

    **one thing worth notingbe sure to cut and NOT grate the beets. If you offer too much surface area, the sugar in the beets will ferment too quickly and favor an alcoholic ferment over a probiotic one.

    * see Full Moon Feast by Jessica Prentice