REAL FOOD 101: How to Make Beet Kvass (and why!)

beetkvass

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(To buy the REAL FOOD 101 E-book: Traditional Foods, Traditionally Prepared, click here.  Full color photos, step by step tutorials, and more.  Only $14.)

Beet kvass may be one of the most beautiful lacto-fermented drinks that I make at home.  Deep purple and slightly effervescent, some claim that beet kvass cleanses the blood, detoxifies the liver, and supports kidney health.  I have even heard that kvass pulls heavy metals from our bodies.  I’m not able to make any of those claims, but I certainly feel pretty good when I am drinking beet kvass regularly.  So I simply trust my own experience.

Beet kvass is also very simple, only made with four ingredients: beets, salt, water, and whey.  And when each ingredient is the best quality, you don’t need complicated recipes.  The simple blending of these four items with a little time on the counter can provide your body with needed electrolytes, vitamins, probiotics, and well-being.

I like to make my beet kvass with more whey and less salt.  I find that the lacto-fermentation process still works very well, but I don’t get an overly salty kvass in the end.  The whey also helps keep the fizziness in the kvass at the perfect level.  In Nourishing Traditions you can find a beet kvass recipe on page 610 (buy Nourishing Traditions here). The standard recipe is only a 1/4 cup of whey and more salt.  You can try it that way as well, but I have tried several combinations and I am sharing my favorite!

You will need a few items beforehand if you want to make beet kvass.  These are fairly simple to find, and will come in handy not just for making kvass, but other lacto-ferments you may want to give a try.  For example, most of these items are used in my tutorial for how to make water kefir.

The only thing you may have trouble finding or making is whey.  But if you already buy raw milk it’s simple to make: you simply leave your milk out at room temperature, covered, and let it separate.  Then when you let the solids drain through a sieve, the liquid that drips off is whey.  Separated milk is about half whey and half curds, so a gallon of milk would give you a half a gallon of whey.

If you don’t have raw milk yet, then you can get organic, plain, whole milk yogurt.  Then you can either pour the liquid off the top of it, which is whey, or you can strain the yogurt overnight in a sieve placed over a bowl and the whey will drip through.  This is my preferred way to make whey myself, although I use homemade raw milk yogurt when I do.

I prefer the ease of straining yogurt to make whey for several reasons: it doesn’t take as long as separating raw milk, it separates better and cleaner, and it tastes better.  Plus you can use the strained solids from the yogurt to make savory yogurt cheese, or a sweet base for a fruit tart if you mix it with honey and vanilla.  Remember that there is a reason nature made our foods this way.  We have use for each part!

If you have a dairy allergy and cannot use whey, then you can simply substitute with more salt in the recipe.  It will be salty, but the lacto-fermentation process will still take place properly with all salt.  For this recipe, you can substitute 1 tablespoon sea salt for the 1/2 cup of whey.

Beet Kvass
serves 4

1 large beet, or 2 small beets, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
large pinch of sea salt (buy unrefined sea salt here)
1/2 cup whey
filtered water

  1. In a half gallon jar, add cut beet cubes and sprinkle with sea salt.  Pour in the whey, then top off with enough water to fill jar completely.  Stir well.

  2. Cover with a dish towel to keep dust and bugs out of the jar.  Leave on the counter at room temperature for 1-2 days.  You’ll know it’s ready when you see little white bubbles or foam on the surface of the kvass.
  3. Remove cloth.  You can leave the beets in the kvass, your you can strain them out.  I like to leave them in.
  4. Cover with either a sprouting lid (buy a sprouting lid here or here) or a storage lid (you can buy mason jar storage lids here).  Transfer the finished kvass to the refrigerator to halt the lacto-fermentation process.
You need to drink only about 4 ounces of beet kvass in the morning on an empty stomach to get a concentrated benefit.  My six-year-old must need something in his body that beet kvass provides, because every time I make it his eyes light up and he asks when we get to drink the “beet ka-vass”.  But no matter the benefit you believe there is in beet kvass, it is truly grounding to make a healthy tonic from your bare hands to nourish you from the inside out.
PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.
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Comments

  1. who is this girl who comments every day?!
    yep, it’s me. so maybe i am stalking your blog :)

    kendahl, you always have something that i am looking for! i was worried that my beets would go bad before i got any whey to try making kvass. but now i will be trying the salty method! thank you!!

    • Awesome! Stalk away, because it makes me feel like this matters to you.

      I’m glad we’re on the same wavelength too, and our beets are happily fermenting on our respective countertops :)

    • My 97 year old aunt recently told me that you can store beets exactly like you would potatoes for long term storage.

  2. This is easier than I thought! (I have no idea what I was thinking, honestly) Great timing for me too, as beets are just starting to come back into season for us!

    • Yes, this one is quite simple. I am always struck by that when I make it, and then I’m so happy I did because I can feel it working in my body. Good stuff!

  3. so what’s the wooden spoon for? it’s not in the recipe

  4. I love to drink beet kvass. We also eat the beets! I like to slice my beets up thinly, and then ferment them. This way we can easily dig out the “pickled” beets and eat them with our meals. If any of your readers find the kvass to be too powerful, they can always dilute it with some filtered water.

    (nice comment box btw)
    Meg Logan
    “By the Spoonful” Opening January1, 2012

  5. we LOVE our kvass : ) Glad someone else is sharing the love!

    Here’s 2 simple twists I do sometimes:
    1. add a few tablespoons of chopped ginger. this creates a smoother taste somehow, but not really gingery. We love it and of course ginger has health benefits all its own.
    2. Try the kvass with different colored beets. Red is our tried and true (bulls blood or forono are our favorites) but chioggia (the pink and white striped ones) or gold beets also make a gorgeous kvass, if a little less potent-tasting. Good for trying out on newbies who aren’t sure if they like it. To the lighter kvass I have added quartered meyer lemon for a delicious change. For some reason, lemon with regular red beets is just NOT tasty! The lemons have to come out after a few days since they ferment much faster and will get icky.

    2 tips for newbies that I made and don’t want to repeat:
    1. don’t leave the leaves on the beet, even a little at the base. They ferment so much faster and then make the whole kvass taste spoiled.
    2. you don’t have to scrub the beets clean if you trust where they came from, but do rinse them to get most of the dirt off. Too much dirt will yield a spoiled tasting kvass too.

    We ferment the beets on the counter for at least a week or 10 days before the fridge, it gets really thick and delicious with an extended ferment!

    • Tiffani, I love the idea of adding ginger. I’m going to try that next time I make kvass. I still have a little left in my fridge as I forget it’s there, but every now and then I have a little glass and it’s still delicious, months later.

  6. This looks like such a fun kitchen project. I’ve never heard of kvass but I’m always on the lookout of healthy traditional foods to try. I haven’t worked up the nerve to try making kombucha (plus I have next to no counter-space to let things sit out and ferment) but this seems do-able. Thanks for laying out such clear instructions!

    • Thanks, hannahmarie. I’m glad you enjoyed it :) I need to tackle kombucha myself, since I have never made it. I’m more of a water kefir maker. But I love the kombucha I have tried from friends of mine. So a-experimenting I go!

    • I love your name, Hannahmarie! (I’m Jeanmarie.)

    • I was scared to make kombucha too at first… But it’s easy and safe. To save counter space, I suggest using the continuous brew method, because you’ll need only one container. It’s MUCH easier too, and also safer (much less chance of having a bad batch).

  7. So I still feel like such a “real foodie newbie”. :) I have yet to do much fermenting, though I do soak my grains and make milk kefir. But I haven’t DONE a whole lot with my milk kefir except use it for my daughter’s birthday cupcakes and put it in my pancakes. :) Both of those turned out great. But I have a hard time drinking it straight, so I need to figure something out, because my fridge is getting full of it. :)

    I have a kombucha starter and will be ordering a water kefir starter today. I have a sourdough starter as well…

    It just all seems so overwhelming to get going because then I have to KEEP IT UP. And if you know me (which I know you don’t…), I’m not very good at that. So I need to just bit the bullet and go for it. :)

    I just can’t imagine what beet kvass tastes like…I’m still getting over my pickiness of foods, growing up eating so many processed and SAD foods. It’s a journey! :)

    • I love hearing about how it’s going for you. I also remember one time when I had a sourdough starter, water kefir, milk kefir, kvass, sauerkraut, AND soaking oatmeal all going at the same time at my house. It was fun, but a little too much to keep up for me all at once. So I was glad I tried everything, and then I picked my favorites. Although I still haven’t tried making kombucha, and I have a feeling I will really like it. So that will just have to be an upcoming experiment to put in the Real Food 101 series :)

      As far as kefir goes, I like to think of it as yogurt. So I end up blending mine into smoothies a lot, or making ranch dressing, or using to top fruit desserts or as the base of a fruit tart. Plus, I like that milk kefir is more concentrated in it’s probiotic count. I need to make some more myself!

  8. Note: Organic beets taste sweeter. Also, peeling them.
    Caution: My first batch of Kvass made me detox so hard so be carefull. I only drank two ounces and could barely get out of bed the next morning. I continued to drink it and I don’t mean to be gross but it sure cleaned out mucus from my sinus and lungs for about 10 days. Made me feel great.

  9. Cindy Antone says:

    Thank you for the simple steps and tips. I got Kombucha going yesterday after a long break from brewing. I will try Kvass soon and need to learn about soaking and sprouting. Happy New Year!

  10. thanks for the post! I just have a few questions:
    Can you tell me what the sprouting lid or storage lid are for? Can I just use a normal lid that comes with the jar (I am thinking about recycling some used coconut oil jars)?
    Also, how to make yogurt cheese out of the solid of the yogurt?

    Thank you!!

    • They are sprouting lids that I have on hand that I use for draining seeds after I soak them mainly. So when I make beet kvass I use them to more easily drain the finished kvass into the new jar without having to fish out the beets. So you don’t need it, per se. I just like using it. It’s easier!

      As for the yogurt cheese, you just put the yogurt into a sieve lined with cheesecloth or a napkin and let it drip overnight. The whey drips through over time and the cream stays in the sieve. Then you’re left with whey for lacto-fermenting (it keeps in a jar for 6 months or so), and yogurt cheese for cooking with. Does that help? I love this stuff!

  11. I like the lower-salt recipe, I’m going to try it next. It seems like you also use fewer beets than the NT recipe, which sounds good. It always seemed like I should be able to get more out of the beets. Thanks for the post.

  12. Just put my first batch of beet kvass into the fridge after an almost 3-day ferment. There is a white foam/fluff/mold? on top and scattered over the beet chunks at the bottom. Is that supposed to be there??? I used whey made from raw milk but am worried that one day was not enough time to let it separate out well enough. Please advise!

    • Skim the white stuff off and give the kvass a stir. If it tastes okay, then it’s fine! The white foam is normal (I get that all the time; it’s how you know it’s ready)

  13. i’ve also heard that you can reduce how salty your kvass tastes by simply letting it ferment at room temp a bit longer. has anyone tried this? or can anybody verify it’s possible validity? if not, i’m making a batch right now, that should be done about now, but i’m going to let it go a bit longer in an attempt to reduce the salty-ness of the flavour. if it works i’ll let you know, assuming, that is, that i remember…
    cheers!

  14. Hi, I started making Beet Kvass a couple of months ago and I LOVE IT. I’m trying to understand it a bit better. When I make it, I screw the mason jar lid on tight and place it in my cabinet for two days. Your recipe has you just placing a towel over it, how does that work? I thought it needed to be sealed up tight for the process to work? After it is made, I have been pourin most of the liquid out of it and then refilling it and placing it on the shelf again, is this okay? I haven’t had a problem drinking it before, but always wondered why the beets sometimes turn a gray? How long will the liquid last in the fridge (that I poured off from the first batch?). This is fun! Thanks!

    • I always brew mine with just a towel over the top, and the kvass turns out just fine. Some people “cover securely” (a phrase from Nourishing Traditions) by screwing on a tight lid, and theirs seem to turn out fine as well. I am fairly certain that this is because it doesn’t matter how you cover it. Rather, it does matter if the beet cubes are completely submerged.

      As for the beets changing color, it is simply because they get weaker in the second batch as they give their color over to the kvass. If it smells fine, then it is probably fine!

      My kvass usually lasts about one week in the refrigerator.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying it :)

  15. I use the Picklit and it works great without whey in making ferments such as beet kvass. I ferment for 3 days but I have heard that fermenting for 3 weeks allows for greater development of probiotics. Is this true and if so, is there any research on it? Also, I have heard that the longer fermentation also makes it taste less salty. Have you found this to be the case? Thanks!

  16. Hi,

    I’m allergic to dairy, and don’t like things that are real salty, so I’m wondering, would it be possible to make this using a non-dairy probiotic powder instead of whey or extra salt?

    I know using probiotics works for fermenting raw nut cheeses, so I’m hoping it would work for this too. Kvass sounds amazing, and I’d love to make some.

    Thank you!

    • I haven’t tried it that way, but you can certainly experiment and let me know if it works. I suggest trying it the salty way. We tend to not get enough salt in our diets these days :)

  17. I just put a batch of this in a pickl-it jar with the airlock on it – does it need to be covered with a cloth instead or will this work? And does the jar need to be in the dark while fermenting on the counter or can it just sit there?

  18. Rebecca C says:

    I am going to try this on a really small scale and just see how it tastes. As far as making whey: I used to only like the yogurt whey because when I would make whey from milk the milk was already sour. But now I actually just leave fresh milk on the counter and the whey I get from that is not strong tasting or sour, just pretty neutral. It does take longer than straining yogurt, but you can make a lot more quantity with milk. And the longer time is hands off, just waiting for the milk to separate.

  19. Thank you so much for this recipe, and for your simple and easy to follow directions. My kitchen counter is now graced by some beautiful beet kvass-in-progress- can’t wait to try it in a couple days!

  20. Discovered this blog trying to troubleshoot what might be wrong with my kvass. Enjoyed your articles and signed up as a follower.

    I made my first half-gallon batch of beet kvass Saturday morning using the recipe in NT. I covered mine with a towel. Looking at it today, there are a few spots of mold floating on top, which I understand are harmless. What has me concerned is that the liquid in the top half of the jar is pink (the closer to the top of the jar, the lighter the liquid), and not red. Is this normal?

    I also have milk kefir going on the other end of the counter — can having two ferments going at the same time contaminate the other?

    Thanks!

  21. my latest batch of beet kvass has a slight taste of ammonia… any ideas why that is?

Trackbacks

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