Beet Kvass

Even though people love to hate beets in this country, I think most of them never tried properly, a.k.a. deliciously, prepared beets. Sorry, but canned beets from the Piggly Wiggly, or mushy watery purple things from your childhood salad bar should not be a standard setter; I would choke on them right now myself. But balsamic glazed roasted beets with chevre cheese, grated beet and chive salad with orange dressing? There is no way to hate those!

Besides being my favorite vegetable in the world (in case you haven’t figured it out!), beets are full of amazing health benefits. Beet kvass, along with lacto fermented beets, are probably the best sources of all the original goodness of beets because none of the nutrients get degraded by cooking, and lactic bacteria break down the sugar and tough fibers introducing additional nutrients as by-product of their metabolism.

Cardiovascular health. Beets can reduce blood pressure because of their high nitrate content (source). Nitrate converts to nitric oxide in our bodies, which helps dilate the blood vessels and improve circulation. Some say beets have similar effect as popular ED medications. For the same reason, beets are used to increase endurance during workouts (source). In Russia, beet kvass is often given to patients experiencing mild cardiovascular events; no, I’m not joking! It is rumored to reduce blood pressure to a stable level within 30 minutes. You decide.

High in folate.  Folate, referred to as folic acid in its synthetic form, is a vitamin of group B. I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of good about health benefits of vitamin B, but probably think of folate as a supplement for pregnant women. While it is very beneficial for expecting mothers, folate is essential in most processes of any human body. The trick is to get folate from food, as opposed to the synthetic supplement, which has shown to cause serious negative effects on health (source). Beets have a lot of folate in a form we can easily absorb, and a much better option than supplements. Cooking reduces the amount of folate, and that’s why consuming beets as part of this Beet Kvass offers the highest possible amount of this vitamin.

High in minerals and antioxidants.  Beets are shown to increase body antioxidant activity (source). They are very high in a compound called betalain, which gives beets their amazing color. Betalain is a powerful antioxidant which provides anti-inflammatory and liver detoxification support (source).

Doesn’t raise blood sugar. It looks like researches aren’t too sure themselves why this might be, since the other name for beet is ‘sugar beet’, but this study showed that probably because of beets’ compounds like nitrites and betalains there is no significant spike in blood sugar observed after eating them. If you are still concerned about the sugar in beet, please note that during fermentation of beet kvass most of the sugar gets metabolized (broken down), making this tonic sour and tart, which should make it a perfectly acceptable beverage for someone with diabetes.

In Russia, beet kvass is consumed therapeutically, as a health tonic, not a beverage to quench thirst, unlike kombucha or bread kvass. Folks would take a couple of tablespoons, or a small shot glass a day. It’s also used to add flavor and color to various dishes.

This study shows that refrigerated fermented beet juice can retain all of its original antioxidants for 30 days. Not too bad!

NOTES

  Lacto fermentation is an anaerobic process, meaning bacteria don’t need oxygen to do its magic. Keep the jar tightly closed.
   I don’t use whey as a starter. Since whey is milk based, its bacteria like to feed on milk sugar, lactose. Why should they be interested in eating vegetable sugars? You wouldn’t put pickle juice in your milk to make yogurt or cheese, right?
  There is no need to peel the beets since the skin contains a lot of the bacteria that drives fermentation.
  Russian folks do not use salt or sauerkraut juice as part of the brine, and their kvass comes out fine.
  Did you know that beets, just like cabbage, are able to be fermented in their own juice? That’s if you want to take time to get that juice out of them.
   If allowed to ferment longer, kvass will get a stronger taste and deeper color. It will continue to develop at room temperature even after the beets are taken out. I kept in on my counter top for at least two and a half months before without any sign of spoilage. I like to use such strong kvass for making my beet bone soup – borscht, adding it to cold beet salads, and use it as food coloring.

HOW TO MAKE BEET KVASS WITHOUT WHEY


Ingredients
2 large beets, chopped into 1 inch pieces
3 tablespoons of sauerkraut or pickle juice (if buying, make sure to get it from the fridge section, like Bubbies)
1/2 teaspoon of fine sea salt (optional; I don’t use it)
Enough filtered (or better filtered, boiled and cooled) water – OR, better – freshly squeezed beet juice, or combination of both

Instructions
Place chopped beets into a half gallon mason jar.
Add vegetable juice, salt and water/beet juice to the shoulder of the jar (leave 2 inches of space between the top of the liquid and the lid).
Cover tightly and shake well to dissolve the salt.
Keep at room temperature for 3-5 days, burping daily to release pressure. If you see froth, scum or mold on top – just remove with a spoon.
When kvass gets a taste that’s sour and pleasant to you, transfer it to the fridge. Keep refrigerated for up to a month. It will not go bad after that time, but the amount of original antioxidants and lactic bacteria will start going down.

Beet kvass
 
Health-promoting and healing beetroot tonic, Russian beet kvass, that helps increase daily intake of valuable antioxidants and probiotcs.
Author:
Recipe type: Health Tonic
Cuisine: Russian
Ingredients
  • 2 large beets, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons of sauerkraut or pickle juice (if buying, make sure to get it from the fridge section, like Bubbies)
  • ½ teaspoon of fine sea salt (optional; I don't use it)
  • Enough filtered (or better filtered, boiled and cooled) water - OR - freshly squeezed beet juice, or combination of both
Instructions
  1. Place chopped beets into a half gallon mason jar.
  2. Add vegetable juice, salt and water/beet juice to the shoulder of the jar (leave 2 inches of space between the top of the liquid and the lid).
  3. Cover tightly and shake well to dissolve the salt.
  4. Keep at room temperature for 3-5 days, burping daily to release pressure. If you see scum or mold on top - just remove with a spoon.
  5. When kvass gets a taste that's sour and pleasant to you, transfer it to the fridge. Keep refrigerated for up to a month. It will not go bad after that time, but the amount of original antioxidant and lactic bacteria will start going down.

 

12 Comments

  1. Hi Valeria,
    could you tell me how to make beet Kvass
    without starter (whey or sauerkraut) and salt?
    Thank you

    • Hi Takis, in Russia folks just put beet pieces in water (that was previously boiled and cooled) without adding anything else. Then going the same way about room temperature fermenting like in this recipe. If you want to be cautious, you can use a couple of small jars (instead of one bigger one) so if one gets contaminated, you still have the others. In the first few days, it might smell funny with a lot of froth collecting at the top. You should keep scooping out the froth. And once an acidic environment establishes, any off smells should go away. Also, you want to make sure your lid is air tight – not just a white mason jar lid. I like using large Weck jars for this or use metal canning lids with regular mason jars, or even better – use a fermentation jar like these from Primal Kitchen Co. I prepare it without any salt fairly often for my mom who has high blood pressure (although I do add just a splash of pickle juice), and make her drink it 🙂 One more thing – I noticed that beets I get at a farmers market make the liquid acidify a lot faster than store bought organic. And the reason you want it to become acidic fast – because bad bacteria cannot survive there – so the first few days there is a battle for food between bad and good bugs (lactic bacteria), then the good ones start producing lactic acid among other things, which makes the PH of the liquid drop, and any bad bacteria disappear. Hope this helps 🙂

  2. Thank you for your reply.
    Surely I will try it.
    I like your recipes, but they are too difficult for me,
    I just make only milk kefir the easiest of all.
    best regards

  3. Hey Valerie,
    Thanks for tye recipe. After 5 days there was still no sharpness to the taste so I added some sauerkraut juice and keft it a week more.
    I did this in a jar with a piece if kitchen roll over the top fixed with an elastic band like I do my Kefir, is that bad?
    I read the comments further down the page later and noticed the bit about removng the froth. Maybe you should add that to the original instructions, I ate some froth in tasting. I’m ok though, it was 5 days ago 😉
    With fermented food it can be tough to be confident that what youve made is ok to eat (safe).
    You mention the fight between good and bad bacteria, does that mean its unsafe to taste til its gone sour tasting (tastes a bit like sauerkraut I guess?).
    Thanks

    • Hey Veleria,
      Oops, I should add that I started with some whey.

      • Hey Neil, I think ‘safe’ or ‘unsafe’ food are very subjective terms 🙂 My doctor would have said I’m crazy for drinking raw milk during pregnancy but I thought it was perfectly fine.. I guess when I say that there is a fight between the good and the bad bacteria early on I mean that acidic enough environment hasn’t established yet, not referring that it’s unsafe to consume. I mostly rely on smell when dealing with ferments, when something has gone bad – you know it right away! 🙂

  4. I am starting some beet kvass today. I was wondering – do you remove the beets when you refrigerate it or leave them in. I was also wondering if the beets themselves are good to eat – maybe in a salad.

  5. re getting acidity up and going early to prevent bad bacteria taking off

    For my kombucha
    I add a little white vinegar at the beginning
    the cheap distilled type not the good quality brewed vinegar
    is ideal for brewing kombucha in cold weather
    or when the starter liquid is not acidic enough
    or even if you have no starter liquid to begin with.

    Could a little white vinegar be used similarly for beet kvass? To acidify the solution from day one?.If so, would 50ml per gallon be enough? Thats the amount I use for kombucha that needs some early acidification to prevent mold.

    Thanks from NZ! I have never seen beet kvass here, but I would like to try some by making some.

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