“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious…
The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime. The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies.
The beet was Rasputin’s favorite vegetable. You could see it in his eyes.”
-Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume
Beet Kvass is an acquired taste, a guttural garnet brine of sanguine soil, mossy mouthfuls of prosaic, proletarian food medicine. A digestive tonic of Slavic heft and ardor, it’s a simple remedy that exalts the latent magic of the beet through fermentation, boosting its nutritional profile and inoculating the beets with boughs of beneficial bacteria. Kvass is a perpetual staple at my LA homestead, along with Bone Broth & Cod Liver Oil. Taken religiously with the fervor of my Slavic ancestors, it can render the need for further digestive support obsolete, all the while strengthening a sluggish immune system and supporting the organs of elimination.
I first sampled this rosy, fermented fête out of an unmarked carafe at a hot spring in rural Austria. Thinking it to be cranberry juice, I was immediately perplexed by its salty strangeness and effervescent bite. Which is to say, I spit it out. Moments later, I longed to swill it by the mouthful, like a Viking gulping the blood of its enemies. Beet Kvass will sneak up on you like that. My friends from Eastern Europe grew up swigging Kvass daily in school, a nourishing ritual that shames the pants off the Dixie Cups full of sugary fake juice doled out by the US school system.
The probiotic puissance of Beet Kvass lies in its ability to rectify the morass of an unbalanced digestive system, whilst thinning out the bile to help with liver congestion and function. The mystical beet, in and of itself, also boosts an ORAC value of 1,776, making it an excellent natural anti-inflammatory and preventative medicine for cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, allergies, and chronic fatigue.
6 Organic beets, washed & peeled
1 Tsp Sea Salt
½ Gallon Glass Jar or Fermentation Crock
Wash, peel, and chop your beets into small pieces, placing them in your sterilized glass jar. If you don’t have a ½ gallon vessel, you can distribute them amongst smaller jars, and divvy the recipe up equally (Kvass is a cooperative chap!). Fill the jar with purified water, enough to cover the beets, making sure to leave 1inch headroom at the top. Add your sea salt and probiotic starter, shaking and whisking until thoroughly infused. Loosely seal (I use a paper towel and a rubber band, because I’m the utmost fancy) and store away from direct sunlight, allowing your rubicund potion to ferment at room temperature for 3-5 days. You may notice a winsome, white mold starting to form on top of your prized Kvass. Fret not, fervid fermentors! It’s merely a harmless rogue mold, entirely par for the course in the wily badlands of cultured foods. Scoop her off gingerly, with nary a scoff or skirmish.
After my counter top fermenting has commenced, I’ll either whirl my Kvass with a smidgen extra of water in a Vitamix before bottling (for the earthy girth of a thicker brew), or strain the beets and bottle the scarlet elixir. You can reserve the beets for a nice salad or amuse-bouche, or re-ferment them in a second batch of Kvass. Store your Kvass in a sealed glass vessel in the fridge, where it will continue to simmer and seethe with bountiful bacteria indefinitely. Serve chilled, with a squeeze of lime or a spritz of sparkling water if you so fancy, or add to homemade Borscht for a bit of old world Slavic kitchen witchery.
*If the Kvass is entirely too pungent for your palate after the counter top fermentation, mellowing it in the fridge for 2-3 weeks will curb its mojo. This will also enhance the nutrition of the Kvass, but is not a necessary step, as she’s already an unequivocally potent brew.
¼ cup per day, taken as a few sips hither and thither before meals to stimulate digestion. If your body temple is not accustomed to the bubbling brawn of fermented foods, start small, and work your way up to the full dose.