How to Make Beet Kvass

By , May 21, 2011

Beet kvass is a favorite at our house! It’s so easy to make and so good for your body, and we love the taste — salty, sour, very refreshing.

Beets are extremely nutrient rich and have long been valued as a blood tonic (and their doctrine of signatures would suggest this — they make everything look bloody after you’ve cut into them!). They are rich in iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, carotene, B complex, copper, and vitamin C. Beets and their greens contain special substances that protect the liver and stimulate the flow of bile (Nourishing Traditions, p. 373). And drinking beet kvass is especially beneficial to digestion because it’s lacto-fermented and therefore contains beneficial enzymes and bacteria for your digestive tract. It’s an all-around health tonic, and according to p. 610 of Nourishing Traditions, beet kvass promotes regular elimination, aids digestion, alkalinizes the blood, cleanses the liver, and is a good treatment for kidney stones and other ailments.

Well, all I know is that it tastes good!

The recipe in Nourishing Traditions describes letting your beet kvass ferment for 2 days on the counter and then refrigerating it. However, I find it usually needs to ferment a lot longer than that. I let mine go a week or two on the counter, until the kvass is completely opaque — a deep, thick red that you can’t see through. I give it a taste, and if it’s sour with no hint of sweetness left, I know it’s done (though some may like to have that hint of sweetness). As with all fermentations, let it go until it tastes good to you, regardless of what the directions say.

Here’s my recipe:

Beet Kvass

8 – 10 ounces organic beets, scrubbed & coarsely chopped (I don’t bother to peel them)

1/4 cup whey* (optional)

1 Tbsp sea salt (I like unrefined sea salt because the minerals haven’t been taken out)

water

Place the salt into a 2-quart glass jar. Pour in a little warm water to dissolve the salt, and then add the beets and whey (if using). Fill the jar to the top with water. Stir and cover. Let sit at room temperature until the kvass tastes good to you — several days to a couple weeks, depending on your kitchen temperature and your tastes. Transfer to the fridge. If the kvass isn’t delicious, it may need a few weeks to “do its thing” in the fridge. I always find that my ferments taste even better when they’ve been shoved to the back of the fridge for a few weeks (or…er…months!).

And I have found that the whey is an optional ingredient, even though it isn’t listed as such in Nourishing Traditions. Feel free to leave it out; your kvass will take a little longer to ferment, but will be just as delicious!

When the liquid is nearly gone from your jar, you can fill it halfway again with water (no extra salt) and let it re-ferment if you want. Or you can save some kvass to add to your new batch as an innoculant, or you can juice your spent beet chunks! Or all of the above.

Starting a new batch of beet kvass

Beet kvass, finished and ready to drink

*****

*Whey: a clear yellowish liquid that can be drained off a fermented milk product like yogurt, buttermilk, or kefir. Whey will actually last for a couple months in your fridge. There are several ways to collect it:

– Easiest way: make kefir and let it over-ferment until curds and whey have separated. Spoon off the curds, and strain the whey through a fine mesh seive.

– Another way: Place a colander or seive over a bowl. Line the colander with a clean, damp tea towel, and pour yogurt into that. Leave for a day or two in your fridge to drain. You’ll then be left with whey in the bowl and “Greek yogurt” (or “yogurt cheese” if it’s really thick) in the colander. Both are great for making dips.

*****

Troubleshooting:

My ferments, including my kvass, sometimes get a white film (kahm yeast) on top during fermentation. It looks like this:

Kahm yeast is harmless, but you’ll want to try to keep it scraped off so it doesn’t affect the flavor of the kvass too much. I do find that my kvass gains a depth of flavor when it’s had this film on it, but if you let it go uncontrolled, it can make your kvass taste weird. Try to scrape as much of it off each day as you can.

*****

40 Responses to “How to Make Beet Kvass”

  1. snowpeas says:

    This sounds so different and interesting to me, especially because you seem to love it so much! How much do you drink at once…a little or a lot? (I know, it’s a dumb question :P) I love beets and really want to try this. Thanks for all the details!

  2. Lindsey says:

    Snowpeas,
    I really love this stuff, and can easily drink a pint glassful at a time, but of course you can drink as little or as much as you want. Nourishing Traditions recommends one 4-oz glass morning and night.
    Fun to hear from you!
    :)

  3. Trish says:

    I have read about Beet Kvass from Taryn. It sounds wonderful.
    Thanks for this post I will definitely be trying it as I grow lots of beetroot.
    Much love.

  4. Lindsey says:

    Hi Trish, I hope you love it as much as we do! My main piece of advice, reiterated, is to leave it out as long as you need in order for it to taste good, and if it doesn’t taste good, leave it out longer. To me, “taste good” means not one single trace of sweetness left! :)
    Best of luck with your future kvass adventure!
    Lindsey

  5. jenny says:

    hi lindsey, does kvass that is not lacto-fermented still have these same benefits: “drinking beet kvass is especially beneficial to digestion because it’s lacto-fermented and therefore contains beneficial enzymes and bacteria for your digestive tract.” i’m a week away from getting whey but can’t wait to start fermenting beets. what’s your exerience with the after effects when it’s not lacto-fermented?

  6. Lindsey says:

    Hi Jenny,
    Thanks for stopping by! Actually, lactofermentation refers to the Lactobacillus bacteria that ferment the food — it doesn’t have anything to do with milk or lactose or whey or dairy, even though that’s what we normally think of when we hear “lacto”! So you can most certainly make lactofermented beet kvass by following my recipe and omitting the whey. It’ll take a bit longer for the kvass to ferment without the whey (which acts like a starter, but isn’t actually necessary)…but even if you only just use beets, salt, and water… it’ll still be lactofermented!

    Best of luck with your kvass. I’ve got a batch going right now, and can’t wait to drink some. It’s taking a lot longer to ferment now that the weather’s cool and our apartment is on the chilly side, so I’m impatiently waiting for it to finish!

    Lindsey

  7. Liz says:

    Hi, I made beet kvass a few weeks ago (maybe more??) and forgot about it! I just opened the jar and it fizzled for a while. I scraped 1/2″ or so of fizz off the top but otherwise smells/tastes fine though I have only made it once before so I don’t have much to compare it to.

    I am wondering if it is dangerous to drink… Can it ferment too long?

    Also I used whey that was leftover from making cheese which I’m beginning to wonder if that would not have the same effect as whey from yogurt/kefir/etc. Do you have any thoughts on this and could this type of whey effect the safety of it now?

    thanks!

  8. Lindsey says:

    Hi Liz,
    Sounds like your kvass is fine! The fizz is there because the jar was closed. If you don’t want fizzy kvass, just leave it out with the lid off for a while. The best indicator, though, is that it tastes and smells fine. Even though you’ve only made it once before, I believe you’d know if it tasted or smelled off. Of course I can’t tell you whether to drink it or not, but to me it sounds like it’s fine.
    The more it ferments, the more sour it gets. To me, this is desirable. If it ferments too long it’ll probably just get moldy, but sounds like yours has not.

    The whey from cheese is the same stuff as all other whey, and will have the same effect. Safety would not be affected by using cheese whey as opposed to yogurt whey, etc.

    Hope this helps!

    Cheers,
    Lindsey

  9. Rachel says:

    Hi Lindsay,
    I discovered your wonderful blog because of Beet Kvass… I was reading the recipe in Nourishing Traditions and wanted more detail. Sally Fallon does a wonderful job, but couldn’t possibly capture all of the possible variations or permutations of her recipes… So, thank you so much for the step-by-step, the photos illustrations and the extra tips explanations!
    So, two questions for you about Beet Kvass:
    It’s Really salty. How salty is yours? My secondary batch was a bit better cuz it was diluted. Just wondering about the science of the salt and how much is really necessary. Some salt does balance out the sweetness and the tanginess.
    Other question is about the fermentation. Just above you discussed that it’s not necessary to add the yogurt whey – that’s great news! I just had an acquaintance over to make kombucha tea together and when I learned she loved beets I offered her some Beet Kvass that’s been brewing in my kitchen, not knowing she had a lactose issue — OOOPS!! Made her feel flushed, but fortunately she was OK. I would love to make it up to her by making her a batch of Beet Kvass without the whey. So is the bacteria just in the air or on the beets or in the soil? I will be patient!
    By the way, is it like Kombucha where the yeast is supposed to eat up all the sugar, then you know it’s Ready?

  10. Lindsey says:

    Hi Rachel!
    So glad my blog is helpful! Yay. (Thank you!)

    The salt in beet kvass: I find that it tastes too salty when you first brew it up, but once it’s finished fermenting the saltiness has magically tempered itself (at least to me). I don’t know why, perhaps because some has soaked into the beets themselves therefore making the saltiness of the entire thing less harsh than it was at the start. But if it’s too salty for you, definitely reduce the salt — there are no hard & fast rules regarding how much salt you use. Less salt sometimes means you’ll have to contend with a little more kahm yeast (the white film that may or may not appear on top of your ferments), but if you keep scraping it off, it’s not a big deal. Then again, there may NOT be more kahm yeast, especially in winter where everything is cooler and goes more slowly.
    In other words, bend the recipe to your liking :) :)

    And yeah! You can definitely make anything fermented, including kvass, without the whey. The whey will speed up the process, but it’s not necessary.

    The lactobacillus bacteria is on the beets themselves. It’s pretty much everywhere actually… all veggies, fruits, etc. Probably in the air, too.

    And yeah, it’s kinda similar to kombucha where the (in this case) bacteria feed on the sugars in the beets, producing lactic acid as the byproduct and creating the sourness.

    Good luck with that kvass!!

    Lindsey

  11. scott garrity says:

    my question is: if i put my kvass in the refrigerator before it thoroughly fermented is there any problem with taking it out of the fridge & putting it back on the counter?

  12. Lindsey says:

    Hi Scott! Nope, I’ve done that same thing and it just picks up fermenting where it left off.

  13. Tracy says:

    I have made beet kvass a few times but it’s been a long time. I decided it’s something I should add back into my diet so I made some raw milk yogurt so that I could get the whey from it. I set the yogurt to strain on the kitchen counter and as soon as enough whey strained out I took it and started some kvass on the counter and continued to let the yogurt strain there. Unfortunately the straining yogurt got left out all night–whey and all. I’m thinking it’s all fine because it was made with good quality raw milk and because some of it has already been sitting out in the kvass I started–but maybe the whey in the kvass is kept ok because of the salt that isn’t in the freshly strained whey. I prefer making kvass with whey–any thoughts on if this whey is still ok to ferment with?

  14. Lindsey says:

    Hi Tracy!
    My guess would be that the yogurt and whey are fine, since they would have been sitting at room temperature or warmer in order to be made into yogurt in the first place. Since it’s a fermented product I feel that you have much more leeway. Of course, your nose and taste buds will be the determining factor; if it smells or tastes bad, toss it. Otherwise it’s probably okay. :)

    Enjoy your kvass!! I love kvass :)

  15. Tracy says:

    I have one more question. As I recall from making it before, when it was ready it was somewhat carbonated. The 2 jars I’ve had on the counter for about 4 days are flat. I opened them once yesterday to scrape the white stuff off but other than that they’ve been closed. I just tasted it and it tasted like pickled beet water so I’m sure it’s fine. When yours is ready does it have carbonation? Is this a consistent or inconsistent thing for you? Thanks so much for your responses!

  16. Lindsey says:

    Hi Tracy,
    Hmm, I usually don’t have mine capped tightly, but when I do, yes I’ve noticed it gets carbonated. However I don’t think carbonation is the only way to tell if it’s ready; if it tastes good to you, it’s ready :) And yeah the carbonation is more of an inconsistent thing, no matter what I’m making (kombucha, for instance).
    The amount of carbonation probably depends on how much sugar was in the beets to begin with.
    No matter what I’m making, I always just go by taste to tell me when it’s ready. But if you like carbonation, I imagine you could add some sugar to the brew and wait a few more days; it’ll get eaten by the lactobacillus bacteria and be turned into CO2. (Which is what I do for kombucha to make it fizzier.)

    Hope that info is at least a tiny bit helpful.
    Cheers!~
    Lindsey

  17. Lizzie says:

    Lindsey,
    Your blog is terrific. Such a resource.
    I just finished my first batch and was so excited to drink my very own murky, mysterious, gorgeous purple kvass when I noticed a slight blue-cheesy/composty smell. I used a few dollops of yogurt in the fermentation project, which I’ve done before with my fermented oats with no problem. I’m not sure if this means I should toss it or not — I’d hate to waste it, since it’s such beautiful, thick stuff. I’ve plopped it into the fridge and am hoping the cheesy smell will die off, but thought I’d ask if you think this is a bad sign…
    Thanks!
    Lizzie

  18. Lindsey says:

    Hi Lizzie,
    Thanks for your really nice compliment about my blog! So glad it’s a good resource :)
    The kvass, well, generally short fermentations like oats (I’m assuming your oats were a short, 24 hour deal, yes? I know mine always are, just to reduce phytates…) it’s okay to use yogurt because there isn’t enough time for it to go bad. Generally one would use whey (strain your yogurt to get it) for longer fermentation projects like kvass.
    I have experienced that blue cheesy smell in yogurt that has gone bad… it smelled okay (like blue cheese!) but the taste made me throw it out! haha!
    All I can say is, taste it! It won’t hurt you, but it may not taste good. If it doesn’t, I’d toss it and re-do the kvass project with just beets, water, and salt, adding whey only if you have it (it’s not necessary).

    Best of luck! If this batch doesn’t taste good, don’t be discouraged — just forget about it and start a new one without the yogurt :)

    Cheers,
    Lindsey

  19. Virginia says:

    Greetings! This is my first day searching fermentration recipe blogs and yours seems to be the ‘friendliest’. Thank you. I am wondering if I can do beet kvass in a 1 gallon jar. Have done it in the 2 quart jars and what with sharing with guests, etc. it is gone say too fast. What would the recipe changes be?

    Thanks so much

  20. Lindsey says:

    Hi Virginia!
    What a sweet comment about my blog, thank you so much!
    The beet kvass would definitely work in a gallon jar. Just double the recipe — 16-20 oz of beets, 1/2 cup whey (optional), 2 Tbsp sea salt, and about a gallon of water.

    You have lucky guests to be the recipients of homemade beet kvass!

    All the best to you,
    Lindsey

  21. Kunkali says:

    If I use some of my last beet kvass batch to inoculate my next batch, how does that affect the salt I put in one the new batch? I don’t use whey I just do a wild ferment.

  22. Lindsey says:

    Hi Kunkali,
    I’ve done this before (adding some of the last batch to inoculate the next one), and I always just use the same amount of salt no matter what. Of course you could try using less salt – the fermentation may happen faster, though sometimes if I use less salt I get more of the kahm yeast on top (white filmy stuff). But yeah, the short answer is – just use the same amount of salt. :)

    Enjoy your kvass!!
    Lindsey

  23. tim says:

    great site!!!question; I thought the salt was to slow down the bad bacteria and give the good bac time to take over,is that right?

  24. Lindsey says:

    Hi Tim!
    Sorry for the delayed response; yes you’ve got it right!
    Have fun fermenting,
    Lindsey

  25. evd says:

    Thanks for posting about kahm yeast. That happened to my last batch. After reading your post and finding it wasn’t harmful, I placed a paper towel in a strainer and poured my kvass through that. It seems to have removed all of the yeast and I was able to drink the rest of the batch.

  26. Fajr says:

    Hi,

    Is any alcohol produced in the process if you leave it on the counter for longer than 2-3 days? Thanks

  27. Lindsey says:

    Nope, no alcohol is produced.

  28. Great blog – definitely going into my bookmarks. I’ve just finished “Nourishing Traditions” and have jars of things fermenting all over the place. Something that sort of annoys me is that al of these things (seemginly) have to be refrigerated. I’m trying to get away from depending on electricity to preserve foods. I suppose until I have enough resources to build a root cellar, I could just build tiny root cellars around the yard and experiment that way… Refrigeration *is* necessary to store fermented foods, yes?
    Thanks in advance for any information you can divulge!
    x- Tiff

    @ Fajr, I think if you grate the beets it will become an alcoholic drink rather than a lactic one –probably because beets contain so much sugar.

  29. Lindsey says:

    Hi Tiffany,
    Yes I have the same frustration – you can can your stuff to avoid refrigeration but then it kills the good bacteria so that’s not a great solution. There is a book you could look at :

    http://www.amazon.com/Preserving-Food-without-Freezing-Canning/dp/1933392592

    but I found it to be only moderately helpful. You could check it out though.

  30. Hugh Barton says:

    Hi Lindsey
    Just thought I would drop you a line and let you know that if you are looking for a warm spot in your kitchen there are a few. One is usually on top of the fridge. Another is in the oven with the light on. Do you think this would work in making beet kvass.
    Hughie

  31. Lindsey says:

    hi hugh, it would work, yeah – but there’s really not a need for that extra warmth for the kvass. it does fine out at room temperature :)

  32. Lisa says:

    Hi,
    Ditto on the usefulness of having a more in depth description of this process, since it’s new to so many of us!
    I started my first batch of kvass from the Nourishing Traditions cookbook and tried it after two days of having it sit out on the counter. It was so salty. Glad to hear that it might just take more time. However, I thought I read somewhere that if you don’t use the whey to add one more tablespoon of salt, which I did. I’m wondering if the salt will neutralize over time of if I just put too much in and should start again?
    Also, does putting it in the fridge stop the fermenting process, or does it continue but at a slower rate. Thanks! Lisa

  33. Lindsey says:

    Hi Lisa,
    I’ve read the no-whey-use-extra-salt thing too — forgot what that applies to. But no, with the kvass, don’t add more salt to replace the whey. They whey is just a starter; it will just makes the process go faster, but is not needed. But you needn’t add more salt to replace whey. So, if yours is just too salty, go ahead and start again.
    And yes, the fridge does largely stop the fermentation. It may continue, but really at a snail’s pace!

    Hope this is helpful.
    Let me know if you have more questions!
    Lindsey

  34. […] Mine got a white film on it, so I looked it up, and you can read this site, it is fine!  Just skim it off and don’t worry about […]

  35. Rhianna says:

    HELP! I have made this many times and sometimes it works good and sometimes it doesn’t. But this time I left it out from Thursday evening till Monday morning (was camping and forgot)

    Do I throw it out ?? Thanks!!

  36. ;nyginko says:

    re: ” … from Thursday eveing till Monday morning…”
    * * * * May 20, 2013 * * * *

    The fermentation must develop much more quickly in May than in February! I think now might be a fine time weather wise?

  37. Terri says:

    Can you freeze beet kvass?

  38. Lindsey says:

    Terri,
    Sure, give it a try. Freezing may kill some of the beneficials, but likely not all.

  39. […] I didn’t think to take a picture of it before I scooped it off, but Herbangardener has a nice picture of the white film on top of her Beet Kvass. It is towards the end of the post under […]

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