If you haven’t seen kvass at the grocery store, chances are you soon will. Already being produced in places like Brooklyn and Pennsylvania, kvass is quickly catching kombucha as the newest hot trend. Why? It’s probably due to its probiotic characteristics, which provide phenomenal health benefits!
Kvass is a traditional fermented beverage having a similar taste to beer. Much like kombucha because of its fermentation process and probiotic benefits, it is commonly made from stale, sourdough rye bread. While it’s considered a non-alcoholic beverage containing around 0.5 percent to 1.0 percent alcohol, the longer it ferments, the more susceptible it is to becoming more alcoholic.
Kvass is very refreshing and can include delicious flavors from fruits (such as raisins and strawberries) and herbs (such as mint). It typically has a tangy, earthy, salty flavor and can be an acquired taste, though many end up craving it due to the nutritional benefits it offers. In addition to its impressive probiotic content, kvass is considered a tonic for digestion and an excellent thirst quencher.
There are a few types of kvass. Kvass is typically made from high-quality sourdough rye bread. However, kvass can be made from benefit-rich beets or various fruits, especially for those concerned about the grains due to diet restrictions.
What Is Kvass?
Kvass is most popular in the Ukraine and Russia. Originating in Ukraine, it was first mentioned in the “Primary Chronicle,” an ancient history book of Slavic people also known as “The Tale of Bygone Years,” in events described in the year 996 A.D. following the Christianization of the Kievan Rus.
It’s common to see barrels of kvass on the streets of Moscow in Russia because it’s considered a tonic for digestion, containing probiotics, and an excellent thirst quencher. Some suggest that kvass is safer than drinking water!
Russians have been consuming it for more than 1,000 years, as kvass has been enjoyed by czars as well as peasants. The wealthy made various kinds of kvass using rye bread or pears, raisins, cherries, bilberries and lingonberries. Peter the Great even used it to add fragrance to his steam baths by splashing kvass on hot stones.
No traditional Ukranian home was without its bottle of beet kvass, according to Lubow A. Kylvska, author of “Ukranian Dishes,” “handy and ready when a pleasing, sour flavor had to be added to soups and vinaigrettes.”
Folk medicine values beets and beet kvass for their liver-cleansing properties, and beet kvass is widely used in cancer therapy in Europe. It has been reported that beet kvass is an excellent therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome, chemical sensitivities, allergies and, because it is an excellent source of probiotics, it can help with digestive problems.
Kvass offers a wide range of nutrients, including vitamin B12 and the mineral manganese. Here is the nutritional background based on a 10-ounce serving of kvass made with sourdough. Note that it may vary based on the ingredients, as the beet variety also offers a host of other critical nutrients.
- 76 calories
- 0.6 grams fat
- 114 milligrams sodium
- 1.1 grams fiber
- 1.6 grams protein
- 16 grams carbohydrate
- 0.72 grams of vitamin B12 (12 percent DV)
- 5.2 micrograms selenium (7.4 percent DV)
- 0.14 grams manganese (7.2 percent DV)
- 0.08 grams thiamine (5.0 percent DV)
- 14.4 micrograms folate (3.6 percent DV)
- 0.06 grams riboflavin/vitamin B2 (3.5 percent DV)
- 0.64 grams niacin (3.2 percent DV)
- 0.5 grams iron (2.8 percent DV)
- 0.05 grams copper (2.4 percent DV)
- 23 grams phosphorus (2.3 percent DV)
- 8.8 grams magnesium (2.2 percent DV)
*Percent daily values are based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
1. Great Source of Probiotics
Since kvass is considered one of the great probiotic foods, there are many benefits such as improving intestinal tract health and enhancing the immune system, which makes nutrients more available to the body. This also reduces symptoms of lactose intolerance, decreasing the prevalence of allergies.
Formerly, we had plenty of probiotics in our diet from eating fresh foods from good soil and by fermenting our foods to keep them from spoiling. But the modern ways of agriculture, refrigeration and preparing food have eliminated probiotic foods for too many American. Not enough probiotics can mean digestive disorders, skin issues, candida, autoimmune disease, and frequent colds and flus.
2. Excellent Liver Cleanser
While many think that alcohol is the only reason for liver problems, disease-causing inflammation is also caused by poor eating choices. Beets and beet greens are rich in antioxidants containing over 1300 milligrams of potassium per cup, and as such, they help fight free radical damage and improve the health of your body at a cellular level.
3. Perfect Blood Tonic
Beets contain phytonutrients called betalains that are found in the pigment of beets and are what causes your hands to stain. These betalains help create red blood cells, making beet kvass an excellent blood tonic by alkalizing the blood.
Why is this important? When your bloodstream becomes too acidic, it causes inflammation in the body and depletes the body of calcium because it is trying to balance out the pH levels. One of the best things we can do is consume more alkaline-promoting foods such as beets and leafy green vegetables. That is why beet kvass is an excellent choice!
4. May Help Reduce the Risk of Cancer
Most significant of all, beet kvass may help as a natural cancer treatment because of the combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties available. According to a 2014 report published online at the National Center for Biotechnology Information, beetroot is also being considered as a therapeutic treatment for inflammation, and its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties may help reduce the risk of cancer.
5. Beet Kvass Is Rich in Valuable Nutrients
Because beets are high in vitamin C, beet kvass helps boost your immune system and can help stave off the cold virus. It’s unusually high in manganese, a mineral that is needed for the health of your bones, liver, kidneys and pancreas. Beet kvass also contains the B vitamin folate, which may help reduce the risk of birth defects.
How to Make
There are a few recipes included below, but be aware that kvass is going to take a little practice. The good news is that kvass is easy to make. The simplest form includes beets, water and salt. The water and salt create a brine so the beets pickle, and eventually the brine becomes kvass with a slight effervescence from the fermentation process.
A few helpful tips:
- Your water needs to be pure and chemical-free. If you use chlorine or chemical-laden water, it will prevent the bad bacteria from forming as well as the good bacteria and will cause the beets to rot. Filtered spring water is best. If you use tap water, make sure you eliminate the chemicals by boiling or by leaving the water out overnight so the chlorine can evaporate.
- Beets should be organic. If you don’t use organic beets, make sure they are fresh and peel them to help rid them of possible pesticide residue.
- You want to chop the beets into one- to two-inch chunks. Don’t shred them as it can cause too much sugar to be released.
The first recipe takes a bit more time and uses sourdough. The second is a recipe for beet kvass and takes only a few minutes to prepare. Try both and see which one you like best!
Useful tools and things to know:
- Thermometer that measures liquids between 50–175 degrees F.
- A warm place in your kitchen (about 76–78 degrees) can help with the fermentation process.
- It is important to use bread that is made only with rye flour and without food additives — if you include oats or other grains and preservatives, it may cause a bitter taste.
- While you can make your own rye bread, your local health food market should be able to provide the best quality bread.
- Don’t worry about the sugar content, as most of the sugar will be turned into beneficial acids.
- You want to store the kvass in bottles with screw-on tops or tops with wire fasteners for a tight seal.
This recipe makes about 2 1/2 quarts. Double for more.
- 1/2 pound rye bread, cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 3/4 cups organic pure cane sugar
- 1/2 package dry active yeast
- 1 teaspoon unbleached white flour
- filtered water
- about 6–8 raisins
- Spread the bread on cookie sheets and bake for about 30 minutes at 325 degrees F. When cool, chop into 1/4-inch pieces.
- Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil and then cool to 175 degrees F. Add the bread, stirring well. Cover with a lid and leave in a warm place for 1 hour. Strain and reserve both the bread and the liquid.
- Bring another 1-1/4 quarts of water to a boil, cool down to 175 degrees and add the reserved bread. Cover with a lid and leave in a warm place for 1-1/2 hours.
- Strain and discard the bread. Combine both batches of liquid.
- Place 1/8 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon of water in a small skillet.
- Stir continuously over heat until the mixture turns golden brown, but be careful not to burn it. Remove from heat and gradually blend in 1/2 cup of the reserved liquid.
- Stir the mixture into the entire batch of liquid.
- In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 cup water and the remaining sugar.
- Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, skimming once or twice.
- Stir this syrup into the reserved liquid and allow the mixture to come to room temperature.
- Mix the yeast with the flour and combine with 1/2 cup of the liquid. Return this yeast mixture to the pot.
- Cover the pot with 2 layers of cheesecloth or a kitchen towel and leave in a warm place for 8–12 hours or overnight.
- Cool the kvass to about 50–54 degrees F. Transfer to bottles, seal tightly and refrigerate for 24 hours. The kvass will keep in the refrigerator for 2–3 days.
This recipe serves 5–10 people.
- 2–4 beets
- ¼ cup of juice from your favorite sauerkraut recipe or similar fermented vegetable
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves or 1 tablespoon dried [optional]
- filtered water
- half-gallon glass jar
- cheesecloth or thin towel
- Wash beets and peel if you are not using organic beets. You can leave the skin on if you are using organic beets.
- Chop the beets into small cubes.
- Place the beets into the the jar.
- Add the fermented juice, salt and mint leaves.
- Fill the jar with filtered water.
- To ferment, cover with a towel or cheesecloth and leave it on the counter or in a warm place at room temperature for 2 days.
- Place in the fridge and consume as desired, though several ounces per day can aid in creating a healthy gut.
- Enjoy it as a refreshing drink and try adding it to both hot and cold soups, sauces and dressings!