Beet Kvass - Fermented Drink with Potential Probiotics

Beet kvass is one of those drinks that have been around for a long, long time but people didn’t realize its probiotic potential until recently.

Kvass is a traditional Russian/Eastern European beverage that is typically produced from rye or dried rye bread and a starter culture by natural fermentation. It is very popular there. One study in 2009 blamed kvass as a possible contributor or chronic alcoholism in the former Soviet Union.

Don’t worry, though, because our beet kvass isn’t going to be like that!

This beety drink is thought to originate in the Ukraine. I could not find any studies documenting the microbes present in a typical kvass from beets, so I can’t say that it is a probiotic drink, but it isn’t hard to imagine that the Lactobacillus and Leuconostoc species along with yeast will dominate it, just like they do in sauerkraut.

Benefits of Beets

Beets by themselves are nutritional powerhouses. Add the potential for probiotic microbes and I was sold on the idea of making the kvass.

Beet roots are one of the more starchy/sugary vegetables (as evidenced by varieties that are genetically modified and used for grocery store refined sugar), but they are high in potassium and manganese, have about 4 grams of fiber per cup, and are a good source of the B vitamin, folate. They also have calcium, magnesium and phosphorus in respectable amounts. What makes beets unique are the pigments that stain your hands and anything else they contact.

These pigments are called betalains. There are two types of betalains, the red-violet ones and the yellow/gold ones. Both function as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents as well as detoxification support. They are able to encourage the liver to produce enzymes that help the liver detoxify toxic substances and make them harmless and ready to be eliminated. This is especially important in cancer prevention and effects have been shown in rats and human liver cancer cells for anti-cancer colon- and liver-cancer effects, respectively.

Beet roots also show potential in heart diseases and Type 2 diabetes as well as cholesterol reduction.

Beet greens are also very nutritious with high amounts of the carotenoids beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. I recently wrote a newsletter on the value of beets including some recipes I use. If you have a problem with oxalates, beets may not be for you.

How to Make Beet Kvass

To make it, all you really need are some organic beets, unrefined sea salt and water, but the addition of a few ingredients helps to make it more palatable, in my opinion.

The first time I made it, I used only beets, onion and caraway seeds with cabbage leaves and a bowl on top to keep everything submerged in the salty water. I thought I would make over a half-gallon of it at once to save myself the time and effort because I just knew that this beautiful pink liquid  was going to taste delicious. Unfortunately, I forgot about it and tasted it 3 weeks later (after drawing some of the liquid off below the mold  - yuck!). The result in my opinion was “blah”. My second attempt was better, especially since I didn’t forget about it!

Here is how I made it the second time:

  • First I used a variety of organic beets (totaling about the amount of 3 medium beets) from my garden, scrubbed and washed them extremely well and then cut them into approximately one-inch pieces. You can see how vibrant they are in the picture to the right. (Some of my fancy beets were small because they had to be harvested before they froze in the ground.)
  • Using a sanitized glass quart jar, I put ¼ tsp whole caraway seeds in the bottom of the jar along with 2 tablespoons of unrefined Real Salt.
  • Then I added one-quarter of a small, green chopped cabbage and one-quarter of a small, chopped yellow onion.
  • I topped it off with filtered water and cabbage leaves to keep things submerged.
  • I loosely put the lid on the jar and let it sit for about 3 days before tasting it.

The Result of This Second Attempt at Beet Kvass?

I still thought the result was “blah”, but not as “blah-blah” as the first batch. I am a big fan of cabbage and sauerkraut and I thought it would enhance the flavor of the beet kvass, which it did, but not enough for me to pledge to keep a container of it on my counter at all times.

I think the key is to use a culture starter next time, maybe from a batch of sauerkraut or from a vendor or from kefir so that much less salt can be used.

Cabbage + salt = good to me!

Beets + salt = not-so-good to me.

While I theoretically could have used the soured beets in a salad or a borscht, they went in my compost pile instead. I am not a fan of soured beets.

Should You Try to Make Beet Kvass?

I believe that there is no harm in trying something harmless once and maybe the taste will pleasantly surprise you. I think I prefer to eat my beets, raw and unsoured, in a beet salad or cooked in borscht. And I think I will stick with drinking kombucha and kefir, for now, until my curiosity gets to me and I try playing with beet kvass again.

What do you think? Have you had success making it?

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