Kvass a Lactose-Fermented Drink from Russia – Quick Kvass Recipe

Today we’ll talk about kvass, a traditional beverage from Russia, drunk for good health and to give energy.  All classes of people enjoyed this beverage from the czars as well as by peasant folk.  Traditional, kvass is sold on the street by vendors with a large tank full of fresh kvass.
In wealthy households, various kinds of kvass contained rye bread and/or currants, raspberries, lemons, apples, pears, cherries, bilberries and loganberries.  The possibilities and combinations of breads and fruits are endless!

kvass street vender

So What Makes It Kvass?

Kvass starts from stale sourdough rye bread so it was natural for bakeries to make it from the bread that they do not sell.

Bread that has gone past its shelf life is cut into 1-inch cubes, spread on trays and dried out in the bread ovens, set to low temperature.  Then the pieces are added to a 200-liter tank filled with good quality water.  This brews for 12 hours at room temperature.  Yeast and a small amount of sugar is then added and the kvass is left another 12 hours at room temperature.

The kvass is then bottled.  Three or four raisins are added to the bottles, which are then capped tightly.  The kvass will be ready in about three weeks—foamy and refreshing.  However, the shelf life from that point is only about one week (or three weeks refrigerated), after which the kvass turns alcoholic.  The short shelf life has left this beverage pretty much untouched and unadulterated by commercial food/beverage companies.

bottled kvass

Beet Kvass

Another type of kvass is made from beets.  Not as epicurean as medicinal, although beet kvass is often added to borscht, which is a great cold RAW soup.  Traditional Ukrainian homes have it at the ready for a pleasing, sour flavor added to soups and vinaigrette.”

Folk medicine values beets and beet kvass for their liver cleansing properties and beet kvass is widely used in cancer therapy in Europe.  Anecdotal reports indicate that beet kvass is an excellent therapy for chronic fatigue, chemical sensitivities, allergies and digestive problems.
beet kvass

Making Kvass at Home…

Homemade Kvass

Kvass made at home requires careful attention to detail, especially to temperatures.  To avoid failures and frustration, purchase a thermometer that will measure liquids between 50-175 degrees F.  You will also need to find a warm place that stays about 76-78 degrees in your kitchen or in a closet.  We use a preheated room for brewing ferments such as these.

Be sure to use bread that is made only with rye flour, and that contains no food additives or preservatives.  Kvass made from bread that contains oats or other grains is not used as it turns the fermenting liquid bitter.

Do not worry about using white sugar, as most it will brake down and turn into beneficial acids.

The kvass should be stored in bottles with screw on tops or tops with wire fasteners.  This recipe makes about 5 quarts.

– 1 pound rye bread, cut into 1/4-inch slices
– 1 1/2 cups sugar, in all
– 1 package dry active yeast or a fresh sourdough starter if you
maintain one
– 1 tablespoon unbleached white flour
– Filtered water
– About 1 dozen raisins

Spread the bread on cookie sheets and bake for about 30 minutes at 250 degrees F.  When cool, chop into 1/4-inch pieces in a food processor.

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil and then cool to 175 degrees.  Add the bread, stir well, cover with a lid and leave in a warm place (76-78 degrees) for 1 hour.  Strain and reserve both the bread and the liquid.

Bring another 2 1/2 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.

Next is to make simple syrup: Place 1/4 cup sugar and 1-tablespoon water in a small cast-iron skillet.  Stir continuously over heat until the mixture turns golden brown, but do not caramelize.  Remove from heat and gradually blend in 1/2 cup of the reserved liquid.  Then stir this mixture into the entire batch of liquid.

In a small saucepan, place 1 cup water and the remaining 1 1/4 cups sugar.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, skimming once or twice.  Stir this syrup solution into the reserved liquid and allow the mixture to come to room temperature (about 75 degrees).

Mix the yeast with the flour and combine with 1 cup of the liquid.  Return this yeast mixture to the pot.  Make an X of masking tape across the top of the pot.  Cover the pot with two layers of cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel and leave in a warm place (73-78 degrees) for 8-12 hours or overnight.  Cool the kvass to about 50-54 degrees.  Transfer to bottles, seal tightly and refrigerate for 24 hours.  The kvass will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

In addition to its role as a refreshing drink, kvass is traditional added to a number of typical Russian cold soups containing vegetables, sour cream and fish.
kvass drink

Other Traditional Lactose-Fermented Beverages…

Bouza (Egypt): An opaque drink made of wheat, water, and sourdough yeast starter..
Gv-No-He-Nv (Cherokee, Native American): A thick, milky drink with the sweet flavors of corn accented by a mild sourness.
T’ej (Ethiopian): A simple honey type wine/mead.
Braga (Middle Europe): A fermented gruel or sour porridge.
Chicha (South America): A clear, bubbly beverage made with corn. Balls of cooked corn mush are chewed and inoculated with saliva, then added to water and allowed to ferment. The taste is similar to kombucha.
Kiesel (Russia and Poland): An important grain-based lacto-fermented drink.
Kvass (Russia and Ukraine): A lacto-fermented drink usually made from stale rye bread. Another version is made with beets.
Mead (Europe): Made from honey, water, and wild yeast.  Some methods produced a lacto-fermented drink, very low in alcohol or bottled and aged for more alcohol content.
Munkoyo (Africa): A low alcohol lacto-fermented brew made from millet or sorghum.  Also called sorghum beer, consumed in large quantities by field workers and at celebrations.  Given to babies to protect them against infection and diarrhea.  The missionaries to Africa discouraged its use because it contains alcohol in very small amounts.
Tesguino
(Mexico): A low-alcohol beer made with sprouted corn.
Chicha (Andean, Peru): Chewed corn beer having a light, delicious corn flavor.
Pulque (Mexico): A lacto-fermented drink made from the juice of the agavé cactus.  With time, it goes alcoholic.
Palm Wine (Africa): The lacto-fermented sap of the palm tree, consumed in tropical areas of Africa and Asia.
Rice Beers (Asia and India): These were traditionally very low in alcohol, and mostly lactose-fermented.  In Japan, koji rice mold is used for making sake, amasaké, and simple grog’s.

We hope you enjoy this Blog post on Kvass, a simple to make lacto-fermented beverage for health and well-being.
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Three Wild-crafted Fermented & Pickled Foods

~ Dandelion Leek Miso ~

dandelion leeks
Ran across this and thought I would share…
This recipe idea is great for areas with wild leeks and other wild crafted plants

What is Needed…

– Tub of unpasteurized Red miso or Mugi miso, organic or make your own, which can take 6 months to a year in most cases.
Hint: You can do a mix a sweet miso & hearty miso, too!  The amount of miso used will determine the amount of the other ingredients.
– Fresh Spring Wild Leeks (Allium tricoccum, some know them as Ramps).  The leeks can have a strong taste if harvested at the right time, so adjust accordingly.  About a 1/8th of the volume of miso, you want the flavor, but, not to overpower the miso.
– Dandelion Greens.  Young leaves are best as they are not as bitter as older leaf.  Harvest before flowering.  Same amount/ratio as the leeks.  Some stores sell the greens, too
– Fresh or Dried Stinging Nettles (Uritica dioica).  Here in Michigan you should be able to harvest at the same time as the leeks.  I have a spot that has both growing together!
– Optional Sea Veggies.  Like kombu or wakamé seaweed.

Directions…

Since wild ingredients can very in taste and flavour during the season, I suggest mixing up a small tester batch and adjust ingredients as needed and to your liking.

Since the miso is already made, click here on how to make your own misos , we will start with the other ingredients.

Once you have collected or purchased all the items needed you ready to go!
– Start by cleaning the Leeks: Removing the leaves and roots, leaving the clean bulbs
– Dandelion greens: Remove the centre steam keeping the green part of the leaf,
– Nettle leaf:  Cut off any steams.   Hint: you can remove the ‘stinging’ aspect by blanching or steaming the leaf for a few seconds
– Soak the sea vegetables if dried.

Now cut all ingredients into small pieces and mix together.
Add greens and sea veggies to the miso paste.
Taste and adjust.  Add salt if needed, however, the miso will have a lot of salt already.
The miso blend will ferment the other items and flavour will improve over time.  Suggest allowing the miso mix to set in the refrigerator for 3 to 6 months, if you can wait that long.

~ Fermented Garlic Scapes ~

garlic scape
Here is another quick recipe for use of all the garlic scapes, if you grow garlic you will know what I mean!
Use fermented garlic scapes in any recipe to add a delicious mild garlic flavour!  Fermented garlic scapes enhance your recipes without overpowering other more delicate flavours.

What is Needed…

– Fresh organic garlic scapes, cleaned and diced into small pieces or use a food processor.  Do not overwork and turn scapes into a paste.  Leave it a bit chunky.
– Organic sunflower oil, cold pressed.  1 to 2 tbsp per 8oz of diced scapes.
– Lactic starter or use wild yeast fermentation
– Salt to taste

Directions…

Mix the diced garlic scapes with the oil and salt.
Add the lactic starter (This can come from other ferments liquids, like kraut or just use wild yeast fermentation.)
– Once fermentation is to your liking, about 5 to 10 days or more.   If you like the taste, finish with 1 to 2 teaspoons of organic apple cider vinegar or to taste.

Once the fermentation process is finished, pack into jars and store in the refrigerator.  Hint: Smaller jars will keep the FGS fresher.
Use as a spread or garnish for your favorite snacks, with fresh bread, or even on pizza.
Enjoy!

~ Pickled Wild Leek Relish ~

wild leek relish
One of my favorite ways to use and preserve leeks for use all season long!  The relish condiment works as a topping, great with fresh bread, or added during plating a dish.
Quick and easy, and so good!

What is Needed…

As the leeks are very strong in taste and flavor, you will use more white onions vs. leeks.  If you were to use only wild leeks, it will be much too strong.  I found this out on the first try with only leeks and vinegar…to much!

– White onions, organic, peeled and diced into very small pieces or use a food processor (do not overwork)
– Smaller amount of fresh leek bulbs, wild crafted, depending on flavour.
– A red bell pepper, organic
– White vinegar or rice wine vinegar, organic
– Salt to taste

Directions…

– Peel and dice white onions into very small pieces.
– Clean and peel wild leeks.  Remove tops and roots, leaving nice
clean white bulbs
– Depending on the size; use about a ¼ of the red bell pepper,
diced  finely.
The bell pepper is more to give a bit of colour over flavor.
– Mix the three together in a ratio of 80% white onion, 15% wild
leeks, & 4% bell pepper.

Taste the mixture and adjust the amount of leeks to onions until you have a flavor you like.  Add salt and vinegar (About 1% of mixture) to taste.  As with any pickled foods, the product should have a vinegar bite, but not to much to over power the other flavors.  The acid content should read at pH 4.5 or a little lower.  The correct range test strip can be purchased here.  Allow to set at room temperature for a few days, taste again and adjust ingredients to your liking.
Once complete pack into jars, cap, and place in refrigerator.

Enjoy! and Happy Fermenting… Live, Grow, Share Cultured Foods

 


 

 

Japanese Koji-Kin Rice Recipes

Now that you have made a fresh batch or purchased your koji rice, the next step is what to do with it. Many people use koji-kin to make saké, amasaké, or miso. However, what other ways are there to turn koji rice into something extraordinary? Here are a few recipes to get you started…

Basic Amazaké Ferment

Used in Japan as a sweetener, beverage, or a simple alcoholic drink.  Amazake is one of the best known cultured and fermented items from Japan.   There are several recipes for amazake that have been used for hundreds of years. By a popular recipe, kōji is added to cooled whole grain rice causing enzymes to break down the carbohydrates into simpler unrefined sugars.  As the mixture incubates, sweetness develops naturally.
By another popular recipe, sake kasu is simply mixed with water, but usually sugar is added.  In this recipe, amazake becomes low-alcohol beverage if given time.

Amazake can be used as a dessert, snack, natural sweetening agent, baby food, added in salad dressing or smoothies. The traditional drink (prepared by combining amazake and water, heated to a simmer, and often topped with a pinch of finely grated ginger) was popular with street vendors, and it is still served at inns, tea houses, and at festivals.  Many Shinto shrines in Japan provide or sell it during the New Year!

amazake drink
Ready to Drink Amazake

What is needed…

3- cups cooked brown rice
1- cup light koji rice

Yield: 4 cups of fermented rice to use as a sweetener or 3 quarts Amazaké drink

Incubation Temperature: 120-140 F (50-60C)

Start by cooking the brown rice and allowing it to cool to at least 140 F (60C).  Once cooled, stir in the koji rice and mix well.  Place mixture into a glass or stainless steel container that will allow an inch of “headroom” to allow for expansion during the fermentation process.  Cover container and incubate, stirring every couple of hours to prevent heat build up.  The finished product can take as little as 6 hours with quality, fresh (not dried) koji-kin at optimum temperatures, after 6 hours start tasting the ferment to see if the cycle is complete.

When finished the ferment should thicken like porridge with a mild sweet taste.  The sweetness will increase up to a point after which it will change and start to become sour.  Once the taste is to your liking, place into a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 3 to 5 min., stirring frequently.  Boiling will stop the fermentation process keeping the amazaké sweet.  For a smother amazaké consistency purée the mixture in a blender until smooth.  Refrigerate any ferment not used right away.  If not, the amazaké will become very sour.

Amazaké Sweetener: Use ¼-cup ferment for each tbsp of sweetener called for in your favorite recipes and reducing the cooking liquid by 3 Tbsp.  Baked goods will be rich and moist with a more subtle sweetness.

Amazaké Drink: For HOT amazaké, heat one part ferment and two parts very hot water.  Add a dash of shoyu and a grating of fresh ginger root.  Serve blended mix in heated mugs.  For a cold drink, blend 1 part amazaké ferment and 2 part fruit, fruit juices, soymilk water and/or flavoring of your choice.

Doburoku: For simple “grog”, leave the amazaké ferment in the incubator for several days, stirring and tasting occasionally, until it develops a heady, alcoholic aroma.  Blend as above, traditionally served in Japan as a thick and creamy drink or dilute to taste.


Mellow Pickled Cabbage

In Japan, pickled vegetables come with many meals, as a condiment or side dish.  In Japan it is called ‘Kyabetsu no asazuke’.  Unlike normal pickles this recipe is a fermented pickled delight.  Like German style sauerkraut, pickled veggies are uncomplicated to make into a fermented snack or condiment!
Japanese pickled cabbage
What is needed…

1 – pound organic cabbage of your choice or a mix of green and reds. Use American style or Napa/Chinese styles
2 – Tbsp non-iodized salt (Kosher or sea salt)
¼-cup koji rice
¼-cup warm water
½ tsp honey or other sweetener
A Japanese tsukemono pickle press

Start by removing the center core and shred the cabbage coarsely.  Mix well with the salt and pack into a glass bowl.   Put a small enough plate to fit inside the bowl and weight it down with water filled glass jar or non-metal container.
Refrigerate for 3 days.

After 3 days, draw off the liquid from the cabbage but do not rinse. 
TIP:
Save the liquid brine for other uses.  Dissolve the honey/sweetener in the warm water and add the koji rice.   Set aside until the koji has dissolved the liquid and softened.

Next, mix the soaked koji and cabbage, mixing well.  Pack contents into a straight-sided container,  Add a plate and weight to keep everything under the liquid. Submerging the cabbage keeps the mixture from contamination with unwanted bacteria. Allow 4 to 5 days for the flavor to develop then refrigerate.  Use within a week or two.

For those who do not wish to mess with jar and weights, a Japanese pickle fermenter is a great investment.  Visit our shop to purchase the Japanese tsukemono pickle press.  See photos for recommended styles.
japanese pickle press
pickle press japan pickle press fermenter

 


Koji Rice Pickled Sea & Root Vegetable Condiment

  Here is another great recipe for using your fresh made koji-kin rice.  It is a mix of seaweed and root vegetables
with a lot of umami flavor and health.
Fermented veggies

What is needed…

– ¼ cup of fresh light koji-kin rice
– ½ oz dry kombu, wakamé, or sea palm. Should yield about ½ cup     after soaking
– 1 to 1 ½ cups daikon, baby burdock root, or carrot.  We enjoy a combination of all three.  Try using any type of herbal roots, too.
– ¼ cup naturally fermented soy sauce, shoyu, or tamari
– ¼ cup mild vinegar, plain or flavored
– ¼ cup mirin or saké.  Mirin imparts a sweet component to the mix and saké a dry alternative, extremely recommended!

kombu seaweed

Start by soaking the Kombu and/or other sea vegetable for 10 to 20 min. in just enough water to cover, soak until softened.   Reserve ¼ cup of the soaking water and cut the sea vegetables into slivers or short ribbons.   Next, scrub the root vegetables to remove any soil and cut them into thin slivers.   Place the root vegetables, sea vegetables, and reserved soaking liquid into a saucepan and bring to a low boil.   Add soy sauce and vinegar and return to a low boil.   Cover and remove from heat.   This step kills of any unwanted bacteria or wild yeast.

When the mixture has cooled to 110F (45C) (warm, but not too hot to touch) transfer to a glass bowl and stir in the koji-kin, mirin, and saké.  Let the mixture mature for 4 hours at a cool to moderate room temperature, covered, stirring occasionally from time to time.

The pickled vegetables are ready to consume now or pack into quart mason jars and refrigerate the unused portion, which will continue to mellow and enhance the flavors even more over time. But first enjoy a bowl with your favorite grains!

To purchase koji spores or fresh made koji-kin please visit our web store: 
Buy Japanese Koji Spores

As Always…Happy Culturing


 

Kimchi Traditional Korean Style Recipe

I was asked for a kimchi recipe…Korean kraut!
kimchi korean
This is close to a traditional Kimchi…there are many types of kimchi, but when people in Korea say kimchi, they mean this style.
 
Recipe? I never really follow one. But here goes…
 
– 2 large heads of Nappa cabbage. Quarter and soak in a heavy salt brine for an hour or more to pull off some liquid, rinse salt, then chop to desired size
– daikon or normal radish julienned
– carrots julienned
– any sea vegetables or other veggies you like
– sesame seeds, black is nice for contrast
– Garlic, ginger, and scallions or green onion
– tbsp or more rice flour, depending on the batch size
– Sugar 1/8 c, or to your liking, optional
– Korean chili flakes (eBay or Amazon) to taste, also gives the nice red colour
– fish sauce to taste, recommend a good Thai FS (has salt, too, so adjust)
– dried anchovies or fermented shrimp paste as needed, not to many though
– soy sauce or salt to make the brine
 
The F.S. and anchovies brings the deep umami flavor!
 
Heat the flour with some water and make a thin paste.  Cook until it thickens, but not burnt.  Raw flour will give an off taste. This is used to thicken the liquid and make it stick to the cabbage.
In a large bowl, mix flour paste with the chili, F.S., anchovies, and soy sauce.  Then add veggies and sesame seeds, mix.
Add the cabbage last, mix.
 
Keep mixture under the brine like you would kraut.  If not enough liquid at first, no worries, it will form as the weights press down. Should only take an hour or so for this to happen.  You can add some extra salt brine if needed, but make sure
to mix it all up again.
japanese pickle press

I use a 3L Japanese Pickle Press…for no fuss, no weights, no problems.  We have them at our web store if needed.
After liquid covers, taste and add more salt and/or chili as needed.
Allow to ferment for 3 to 5 days, or more.
Then pack into jars and place in fridge.