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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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