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Beet Kvass / Gira

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 13 February 2018 at 16:06
I have been looking into beet kvass, which is apparently a variation on traditional kvass that is normally made from rye bread. In this case, the juice from lacto-fermented beets is used, instead. I don't know much about it yet, but various internet sources say that it is a traditional thing in Russia and the surrounding regions. My own research indicates that it is made in Lithuania, where it is called gira; having said that, I would be surprised if it wasn't known in Russia, Ukraine and other nearby countries, as well.

This looks incredibly easy to make, and by all descriptions it is both tasty and very healthy. Some recipes that I have found use a "starter culture" of whey or naturally-fermented sauerkraut juice, yet others do not; I think the culture simply gets the process started more quickly, but am not totally sure. One recipe even has you add some onion and cabbage to tone down the "beety" taste; another adds ginger for an interesting kick.

There is surely a use for the beets once they are fermented, as well, but having absolutely no experience with this yet, I cannot say for sure what that could be, other than simply eating them by themselves or possibly as part of a salad.

I got a few beets the other day and will be giving this a try by the end of the week; for now, I'll simply post the links to my research on it for anyone who might be interested:

https://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/lacto-fermentation-recipes/beet-kvass/

http://nourishedkitchen.com/beet-kvass-recipe/

http://holisticsquid.com/beet-kvass-myth-busting/

https://wellnessmama.com/9087/beet-kvass/

https://www.homemademommy.net/2013/08/how-to-make-beet-kvass-that-actually-tastes-good.html

https://www.mommypotamus.com/beet-kvass-recipe/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kvass

If anyone else is interested in giving this a try, I'd be eager to hear how it turns out.

Ron
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 February 2018 at 13:40
On Saturday, 17 February, I was able to get this project going. As I was gathering my ingredients and equipment, I got a call from my dad asking me to come out and assist him with a couple of things, so I brought my project out there in order to show him what I was up to. He took a pretty good interest in it, as I had recently purchased one of FarmtSeady's Fermented Vegetable Kits for him, as well:

http://farmsteady.com/shop/fermented-vegetable-kit

This kit is identical to their "Kraut Kit," which I have, and I am assuming that the latter will eventually be phased out in order to highlight the versatility of the former, which of course can also make sauerkraut just as easily; in fact, my dad had already just finished making his first batch of sauerkraut, which he pronounced to be most excellent.

The process for Beet Kvass is very, very easy, which means that - in my opinion - there really is no good reason not to try this, if you have even the slightest interest. Basically, I followed the instructions for the general fermenting of vegetables as described on FarmSteady's website:

http://farmsteady.com/fermented-vegetables/

I also incorporated much of the information that I learned in my reading, following the sources listed above.

I usually open with a photo of everything needed, so here you go:



Everything here is self-explanatory, of course; 4 beets - cut into cubes - seemed to work perfectly for filling this fermentation jar. The only other thing I'll note is that my mother's tablespoon-sized measuring spoon, which has been in our family since the 1970s, has been a bit warped and partially-melted on one side since the 1980s. This may or may not have been my fault; I can't remember. In any case, It is probably still accurate, or at least "close enough," but I decided to just use the teaspoon to do my measuring. I don't know why I also included the half-teaspoon, but there it is.

Getting started, I dissolved 2 tablespoons of Kosher salt into 1 quart of spring water that I had warmed a bit in the microwave:



Obviously, other non-iodised salt such as canning or sea salt can be used; however, because of the different densities that different salts have, I do not at this time know what proportions should be used for those salts. Sooner or later, I will find out and will post about it.

Once that was done, I cut off the tops and bottoms of the beets:



Most sources say that this is not necessary; indeed, some sources even say that you should not even scrub or peel the beets, just rinse them and ensure that the dirt is removed from them. The reason for this is that the microbes on the peels will aid in the fermentation; however, other recipes say to peel them, so I proceeded to do so:



Next, I chopped them into cubes that were a "medium" size:



I considered slicing them into "chips," but ultimately chose not to.

After that, I carefully dropped them into the brine and weighed them down with the fermentation weight, in order to keep them below the surface of the brine:



One or two of the cubes escaped, and I pushed them back down under the weight. This is where slicing them into chips might have been handy so that they would be easier to keep beneath the weight; however, I do not know if there would have been any negative effects to doing so.

Finally, I put the lid on and attached the airlock:



As you can see, the water was already starting to turn a deep, beautiful red.

That's all there is to it!

Once I was finished helping my dad, I carefully transported the beets back home and put them on the top shelf of our bedroom closet, where the temperatures are fairly stable and in the 60- to 70-degree range that is advised for good fermentation.

As for how long the kvass should ferment, the sources vary. If using whey or some other "starter," some sources advise 2 to 4 days; other sources, with no starter, say that fermentation times can range from "at least a week" to 2 weeks. FarmSteady, in their general instructions for fermenting vegetables, prescribes "5 to 7 days." Nearly all sources add the caveat "...or until desired flavour is reached." With all of this in mind, I'll check my kvass after a week, and go from there. My experience with lacto-fermenting so far has taught me that, for whatever reason, things take a little longer than the "recipes" say that they will, so I am going to guess that this will take 2 weeks at a minimum; having said that, all we are after here is the fermented juice, not so much the vegetables themselves, so we shall see.

In any case, that's what I have for now; more as it happens, etc. &c....

Ron
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pitrow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 February 2018 at 09:42
I'm very interested to see the flavor profile this develops. 
Mike
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 February 2018 at 10:07
Hi, Mike -

I took a peek last night and fermentation is definitely happening, so I am thinking this is going to work. As for how it's going to be, my gut instinct (no pun intended) tells me that it will take a little getting used to, but also that it will be one of those things that grows on a person, if that makes sense. Some things are like that; the first taste is "What on earth is this," but as you try it again, and then again - it goes from being shocking to good to something that you prefer over several things that you "used" to like.

Will this get to that final stage? I don't know. I would also like to try it with a bit of ginger some time, so we'll see what each variation holds.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 March 2018 at 13:06
Early indications are that this was a pretty good success!

On Saturday, 2 weeks after starting this, I transferred the kvass/gira from the fermentation jar. I had about 1.5 quarts - maybe a little less - of lacto-fermented beet juice; most of this went into a canning jar (filled almost to the brim) and into the refrigerator, but I did hold enough back for a good sample.

I don't have a photo, but it is dark-red (of course) with no visible sediment that I can see. The smell was a bit tangy-sour, with just a bit of earthiness and a lot of beet. The taste was much the same, tangy-sour, fully of good beety flavor, and only the barest hint of earthiness. In a lot of ways, it tasted almost exactly as I expected it to.

There seemed to be a bit more salt than I was expecting, but part of this could have been some mineral flavor from the beet. It wasn't bad or even "too much," just unexpected. I would not hesitate to make it again this same way; however, for comparison's sake, the next time that I do make it I will try the "brine calculator" that can be found by following the link that John (Gunhaus) shared with me:

http://www.pickl-it.com/blog/737/brine-calculator/

From what I can see, this would bring the amount of salt down a little bit, but I am guessing that the trick here would be in knowing the "correct" percentage of brine that one wants to employ. The ratio I sued above is good for an "all-purpose" brine, and should be seen as a go-to, I think, unless there is a stated reason not to use it, or a specific percentage cited in a recipe.

As for the leftover beets, they can indeed be used to make a second batch, although that batch has been described as "weaker." in our case, The Beautiful Mrs. Tas commandeered quite a few of them for eating, as she is a good Slovak girl. They were raw and "crunchy," so she asked me to boil them for a few minutes to soften them up. I saved the majority of them for use in a possible borshch-like stew in the near future, depending on what our larder looks like this coming weekend.

That's all I have for now, other than that I do like this, and will do it again. I'll try to post a photo at some time in the future; but in all honestly, it looks exactly like one would expect it to look.

Ron
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