Beet Kvass!

I super love when you start a process and end up with more than one end product – like a few weeks ago, when we juiced lemons and got both lemonade and a citrus infused vinegar.  Today’s project will yield three results – so I’m breaking it into three posts!  And posting every day!  Excitement.

First up is Beet Kvass.  I love a shot of this stuff on occasion and when I saw fresh beets in the farmer’s market, I knew it was time for a little beety action.

If you’ve never heard of Beet Kvass, this video (which incidentally is how I found out about it) will answer all of your questions:

The first step is to make whey!  Whey is the liquid part in a lot of dairy products.  I make it by straining yogurt – I’d definitely recommend this way (ha) of making whey because it yields the project in tomorrow’s installment.


I wrap the yogurt into a little bundle of cheese cloth and tie it around a skewer and leave that in the fridge to drip over night.  Different brands of yogurt produce different amounts of whey, so I always get at least two of the little containers – I find that a big 16 ounce is always a little too much for my needs.

As we learned in the video (and as Sally says) – you only need 1/8-1/4 cup of whey – but never fear, in installment 3, we’ll use whatever is left of your whey for something else!

Next we chop our beet.  I never peel mine, just give them a bit of a scrub and chop them into 1″-ish cubes.


Bua-ha-ha-ha beet carnage.

Then you just chuck your beets and 1/4 teaspoon of salt into the jar with your whey, shake, and wait for two days!


Day 1!  Beets soaking, you can see the foam around the top already!

I’ve always been fond of picklebacks (shot of whiskey followed by a shot of pickle brine), but for a colorful twist on that- you can try beetbacks.  I had the bright idea a few years ago and they were the hit of a friend’s birthday party- a shot of whiskey followed by a shot of beet kvass.  Cures what ails ya!


Natural Lactofermented Root Beer


Although I was raised predominantly by my mother, I’m a lot like my father – and that extends down to my tastebuds.  I had lunch with my father at his regular workday lunch spot recently and the waitress laughed when I ordered root beer.  My dad followed suit.  We both love it.

My quest for lactofermented soda actually started with a quest for root beer, but it’s a little more complicated than the apple/ginger guy I posted about yesterday, so I wanted to tackle it second.

I like to make it in small batches because I’m still tweaking the recipe, but this is the current incarnation:

Root Beer Ingredients:

  • 8 cups water (filtered preferred)
  • 3 tablespoons sassafras root bark (NOT POWDERED)
  • 3 tablespoons sarsaparilla root  (see above)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of wintergreen leaves (chopped)
  • cinnamon stick
  • about 2 inches of ginger root (grated)
  • 4 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup ginger bug (recipe here!)
  • 1-2 cups sweetener of your choice

Do this:

  1. In a heavy bottomed pot: add the water, herbs, and extract.
  2. Bring the mixture to a simmer and simmer covered for 20 minutes.
  3. Turn off heat, add sweetener and stir to dissolve completely.
  4. Leave the pot covered for 30 minutes.
  5. My favorite part of all the recipes I found involved cooling the root beer to blood temperature!  Generally you want to cool it to somewhere between 80 and 90 degrees so as not to hurt your ginger bug. I found that I had to pop the pan into the fridge for about 20 minutes to get there.  I also found that none of my kitchen thermometers got cool enough and I had to use my under-the-tongue medical thermometer.  When your Root Beer has cooled, strain it to remove the herbs.  To get it all out, your might need a jelly bag.  Mine still has a small amount of plant material which will generally settle out.
  6. Strain off a cup of your ginger bug liquid and add to the root beer.
  7. Pour your soda into bottles (again, I’m a fan of swing tops like these). Allow it to sit in a warm or room temperature spot in your home for 3-5 days.
  8. After 3-5 days of fermentation (watch for bubbles rising!), you will have root beer unlike one you’ve ever tasted.  Sweet, herbal, and actually pretty good for you.  Toss in a scoop of ice cream and enjoy!IMG_6644

Floating sticks!


Beware when opening!  There will be foam!

Additional notes:

Generally speaking most, if not all, of the weirder things (sassafras, sarsparilla, wintergreen, cinnamon sticks, swing-top bottles) can be found at the home brew store.  Mine didn’t have sassafras and I’m really into wildcrafting/foraging…soooooo I went for a hike and went looking for sassafras trees.  The only ones I ended up finding were in a stand that had been planted about two years ago.  I picked up some downed branches and yanked up a couple of seedlings that had sprung up too close to the main trees (as joggers stared at me, ha!) and brought them home.  My first batch of root beer had chopped twigs (no leaves) and what little bits of root I could find grated into it.  It wasn’t as strongly flavored as subsequent batches that were made after the root I ordered arrived….but I rooted one of the saplings (hopefully it survives) and in a few years I’ll have as much root as I can dig – and no joggers staring at me.



 Not quite blood temperature!


Sassafras tree.  In the Spring, I’ll find a good spot for her.



Apple/Ginger Soda – an easy one!

I got this recipe from here and didn’t do much to it.

Apple Ginger Soda Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup ginger bug from yesterday’s ginger bug recipe
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon freshly juiced ginger (or crushed)
  • 3 1/2 cups freshly juiced apple (or unpasturized apple cider/juice)
  • half a stick of cinnamon per bottle

I like to make sure that the juice is room temperature before adding the bug, I don’t want to shock the poor baby!  Mix all ingredients except cinnamon stick and bottle (I prefer the swingtop (grolsch) style bottles, but the author of the original post recommends against them- YMMV on this point).  Drop half a cinnamon stick in each bottle and seal up.  When opening anything fizzy, point it away from your face.  This should be ready to drink in about 3 days (you should hear the gas escaping on opening if it’s ready)….although Sally says you should let it sit for two weeks before opening!  Anything that’s not drunk in two weeks should definitely be stored in the fridge…and I like to cool my soda before drinking it anyway.

Ferment and enjoy!  Let me know how it went!

Probiotic Lactofermented Homemade Soda – Start with Ginger Bug!

Oh man, fermentation.  It’s so fun.  It feels like a science project, fizzes on the tongue, and is actually good for you.  It also has recipes that call for cooling things to “blood temperature” in case you needed to feel more badass than you already do.

This week, I made myself a ginger bug.  Which, once you get used to remembering to feed it, (at least every other day, but better daily) feels like you have a little pet on your counter!  You can even put it to sleep by sticking it in the fridge.  Goodnight, ginger bug!

I love me some Sally Fallon / Nourishing Traditions, and she has a recipe for ginger bug in her beverage chapter (slipped into the ginger beer recipe) as well as some other weird stuff like Sweet Potato Soda and Oat Water.

The general idea of ginger bug is to take a quart sized mason jar and add 3 teaspoons of sugar (white is fine, you won’t be eating this– the BUG will!) and 3 teaspoons of chopped or grated ginger (with skin) to 3 cups of water.  Your bug needs to live in a warmish place (I like the top of the fridge for this – but put it somewhere you won’t forget about it.).  At least every other day add 2 tsp of sugar and 2 more tsp of grated ginger.  You should see bubbles forming within 3 days, which will increase the longer you feed your little bugger.  It’s ready to use as soon as it becomes active, but most sources recommend waiting at least a week.  If you don’t see bubbles (or hear gas escaping when you open it) after 7 days, chuck it out and start again.

If you have grown a ginger bug, but have run out of uses for it – stick it in the fridge.  When you’re ready to use it again, sit it on the counter for three days to reactivate (and feed it while it’s out!)

If you’re out of bug liquid and want to restart it – compost half of the sediment in the bottom, refill the water, and start with the feeding plan again!

I’m making three batches of lacto-fermented sodas to share with you- root beer (my favorite), ginger beer (might want to go out and get some dark rum immediately), and sparkling apple cider.  I’ll be posting the recipes to these every day for the next three.  By the time your bug is ready to use, you’ll have a few recipes at hand to try out!

Enjoy bugging out!



Soda waiting to be ready and a new round of ginger bug growing stronger by the day!