This week’s Special Dish for the Week combines the benefits of two of nature’s culinary marvels: fermentation and beets—in a drink that I remember running away from as a child, but now, I find myself enjoying even:
Fermented Beet Juice
Fermented beet juice—also known as sour beet juice, or beet kvass—is made by a process called lactic acid fermentation—as opposed to ethanol (alcohol) fermentation and yeast or mold fermentation. The process is anaerobic (not using oxygen), and requires a certain type of bacteria to get going and to generate desired results.
Although perhaps sounding highly technical, the preparation process and ingredients are very simple!
And despite the rather strong but not unpleasant aroma, the juice is tasty—if a bit on the salty side!
The ingredients—and the reasons for selecting them just so—include:
- 3 medium beets*, washed but not scrubbed or peeled—to maintain the needed starter bacteria
* beets can be red, yellow, white, or a mélange of colours, a.k.a. rainbow beets
- 1/2-1 tbsp sea salt—to keep the fermentation to the lactic acid type, to help pull out the juice out of the beets, and to add additional minerals
- 1 cup of freshly boiled water—to quickly dissolve the salt
- 5 cups of room temperature boiled water—to ensure that beets don’t cook and that enzymes and bacteria don’t get wiped out or don’t get contaminated with other organisms potentially in tap water (depending on the tap water source and treatment)
- 3-5 cloves of garlic (optional)—for added flavour and nutrients
- spices (optional)—for added flavour and nutrients—a cardamom pod, a knob of ginger, a star anise, or a clove, to be tried in future batches
Various recipes exist for how to cut, store, and start the fermentation process of the beets. Here is my way:
- Cut each beet into 8 “cubes”.
- Mix sea salt and 1 cup of freshly boiled water in a clean 2 L wide-mouth glass container.
- Add a few icecubes to cool down the brine (now salty water).
- Add 4 cups of room temperature boiled water to further cool down the brine.
- Place the beet cubes in the brine.
- Add the optional garlic and/or other spices.
- Add final cup of water to top up the contents up to 1/2 inch below the top of the glass container.
- Cover the glass container with a small plate.
- Place the glass container on the counter in a spot out of direct sunlight.
- And let it do its thing for 3-7 days*—it seems to do just fine to take a few peeks under the plate to ensure no moldy film is developing and that the smell is right! Sour!
* If fermenting the beets for more than 3 days, place the fermenting juice in the fridge after 3 days to slow down fermentation and other bacterial growth.
- Strain and funnel the fermented juice into preferably screw cap dark bottles from wine, vinegar or olive oil, to make it easier—and more fancy—to pour each serving.
- Place the fermented juice in the fridge.
- Enjoy 1/2 cup (125 mL) twice to 3 times per day over about an hour each time to slowly absorb the live and healthful goodness.
- Compost the fermented beets, or some suggest that they too can be enjoyed on their own or in a salad (see Bonus Project in Source #4).
So, what’s so good about fermented foods, and beets in particular?
- Fermented foods are good sources of probiotics (friendly bacteria), which boost the immune system.
- They preserve nutrients and break them down into easily digestible form, making the nutrients in foods more accessible to all cells in the body.
- Probiotics in fermented foods enhance the absorption of minerals, particularly calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium.
Fermented beet juice:
- Fermented beet juice alkalises the blood, which is beneficial for many health issues.
- It cleanses the liver.
- And it detoxifies and protects healthy cells from radiation.
- Beets are high in betacyanin, which can dramatically increase the oxygen-carrying ability of the blood, starve cancerous tumors and hinder cell division.
- They are a great source of healthy nitrates that convert during digestion to nitrites and nitric oxides, which, in turn, widen the arteries, increase the oxygen content of the blood, and reduce blood pressure.
- Beets also help increase one’s energy by helping the energy-producing mitochondria in the cells operate more efficiently and by supplying the body with a healthy energy-dense carbohydrate source.
And thus getting back to my roots, I also plan to enjoy all types of beet dishes, such as beet salads, barszcz (beet broth), beet greens soups, cooked beets, beet dips, and beet juices: fermented and pressed.
Fortunately for my ethnic background, I already love most of these foods!
And if one must, then cheers to “beeting cancer”, one sip and mouthful at a time!
Sources & Resources:
- The Writer’s Parents and their curative Polish cuisine knowledge
- http://sofakingnextlevel.com/2014/01/28/beet-kvass-nbd/ – recipe ideas