Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Beet Kvass: pickled beets through lacto-fermentation

Do you remember pickled beets? My mother made them and I loved them as a child growing up. I remember my fingers turning red and soaking them in lemon juice to get the stain out. My mother made them with vinegar and sugar. I long ago gave up those two ingredients and so have not enjoyed pickled beets for years, until now. Thanks to lacto-fermentation, I have pickled beets again but without the sugar and vinegar.
This process is so simple that anyone can do it. I get the recipe from Sally Fallon in her book, "Nourishing Traditions". As she puts it, pickled beets have been around for centuries using natural pickling or lacto-fermentation. The beets are eaten as pickles and the juice was consumed as a liver tonic. The deep red color just tells you it was meant for cleansing the liver.

You will need:

about 2 lbs of beets, perhaps from your own garden.

2 clean quart jars with lids

1 TBS Real salt or other natural, high mineral salt per quart jar

2-4 TBS of yogurt whey with living lacto-bacillus microbes per quart

The process is simple enough either peel and chop up the beets raw or cooked. I've done it both ways, and found that the raw beets are hard to chew even with a couple months of fermenting. So, the batches I have done lately, I use cooked beets. Cook in enough pure water that can cover the whole beets. Cook until tender. The juice is reserved and peeling and chopping are made easier.

Filling the quart jars is up to you. If you want a lot of the juice (tonic) then use 2 jars and fill loosely. If you want more solids, then pack tightly. Measure the salt and sprinkle on the beets then fill with juice and then the bacteria rich whey. (See previous blog "Sauerkraut". I use the whey gathered from Goat milk yogurt but plain cow yogurt will work also.) The liquid should fill jar to within and inch of the top. If there isn't enough beet juice, use some pure water.

Beets are sweet and the bacteria love consuming the beet sugar. The salt is a preserver and a deterrent for the bacteria to not produce too much alcohol.

Gently stir the contents of the jars to distribute the salt and whey. Clean the rims of the bottles and apply the lids tightly. Jars are left out at room temperature for 3 days and then put in cold storage. If lids are too loose, during fermentation, the juice will escape and make a red mess on counter or in fridge.

Give the microbes at least 3 weeks before opening but you can wait up to 3 months. Once opened, eat within a few weeks. Drink the juice as a liver tonic. Yes, it is salty, but this salt with it's high mineral content is good for you. You can also water down the tonic which is what I do. I find the fermented beet juice is a good laxative.

Don't forget to date the jars, very important so you will know when to open.

I made this salad one day for lunch with lots of greens, some strips of fried egg and lastly, I sprinkled some of my last batch of fermented beets. It was just too pretty and colorful not to take a picture!

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