Category Archives: fermenting vegetables

Beets: try them, you’ll like them!

Beets — four+ ways to use them.

Having been raised in a somewhat ethnic family (the “old country,” in this case, being Russia/Poland), I tend to be more open to trying– and usually liking–foods that most Americans would not even consider touching. Heart, liver, kidneys, trotters, blood puddings: my relatives had a real “waste no part of the animal mentality.” Nose to tail consumption. As I’ve always been slender and healthy, I figure I must be doing something right. I’ve also never met a vegetable I didn’t like. I’ll never starve to death, that’s for sure!

beets for kvass

All you need are beets, salt and clean H2O to make Kvas.

One vegetable that I enjoy, yet a lot of people will turn their noses up to, is the humble beet. Beets are typically a deep, rich ruby red in color, although you can also find orange and two-tone ones (alternating layers of red and white). Vegetables that have deep colors tend to be supersaturated with nutrients, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins.

I grow beets in the garden and have come to love the beet greens (tops) as well. Some people say that beets taste like dirt (maybe that’s why I like them, lol), but the tops, when sautéed, taste similar to spinach. Harvesting just a few leaves at a time from several plants throughout the summer and early fall will cause replacement leaves grow, thereby creating a sustainable situation. The leaves can also be added to salads, raw and chopped, therefore retaining their nutritional value.

beet kvas

Kvas: day 1 and ready to ferment.

Some of my favorite ways to use the beet roots is pickling (these can also be canned), roasted and cut into pieces for salads, grated raw into salads, fermented pickling, beet kvas and a cold or hot soup called borscht. Beets also have a natural earthy sweetness to them that pairs beautifully with salty/sour pickling and fermentation.

Pickled Beets
This makes a great cold side dish, especially with summer barbecues or added to a chopped salad. Food Network has a nice Alton Brown pickled beet recipe that calls for roasting the beets first, and then letting them soak in a seasoned brine mixture for up to 7 days before serving. I’ve tried this one and it’s a winner!

beet kvas

Ten days later…

Old Fashioned Fermented Pickled Beets
I’ve tried the recipe in Nourishing Traditions, which calls for whey and it’s just “okay.” I prefer not using whey for fermentation, the results just don’t taste the same as natural fermentation. Here’s a good fermented beets recipe that calls for simply beets, salt and water. Personally, I would also add onions. And fermentation = probiotics!

Borscht
I’ve never actually made this soup, but I have had it a few times in both Russian and Jewish restaurants. In those instances the cold soup was puréed, served with a dollop of sour cream, and I couldn’t identify what was in it other than beets. Served in this way, the soup makes a nice appetizer (as opposed to a meal, which calls for a heartier recipe).

My search on the internet brought up a variety of recipes that include all sorts of ingredients, some with meat, some without. This Borscht recipe from Cooks.com has the best rating and comments from cooks. I am tempted to take the advice in one comment about using tomato paste, fried in butter, rather than canned tomatoes. Note: Try not to use canned anything, unless you have no other option! Fresh is best!

beet kvas

After 10+ days the Kvas is ready to drink. Yum!

Beet Kvas
This is a fermented, naturally carbonated beverage made from only three ingredients: beets, filtered water and salt. The first time I made and tasted this I just knew it was a tonic for the blood. There’s something about the combination of salty-sour-carbonation that I crave at times. And Kvas practically makes itself.

Update: A week in the fridge and the little kvas I have left has turned a brownish red. But it still smells and tastes good, so keep that in mind.

Beet Kvas - no whey!
Print Recipe
A carbonated salty-sour-yet-sweet beverage that can be considered a tonic, or cleansing... or just plain delicious! This will ferment just fine without the whey called for in other recipes.
Servings Prep Time
1.25 quarts (roughly) 20 minutes
Passive Time
1-1/2 weeks or so
Servings Prep Time
1.25 quarts (roughly) 20 minutes
Passive Time
1-1/2 weeks or so
Beet Kvas - no whey!
Print Recipe
A carbonated salty-sour-yet-sweet beverage that can be considered a tonic, or cleansing... or just plain delicious! This will ferment just fine without the whey called for in other recipes.
Servings Prep Time
1.25 quarts (roughly) 20 minutes
Passive Time
1-1/2 weeks or so
Servings Prep Time
1.25 quarts (roughly) 20 minutes
Passive Time
1-1/2 weeks or so
Ingredients
  • 3-4 beets a generous medium size
  • 1-1/2 quarts water filtered
  • 1 TB sea salt (or a little more if you like)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic Optional
Servings: quarts (roughly)
Instructions
  1. Wash beet roots to remove any dirt but don't overdo it, you don't want to remove all the good (lactobacillus) bacteria.
  2. Chop into, roughly, 1" chunks.
  3. Add beets to a half gallon jar.
  4. Add 1 TB sea salt.
  5. Add filtered water to within 1/2" below lip.
  6. Cover with lid and write the date on the jar with a Sharpie.
  7. Allow to ferment, out of direct sunlight, for 1-1/2 weeks or more.
  8. When done, this can be strained, or just serve right out of the jar, chunks and all. Enjoy!
Recipe Notes

Don't drink this if it smells or looks bad or has mold growing in or on it. Natural fermentation can sometimes go wrong, so be smart! My beets sometimes turn almost black, but there is nothing wrong with them and the kvas smells sweet and earthy. Delicious!

The Kvas could become syrupy towards the bottom of the jar. Just mix it back in before consuming.

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How to Make Sauerkraut in a Few Simple Steps

You’ll need a bowl, knife, cutting board, cabbage and sea salt, container for fermentation

I’ve been making sauerkraut for several years now. I remember the first couple of times being really nervous about fermenting anything—I didn’t trust the process. It just didn’t sound safe. After reading about the nutritional benefits of raw sauerkraut in Autoimmune Disease: The Cause and The Cure, I found that buying raw kraut in the store was about $8 a pint. I could make almost two quarts for approximately $5! So, I decided to give it a try. I’m sure glad I did! It is very easy to make, and is just about fool proof thanks to mother nature. Homemade kraut tastes so much better than anything you could buy in the store and is loaded with probiotics and enzymes that aid digestion. Here’s a very basic kraut recipe and procedures. The procedure is pretty much the same whether you’re making kraut, kimchee or fermented veggies, including pickles. I’ve bolded the basics in each step. Recipes for flavored sauerkrauts and other fermented veggies can be found on my Kraut Recipes page.

Note: The secret to fermenting success is to keep the veggies submerged in liquid. This will prevent failures and moldy, slimy kraut. Details are here on the Wild Fermentation web site and I recommend you read it. It will save you from ruining a batch and will give you peace of mind.

I like a variety of sizes in my chopped cabbage. The bigger pieces stay crunchier.

Ingredients
1 medium cabbage (about 4 lbs)
2 TB finely ground sea salt (I prefer the pink Himalayan)

1. Remove the outer tattered leaves and set aside for later use. Quarter and core the cabbage and then cut it into shreds and place in your bowl. Save the core for later as well. It’s your choice on the size of shreds — I like a variety as the bigger pieces will stay crunchier.

Crush by hand or use a pounder or wooden spoon.

2. Toss the salt over the cabbage in the bowl and set it aside for an hour or so. The salt will break down the cells in the cabbage, causing them to release their juices. If after an hour the cabbage is still pretty hard (some cabbage is drier than others), you can crush it using your bare hands. Don’t overdo it! The cabbage will soften during the fermentation phase.

 

Softened cabbage with juices.

In this photo you will be able to see the juice in the bottom of the bowl. It looks good at this point, so I’m ready to put my cabbage in a fermenting container.

Containers: Rule #1 is don’t use anything metal—the acid created during fermentation will corrode metal. Yucky. You can use an old fashioned crock, a glass bowl or—my favorite—a half gallon canning jar. I have had the most success using the canning jar with an airlock lid. There is less surface to worry about and the airlock keeps out dust, bugs and air while allowing the gases created during fermentation to escape. The water in the airlock not only makes a seal, but also filters out some of the odors that may be associated with fermentation.

3. Spoon the cabbage into a clean container. Here I’m using just a basic Ball jar funnel to make things a little less messy. Once it’s full, press the cabbage down in the container using something firm: your pounder, a wooden spoon, etc. The cabbage should be packed in tightly, with extra juice at the top. If there isn’t a lot of juice, you can make some extra brine by mixing 1 tsp of salt with 1 cup of filtered water.

Pressing down leaves and core to submerge the cabbage.

4. Pack the saved leaves and core on top of the cabbage and press down. This will keep the shredded cabbage under the juice. This is very important! Details are here on the Wild Fermentation web site.

5. Add a cover to the container. If you’re using an airlock lid, assemble according to instructions. If you don’t have one, you’ll need to put something heavy on top of the leaves. You could use a small canning jar filled with water (no metal cans!), a smaller bowl with water, or if using a crock you can put a small plate on top of the leaves with something heavy on top. Some people even have a rock for this purpose. Then cover securely with a cloth, towel, paper towel, coffee filter or even a shower cap. DO NOT seal the container. Gases are released during fermentation and you could explode a sealed jar. I put a larger bowl, plate or Pyrex casserole under my container to catch any fermentation overflow.

Ready to ferment!

Ready to ferment!

6. Place your container in a cool, darkened area. I write the date in Sharpie on mine. I check it every 3 days or so to make sure it’s fermenting (bubbling) and looking good (good color, no mold or slime). If using the airlock, some of the juice may escape into it. No worries. You can open the jar after a week to smell and taste your kraut. Don’t taste it if the smell is off or it looks yucky. This will not happen if you’ve kept the kraut under the brine. Continue to ferment if you prefer a more sour flavor.

7. Once the flavor suits your taste, you can place the kraut in the fridge. I prefer to split mine into pint jars for easier serving. It will keep for months in the fridge. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me.

Recipes for various flavored krauts can be found on the Kraut Recipes page.