There are a lot of fermented beverages in the world.
Alcohol fermented beverages are very visible: some examples are wine, beer, hard cider, and mead. Historically, these beverages have served many roles. Alcohol has psychoactive properties, so since the beginning, these drinks have had roles in religious and spiritual ceremonies and practices. And alcohol is anti-microbial, so these drinks remain safe to drink even in places where drinking water is not. In the past, these drinks were common everyday beverages. Many of them had lower alcohol content than today's versions.
Because of the popularity of alcohol fermented beverages, it is easy to overlook the importance of sour fermented beverages. Sour dairy drinks like buttermilk, whey, kefir, and yogurt and yogurt-based drinks have been important dietarily and culturally for a long time. Kombucha has recently become a huge industry in United States. Other drinking vinegars and shrubs have recently become trendy in the realm of craft cocktails. And it is easy to forget that root BEER and ginger ALE were originally fermented beverages, too, before they became flavors of soda.
In my opinion, a great starting point for home beverage fermenting is beet kvass. It is very easy to make, it is tasty (at least I like it!), and it has great health benefits.
Here is my recipe for beet kvass.
(makes 2 quarts / 2 liters)
2 or 3 medium-sized red beets, rough cut into 1/2-inch (1cm-2cm) cubes or equivalent. (If they're organic, no need to peel them.)
1Tbsp (15g) high-quality salt (sea salt or Himalayan salt is best; kosher salt is okay too)
filtered water (no chlorine)
(optional) a few slices of ginger
a 2-quart (2L) mason jar
Add beets to the jar to fill it to about 1/3 full.
Add water to fill the jar to 1/2 full.
Add salt (and ginger if you are using it).
Put the lid on the jar tightly, and shake the jar until the salt is dissolved.
Open the jar, and add more water until the jar is nearly full, leaving 1 inch (2.5cm) of space at the top.
Close the jar, and let it sit for 4 days to a month or longer.
Every day for the first several days, feel the top of the lid, and if it is firm, "burp" the jar (unscrew the lid just enough to let some air escape, then tighten it again).
You may start drinking the kvass any time you like, but it's best after at least 4 days, or longer if you are in a cooler environment.
Once you have started drinking it, it is best to keep the remaining kvass in the refrigerator--otherwise the exposure to air can encourage yeast to form on the surface, and your kvass can become slimy.
The beet pieces may be eaten along with the drink, or they may be used in a salad, juiced, or whatever.
You can experiment with shapes besides cubes if you like, but if you cut them too small, the kvass may become slimy.
Beet kvass may be consumed on its own, as a daily health drink. But it can also be used in soups, like borscht or gazpacho, or in sauces (keeping in mind that its health benefits are diminished if it's heated). It can even be used in mixed drinks like Bloody Marys and micheladas!
salt (1/3 ounce or 2 tsp. per pound of cabbage; or 20g per kg of cabbage)
large, sharp chef's knife
large cutting board
large mixing bowl
mason jars, preferably wide-mouthed (a bit more than 16 oz. capacity per pound of cabbage)
a digital kitchen scale (available from your favorite brick-and-mortar store, or online)
(optional) a thin, narrow-mouthed mason jar to stuff with
chop cabbage, finely or coarsely
put cabbage and salt in mixing bowl
squeeze cabbage and salt vigorously with hands until liquid runs freely (this may take a few minutes)
put cabbage and liquid in mason jars, leaving an inch or two of "headroom", and close lids
leave to sit, not in sunlight, but somewhere you won't forget about it (kitchen counter?)
"burp" the jars every day for the first few days (if you don't do this, they may spill over and/or break the top!)
it's ready after 4 days or 4 months or somewhere in between, depending on how you like it
on its own
on a sandwich
as a side dish with grilled meat
Follow recipe for Basic Sauerkraut, but use a mixture of vegetables instead of just cabbage, slice or cut into shapes and sizes as you like, and/or add herbs and/or spices to taste. Caraway seeds are a classic seasoning; 1 tsp per pound of cabbage is a ballpark amount, although different caraway seeds have different potencies. Things like garlic, ginger, turmeric, horseradish, burdock, etc. can provide nice flavor and health benefits.
Ingredients and Equipment
a handful of beets (red or golden, number needed may vary with size)
1 Tbsp salt
large, sharp chef's knife
large cutting board
half-gallon mason jar
(optional) vegetable peeler
fill jar halfway with water
put lid on jar and shake until salt is dissolved
if the beets are not organic, peel them
cut beets into 1/2-inch cubes
put beets in mason jar, to fill about 1/4 or 1/3 of jar
fill jar nearly to top with water, leaving an inch or two, and close lid
beet greens, if there were any, can be fermented as "Mixed/Fancy Kraut" recipe above
wait a 4 days to 4 weeks, tasting the liquid periodically
once you like it, strain out the beets and store them separately
the liquid is "beet kvass"
the fermented beets may be slice and used in a salad, or juiced, or whatever
Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, by Weston A. Price: Rather that theorizing abstractly about human nutrition, the author sought out isolated groups of healthy people around the world (this was in the 1930s, when there were still isolated groups of people), and documented their foodways. Price's book is jaw-dropping (literally). He describes group after group of people who are healthy in isolation, and become sick, miserable, and toothless when they adopt a "modern" diet. Aren't you curious what they were eating when they were healthy? Full write-up coming soon.
Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art, by Shizuo Tsuji and Yoshiki Tsuji: A masterwork on the subject of Japanese cuisine, and by extension, Japanese culture.
Winning Bicycle Racing, by Jack Simes: A short, fascinating book on the subject of bicycling, published in 1976, when the majority of men still wore moustaches. And as with any bicycling publication, there are some great facial expressions.
The Secret History of the World: As Laid Down by the Secret Societies, by Mark Booth: A truly fascinating, meticulously documented look at the evolution of human consciousness and religion. What are some of the connections among different religions' creation myths and pantheons? Why are there astrological and other "pagan" symbols in Christian rites? Did you know that "elohim", the Hebrew word in Genesis typically translated as "God", is actually a plural noun? And so on. N.B.: the book describes an almost exclusively male experience. I think Booth could have done more in the front material to explain this, or at least to notify the reader of the orientation.
The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy, by Sasha Issenberg: The history of sushi and the sushi supply chain, detailing the journey that your fish takes from the cold ocean to your neighborhood sushi bar, often by way of Tokyo. Sasha Issenberg focuses on the lives of the people involved in the sushi trade. Fascinating and well-written.
The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice, by Trevor Corson: The story of some students at a sushi academy—and more generally, the story of sushi itself. A wonderful book, entertaining, thorougly and carefully researched, and instructive. It makes me want to eat sushi. Or write about it. Similar, but only a bit, to The Making of a Chef, by Michael Ruhlman.
Any statements or claims about the possible health benefits conferred by any foods or supplements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV.
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