(Russian fermented rye beverage)
Kvas (квас) is an ancient and beloved beverage from Slavic Eastern Europe. While it is basically a low-alcohol beer, it is enjoyed as a soft drink, even by small children. Factory-made versions have been available for some time, and many are quite good. But homemade will always be best. Apart from its use as a beverage, kvas is often used as a based for soups and stews, including borshch. Often spelled "kvass."
As with making any fermented food or drink, make sure all your tools and containers are very clean before beginning.
Makes about 2 1/2 quarts
- Good quality dark rye bread, cubed -- 1 pound
- Fresh, clean water -- 3 quarts
- Active dry yeast -- 1 (1/2-ounce) packet, or 2 1/2 teaspoons
- Water, lukewarm (110°F) -- 1/4 cup
- Sugar -- 1 cup
- Raisins -- 2 tablespoons
- Preheat oven to 200°F. Spread the cubes of bread on a baking sheet and place in the oven for about an hour, or until the bread is fairly well dried out.
- Bring the 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Remove from heat and immediately stir in the bread. Cover with a clean towel and let rest in a cool, dark place for 8 to 10 hours.
- After it has rested, carefully pour the liquid from the pot through a fine-meshed sieve or cheesecloth-lined strainer into a large, clean non-reactive bowl. Gently press on the bread to get most of the liquid out, but don't press too hard, or your kvas will turn cloudy. Discard the bread and clean out your pot. Return the strained liquid to the cleaned pot.
- Mix the yeast with the warm water and a pinch of the sugar. Set the yeast mixture aside for 10 minutes to activate until foamy. Stir the yeast mixture into the strained liquid along with the 1 cup of sugar. Continue stirring until the sugar is fully dissolved. Cover the pot with a clean towel and set aside to rest in a cool, dark place for another 8 to 10 hours.
- Strain the liquid again through a fine-meshed sieve or strainer and pour into a clean, 1-gallon glass or plastic jar, pitcher or container. Add the raisins and cover tightly with plastic wrap and a rubber band. Set in a dark, cool place for 4 or 5 days until the yeast sediment has settled to the bottom of the container and a clear liquid remains.
- Carefully pour off the clear liquid into a clean container or individual bottles, taking care not to disturb the yeast sediment. Chill well before serving.
- Add 2 tablespoons of fresh mint leaves along with the yeast and sugar.
- Some recipes substitute berry juice for 2 to 3 cups of the water, giving it a refreshing, fruity flavor. Reduce the sugar to about 3/4 cup if you use berry juice.
- Kvas is often served unfiltered, with the yeast sediment. This gives it a richer flavor and boosts its vitamin content.
- The final fermentation can also take place in stoppered bottles if you like. In step five, pour the strained liquid into individual beer bottles. Add one or two raisins to each bottle and rest for 4 or 5 days. Move to a refrigerator and store chilled until consumed. CAUTION: The bottles have an alarming habit of popping open from pressure during the fermentation. So it's best if you know what you're doing.