Apple, Raspberry and Ginger Kvass
I admit. Even for the most committed health nut out there, drinking water gets old. And I dunno ‘bout you, but I usually crave a little fizziness in my beverage. There just is a ‘je ne sais quoi’ that even the best tasting water can’t deliver.
But, as we know, sodas are not the solution. Looking for the childhood enjoyment I remember, I have occasionally tried one of those fancy sodas sweetened with cane sugar. Always in vein; I just can’t stomach that much sugar at one time, even when I really want to.
And whereas there are new, creative choices in the market — kombucha, coconut water, various probiotic beverages — they are not always available — lemme just say that you won’t find kombucha even in the fanciest market in Colombia — and they are also NOT cheap — you’ll have to drop an average of $3.50?! for a 16 oz bottle of one of these “healthy” beverages in Whole Foods.
Meanwhile there is a whole universe of truly healthy beverages awaiting in your kitchen, if only you’re willing to wear your experimenting apron for a little bit.
I’m talking about lacto-fermented, AKA cultured, beverages.
My interest in lacto-fermentation has only grown over the years, along my love for digestive healing. Lacto-fermentation enhances the nutrient availability of foods and produces friendly bacteria that we all need more of.
I just love nursing jars containing all different mixes of veggies and tasting them every day, until they reach my desired sourness. I must confess though, that now that I’m single, I just don’t get to make them as much as I used to.
But the beverages? That’s another story. I find certain advantages to them over the kraut.
- They are easier to make. They require less preparation than the veggies, as you’ll see below.
- They are easier to consume than lacto-fermented veggies. Even though no one said you MUST eat it with your meal, not a lot of people would go for a bite of kimchee by itself. But a beverage is welcomed almost any time of the day, along with a meal, or on its own.
- They can really fulfill your crave for a tasty, refreshing drink. You’re gonna have to try to see what I mean…
Peaked your interest? Good! Here are directions for three different ones for you to try:
1. Fermented cabbage juice.
Fermented cabbage juice — FCJ, for short — is no more than the little juice you get when you ferment sauerkraut, but the juice itself is such an incredible health tonic that it deserves to be fermented on its own. Besides, this way you can get the goodness even if you don’t like sauerkraut.
Over time I’ve learn to LOVE the flavor of FCJ. Its intense bite shakes up my body and wakes me up! — not to mention it’ll melt away the toughest sugar craving I might get. Of all the lacto-fermented foods I’ve had, FCJ is now my favorite both for its flavor and its benefits.
To make FCJ, you’ll need… well, cabbage juice. If you don’t have a juicer, you can try blending the cabbage with just enough water to get the blender moving and straining the juice. I’ve never done that with cabbage specifically but I’ve done it with other foods, always with OK results.
From one cabbage you’ll get anywhere between one and three cups of juice, depending on the size and freshness of the cabbage and the quality of your juicer.
Pour your juice in a glass jar, leaving at least 1-inch of space from the top to avoid spills, and cover with lid. The juice will ferment on its own if you leave it in a warm place for a minimum of 3 days; it is not a bad idea, however, to use a starter, especially until you get familiar with the appearance and taste. The first starter I tried was — as it seems fit — sauerkraut juice, and I’ve also used whey with satisfactory results. You could also try a commercial veggie culture starter like this one. Keep in mind that a starter will accelerate the fermentation process. Just taste your juice every day until it reaches your desired flavor. Then refrigerate.
When there is about 1/4 of liquid left over, replenish with more cabbage juice and let the fermentation cycle run again. This is fun!
*Warning: Introduce FCJ s.l.o.w.l.y — as you should do with any probiotic food — incrementing by half tablespoons every few days, until you reach about 1/2 cup a day — that’s a therapeutic dose. You can dilute it with equal parts of water if the flavor is too strong for you. I also use FCJ in place of vinegar in my salads and as a condiment in my soups — warm soup, that is. Remember that ferments are very sensitive to heat.
**Another warning; FCJ might not be the best for people with low thyroid function. No one knows for sure what happens to goitrogens in the fermentation process.
**A nice tip: If you use a juicer, don’t throw away the leftover pulp. It makes the best dehydrated chips! I mix the pulp with curry powder and salt to taste, spread it thin over parchment paper on a baking sheet, cut it as if making crackers and leave it in the oven at the lowest possible temperature for 4 to 6 hours.
2. Fruit kvass
You might be familiar with beet kvass and/or original kvass — which is made from grains — but I personally never cared for any of them. Yeah, I know that beet kvass just like FCJ, has crazy healing properties — including being a powerful liver detoxifier — but it just doesn’t do it for me, you know?
But fruit kvass? Well, that’s a different story. The first time I tried the apple,raspberry and ginger kvass recipe on the GAPS book, I was like, wherehaveyabeenallmylife, oh wonderful libation! It’s good stuff!
If you don’t have the book, I’ll give you my short version.
Get a nice wide mouth liter/quart bottle. Take an apple, quarter it and toss it in the jar, along with a handful of raspberries and a tablespoon of shredded ginger. Add 1/2 cup of whey and fill the jar *almost* all the way up with *filtered* water. Cover with lid, leave in a warm spot for a few days — you getting the hang of this? — and when done, transfer to the fridge. Strain to serve, placing the fruit back in the jar. You can refill the water and let the fermentation process run a few times until the fruit gets spent.
You can also try pear, strawberries and mint. Or peaches, cherries and chamomile. Many fruits would work here! Hmmm… probably not banana… As for the benefits? Well… probiotic, probiotic, probiotic! And deliciousness.
3. Fermented grape juice.
One day I got thinking… hmmm… I wonder if I can lacto-ferment grape juice before it starts to become wine. So I tried. And ended up with a nice, fizzy juice just lightly sweetened with no palatable alcohol. A successful experiment, I’d say.
Get some nice organic and seedless grapes — unless you don’t mind pitting them or if you plan to juice them, as opposed to blending them. Throw 3 hearty handfuls of these in your blender and enough water to run it. Fill your handy liter/quart jar with this grape smoothie and add filtered water to fill the jar if needed.
For this, you definitely need a starter or else the juice will probably start to turn into alcohol before the lacto-fermenting bacteria have a chance to do their thing due to the high content of sugar. In this occasion, I used the contents of two Jarrow probiotic capsules as I wanted to make sure I’d introduce enough bacteria. I use probiotic capsules in fermentation frequently. It’s one not-very-scientific way to test probiotic supplements, but hey, makes sense to me.
If you don’t have a probiotic supplement handy — or if you don’t want to risk it — you can try using a considerable amount of whey — 1 cup per litter, I’d say — and perhaps a little salt just to keep those yeasts under control during fermentation.
Just as with the other beverages, leave in a warm spot for a few days and transfer to the fridge when the sourness is to your liking. Keep in mind that the more active the fermentation process, the more production of gas. You might want to loosen up the lid very slowly! Strain to serve.
There you have it. Three ideas you can copy or modify to come up with your own fermented beverages. Fermentation is definitely an art. It’s never a fixed process and it requires an experimental spirit. But it can be really enjoyable and the health benefits totally pay off.
If you, like me, have gotten a little lazy about fermenting veggies — or you have never tried making any ferments — give fermented beverages a shot. They’re super easy to make, healthy, and delicious!