Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Fermented Beverages are Added to the Growing List

Lately I am all about fermenting, and finding out more and more, daily. It appears there is almost nothing that cannot be fermented, adding amazing probiotics to the system. A couple of weeks ago, when cutting up a pineapple to use in a fruit salad, I kept aside all the outer peels and the core of the pineapple (without the green top). I saved them in the fridge for a couple of days, until I had time, and then placed these leavings into a large jar. I added in a cinnamon stick and then dissolved 1/2 cup of honey into about 6 1/2 cups of water and poured this over the pineapple leavings. I screwed the cap on, loosely, and set the jar in a dark corner of the kitchen.

When fermenting something sweet like this, it is highly important to stir the mixture very often, (I stirred about 4 times a day), in order to keep any molds from forming (as the fruit floats and is exposed to air). The liquid is very sweet, and the fruit is sweet, so the ferment can go on to creating wine, if left unchecked, but for an amazing lightly effervescent beverage, it is ready in about 2 to 5 days, depending on how warm it is in the house.

Since I cannot get my husband to eat either my wonderful fermented sauerkraut or the fermented picalilli I am loving so much, I figured one sure way to get some probiotics into his diet is with a beverage. When stirring the mixture daily, check it from the time it starts to exhibit myriad tiny bubbles at the edges of the jar. The ferment has begin at this time, and where to stop it will depend on your taste buds. I waited until I could actually feel that tiny bit of effervescence going on - not much, as I didn't want it alcoholic - but just enough to make it interesting. This happened at about 5 days in my kitchen. I strained off the liquid and put it into a container with a pour spout and gave it to my picky man. He loved it! 

For my next magic trick, I decided to use strawberry tops. If you are one of those who still uses a strawberry huller to pull out just the green calyx and core of the strawberry, then this will not suffice. However, if you, like me, just cut right across the top of the berry, to save time, then keep those strawberry tops! My second fermented beverage for my husband was a Strawberry Ginger Spritzer. Pretty much any fruits and peelings can be used this same way, changing out spices or other flavors as desired.

Strawberry Ginger Spritzer

Strawberry Ginger Spritzer

Makes 7 cups
Takes about 2 to 5 days, depending on temperatures

1 pound strawberries: tops cut off (use the berries for something else)
4 or 5 strawberries, sliced
5 slices fresh ginger, with skin on
pinch salt
6 1/2 cups filtered water
1/2 cup sugar or raw honey

Place the strawberry tops, sliced berries and ginger slices into a large glass jar, capable of holding at least 7 - 8 cups liquid. Stir together the water and honey or sugar until dissolved, and pour this over the fruit in the jar. Cover loosely with a lid (gases will build as the mixture ferments), or cover with a cloth, towel or cheesecloth, held on with a rubber band to discourage flies, fruit flies or other insects. Allow this mixture to ferment, stirring well 3 or 4 times a day with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula. 

Keep an eye out for tiny bubbles forming around the top of the liquid. Using a clean spoon, taste once this fermentation begins. If it is not at all fizzy, wait another day or two or until it begins to have a tiny bit of fizz happening on the tongue. Once it is fermented to taste, strain the liquid into a glass or plastic jar and refrigerate. Keep in mind that the fermenting may still continue in the fridge. Keep the lid loose.

Then, as I was reading about Beet Kvass everywhere lately, and I just happened to have 2 1/2 beets in the fridge (having used 2 slices in the making of the Fermented Pink Onions a few days prior), I thought I had best find out what all the to-do was about. Beet Kvass is an Eastern European beverage, obviously made with beets, very popular in Russia and the Ukraine, among other places. It is fermented to taste and then the beverage is either drunk as is, for its tonic qualities (a VERY long list!), or added to soups or stews. The beets, once fermented, may be used for a secondary ferment. After that, they are either discarded, composted, or added to soups or stews. Waste not...

I love beets, when they are cooked. Raw, I have found, I am not fond of them at all, plus they make my throat feel raw and scratchy. So, I avoid raw beets! So with this Beet Kvass, I was very, very leery of how the taste might be, as the beets are not cooked, but only fermented. I needn't have worried. I guess I should know better by now that once a food is fermented the flavor profile is so different it is hard to believe. This tonic has salt added, making it a brined beverage. After tasting it at 3 days, I find I am eager to leave it fermenting for longer, to see where it goes. It can become very sour. When to stop is up to individual taste. It can be fermented for up to a month, if the flavor is acceptable. Sally Fallon, in Nourishing Traditions, says:

“This drink is valuable for its medicinal qualities and as a digestive aid. Beets are just loaded with nutrients. One 4-ounce glass, morning and night, is an excellent blood tonic, cleanses the liver and is a good treatment for kidney stones and other ailments.”
The recipe for Beet Kvass is just about identical wherever you find it, with the main difference falling in the amount of time to ferment. Some people say two days. Sandor Katz talks of up to a month. As I say, taste and see where you prefer the flavor.

The other main controversial topic is to use whey or not to use whey. Whey (obtained from placing plain, unflavored yogurt into a coffee filter lined sieve and drained until reaching the amount needed, usually 1/4 cup) is used as a "starter" much as a sourdough starter gets fermentation rolling in bread. It will jump start the fermentation process and the time it takes will be less, if you are in a hurry. The flip side is that slower fermentation allows the formation of many more strains of lacto-ferments to form, making a more potent and healthful tonic. I chose not to use whey in this ferment. When eliminating the whey, more salt is needed. Salt is used to keep bad bacteria at bay until the ferment begins. Once fermentation begins, then any unwanted bacteria will be killed off in the fermentation process. I basically used the recipe from Wellness Mama,, but here it is, without whey and with more salt.

Beet Kvass

Beet Kvass
Serving size 3 - 4 ounces, twice daily
Makes about 2 quarts

2 - 4 beets, scrubbed well, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
4 1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt or Himalayan Pink Salt
7 cups filtered water

In a jar large enough to hold at least 2 quarts, place the beets and salt. Cover these with the filtered water and stir to dissolve the salt. Cover the jar loosely with a lid, or top with a cloth held in place with a rubber band. Keep out of direct sunlight. Stir daily 1 - 2 times. The beets will float, and molds might form if not moved enough.

Once the flavor is to taste, strain off the liquid, leaving at least 1/4 cup of the already fermented liquid in the container. Add salt and water again for a second batch and stir well. The fermented liquid acts as a starter, already having the strains of good bacteria in it to help things along. Refrigerate the finished Kvass.  

Some additions, if desired: carrots, fresh ginger. 

And lastly, for today, one of the first things that really caught my interest in The Art of Fermentation, by Sandor Ellix Katz, is a beverage, again from Eastern Europe (some places cite Bosnia, others Romania) is a beverage called Smreka. Smreka means juniper, and the beverage is purely juniper berries and water. Period. I love juniper berries, but had not enough of them to make a batch to see how this would be. I got some juniper berries at our local health food store, Natural Abundance (or NatAbu, for short) yesterday while I was out, and first thing, I mixed up a batch of Smreka. It is so easy it is hardly a "recipe", but here it is, nonetheless:


Makes 1/2 gallon

1 cup juniper berries
1/2 gallon filtered water

Stir together the two ingredients in a large jar (double amounts if desired). Cover with a lid or a towel and secure with a rubber band. Stir daily. The beverage is done once all the juniper berries have fallen to the bottom of the jar. 

You can see in the photo here that a few have already started falling to the bottom, just since yesterday. 

The beverage is generally served sweetened, to taste, but is also delicious as is.  

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.