beet kvass looking lovely among the verdant homestead

The Mason Jar Chronicles – Fermentation Fails: Beet Kvass

I’d love to show y’all some images of a triumphant fermentation project, but, alas, the majority of my projects lately have been failing.

What projects you ask? Well let me fill you in on one project in particular…

Beet kvass.

A week or so ago a made my first gallon batch of beet kvass (I like to say beet kvass with my best Sean Connery James Bond impersonation). Beet Kvass, Moneypenny. See? Much better.

This was a promising ferment – it was stored in a glass gallon jar with an airlock, made with the proper amount of salt per gallon of water and beautiful beets plucked straight from our garden. I mean, beets from our garden, how #winning is that?!

Everything was going (looked/smelled) fine until about day 8 (which was baffling since kvass should be able to go for a month or so). On day 7 there were bubbles and it looked gorgeous – by day 8 it had brown foam floating on top and smelled like some sort of biological armpit of death. If I had to be more specific (I’m sure you’d like me to be), it smelled like fake butter mixed with stomach acid. I still made my husband taste it “just in case” and even with his high tolerance for funk, it still received a big ol’ thumbs down. He’s still alive, by the way.

Man.  I was looking forward to this one! Meh.

<no images of failed kvass – I know, bummer.>

Time to dispose of it. Conveniently, just steps outside of our back door are brambles upon brambles, the perfect place to chuck you’re stray banana peel or even dead beet kvass, right?


Turns out that anywhere near your backdoor is a terrible place to chuck your failed fetid ferments – even if it is obscured by blackberries bushes and slowly decomposing. Why? Well, with recent temperatures around 90 degrees, smell travels. Smell travels, folks.

What did I learn from this failure?

Trust your gut, and your nose, too.  Pull your ferment when it feels/smells/tastes right to pull it. I should have bottled the kvass when it was abundantly bubbly. Also, I learned that our tap water (from a well), though not chlorinated or any other such nonsense, does have a very high pH (alkaline) – which makes the ferments struggle to become acidic (low pH).  Ferments thrive in acidic environments and my naturally alkaline water does not help this and obviously has a negative effect on fermentation endeavors. So… when high pH is an issue use a starter of some sort. Be it store bought (Caldwells, etc) or a splash of sauerkraut juice from your last sauerkraut ferment. Also, you could add extra salt (the longer the ferment the less salty). I added sauerkraut juice and a little extra salt on my second batch of beet kvass and that was the ticket!

beet kvass
Look at that pretty red drink!

My second batch of beet kvass was considerably better. And by better I mean you can safely consume it and it’s actually rather enjoyable. ::golf clap::

pitcher and glass of beet kvass
The trick is finding *just the right* VSCO filter for the kvass. Ha!

What did I do different?

OK, this time ’round I peeled the beets instead of my usual intense scrub.  I also added more salt (Celtic Sea Salt), and a splash (probably 1/4- 1/3 cup of sauerkraut juice from my last sauerkraut ferment. I eyed this batch like a hawk – and pulled it after 5 days. Granted it’s not über carbonated, but hey, that’s what the Soda Stream is for, right? I’m starting to think I should title these ferment series Tales From a Neurotic Fermenter? It sure would be accurate. Nevertheless, I have almost a gallon of tasty beet kvass hanging out in my fridge dripping staintastic beet juice. I prefer to drink mine in the evenings like a fancy digestif (special glass and all) – you know, Lord Grantham style à la Downton Abbey, clad in my smoking jacket, beside a roaring fire, with my trusty dog by my side.

beet kvass
That special imbalance brought to you by a hella old and tilty bench – but oh so photogenic – and it’s raining out!

What should you glean from my failure and success?

It takes time to find your footing with fermentation. Don’t get your hopes up too high, BUT, don’t expect failure (ain’t nobody got time for bad vibes). Treat each project with an ounce of passion and an ounce of science. Fermentation is science, but it’s also working with your hands and it’s kitchen creation – and to me there’s romance and passion in that. Fermentation teaches us the infinite wisdom of balance.  So don’t be discouraged if you too get a big ol’ batch of armpit stink beet juice – but DO heed my wisdom and don’t dispose of it someplace a gentle breeze can push it towards your house or anywhere near your general nose area.

beet kvass and tattooed arm
Cheers to you, random bushy shrub tree!


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