Thursday, 4 August 2016


Starting out: fruit, water, honey
The gut biome and its importance for our wellbeing are only dimly understood, but a recent investigation into the intestines of huntsmen from east Africa has made researchers understand a bit more about digestive health. Compared to the average westerner, the east African hunters have a richer and more varied population of gut flora and fauna - known as 'healthy bacteria' - and have little incidence of conditions common in the West, such as IBS or ME. Health professionals are now thinking that the nature of our individual gut biome fundamentally affects our health. So how can average Westerners, brought up on a diet of processed food, enhance the health of their gut? The answer may lie in fermented food: rich in lactobacilli.
Kvass is an ancient Slavic-Baltic drink made from fermented sourdough bread which morphed into beet-kvass in Russia and the Ukraine, a dense and strong-flavoured traditional drink that remains very popular across Eastern Europe.
However, a lightly effervescent, summery, fruit kvass is quick and easy to make, just using ripe fruit, water and honey. Highly flexible, it can use any fruit you have to hand, even frozen or dried. Like all lacto-fermented products, kvass is as good for you as it tastes. The alcohol content is negligible, but add gin or vodka to make a cocktail if you want to go that way (try it with this and a bit of soda).
What goes into a fruit kvass? Strawberries, raspberries and peaches are all good, either on their own or mixed; so too are mangoes, pears, blueberries. Throw in some grated ginger, a curl or two of lemon peel, or some star anise. With autumn not too far away, blackberry and apple is looking good. 

After 12 hours, the bubbles are beginning to rise

- roughly chop 2 peaches and 6 strawberries (or equivalent);
- place in a 2 litre container;
- add a spoonful of unpasteurised honey; 
- top up with natural spring water and cover. 
You can add a kick-starter of a tablespoon of whey (the colourless liquid strained from live yoghurt), a splash of your previous kvass brew, or even a piece of sourdough bread. However, it works very well with just the honey.
Leave the jar in a shady, warm place, stirring every six hours.
Depending on the temperature, it will begin to bubble after twelve hours, and usually takes 2 to 3 days fermentation to be ready. The longer you leave it, the more sour the flavour becomes, so keep tasting. When ready, decant into clean bottles and store in the fridge, where it will last for several days. Serve chilled.
Sometimes a white scum can form on the surface during the ferment (this means it hasn't been stirred frequently enough - the lacto-bacilli in the liquid will kill off any "bad" bugs so stirring keeps the fruit submerged). As long as the batch still smells good and fruity, the scum can be scraped off and the mixture stirred thoroughly.  A bad smell usually means it has gone off: abandon and start again.
After a couple of days, the fruit looks "cooked"
Once the kvass has been decanted, the remaining fruit looks "cooked"; however, it can be used for a second brew, which will be a bit weaker in flavour: just add honey and top up with water. After a second ferment, the fruit becomes pulpy and is ready for recycling (or put in the garden compost), or pureed and added to muesli, yoghurt and honey for breakfast.
Although it sounds like a summery drink, kvass can be made throughout the year, though fermentation slows a little in the winter.

1 comment:

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