Last week, we talked beet kvass and explosions. And while I love a good explosion (like, in a movie, not in my kitchen) the most traditional kvass is actually made from bread. Bread kvass has a fascinating and rich history and is a culturally iconic food in Russia. Do you make your own sourdough? If not, this might be a good time to start, because baking your own bread and making your own sourdough starter will give you an extremely cheap (and toothsome) kvass. At if, for instance, you’re of my husband, Jake’s, ilk, it is important to keep the price low. I swear, he wants me making bread kvass all the time, and I don’t blame him. Its unique taste can definitely be addictive, and although it’s one I waited a long time to make, it’s really simple! I made my first bread kvass earlier in the year, after I appeared on the FermUp! podcast. Brendan of FermUp! mentioned that he liked it and it wasn’t as tricky to make as I had feared. In fact, it’s so simple that it’s become one of my favorites.
One thing I really love about kvass is that it’s a really quick ferment (relatively speaking). I can start the process on Friday night and have kvass by Saturday night. A refreshing change for me, since I usually have to stand around drooling for days, weeks or months while my ferments are getting themselves in shape. It is also–surprise surprise–versatile as hell. You can really use any kind of bread, seasoning or starter and end up with an interesting result.
I recently gave a talk at my favorite homebrew outlet and I brought the most traditional form of bread kvass I know. It is full of unexpected flavor combinations and reminiscent of a not-very-acidic rye beer. Ever since I was a kid, going with my dad to Star Bakery to pick up my maternal grandmother’s favorite loaves (my sister and I were always given complimentary butter cookies with sprinkles on top, so you can bet we volunteered to go on the 25-minute drive), I’ve adored rye bread. My absolute favorite was the onion rye (which I have still not been able to replicate in my own oven, sadly), but really anything loaded with caraway seeds sets my mouth to watering. Rye is the version I make most often, but since I’m in a decadent drinks mood lately, I’m sharing a fun version instead. You can make this with any kind of bread and seasonings, so let your imagination wander. I recommend using homemade bread and sourdough starter, since this could otherwise be a pricey beverage.
Fizziness is optional and, according to Sandor Ellix Katz in The Art of Fermentation, not traditional, so it’s your choice whether to put your kvass into a sealing vessel to ferment or not. I usually like mine a tiny bit fizzy, but I skip it if I’m short on sealing containers. Still tastes pretty tasty.
CINNAMON RAISIN BREAD KVASS
Inspired by Sandor Katz’ Bread Kvass in The Art of Fermentation
Yield will differ depending on the size of your loaf. A half gallon is a good guess, though. If your yield is lower, adjust post-soaking ingredients accordingly.
Stale bread works great here. One more way fermentation can help prevent food waste!
- Cheesecloth and/or a fine mesh strainer
- Large pot or vessel
- 1/2 gallon or 2 quart jars or fliptop bottles, or 1.5 or two liter plastic, sealing drinking containers (such as a soda 2-liter), well cleaned
- 1 loaf cinnamon raisin bread, sliced
- 8-10 cups of filtered water
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 1 vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise from end to end (optional)
- 2 T fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 2 T sourdough starter (or 1/4 t bread yeast or 1/4 cup active ginger bug)
- Toast your bread slices, until dried out, but not burnt
- While they’re toasting, bring 10 cups of water to a boil
- When toast is done, place cinnamon sticks and vanilla bean in a large pot and pour the hot water over them until just covered (you may not use all of your water). The bread will rise, so use a wooden spoon to keep it pressed down while you pour, so you know when you have enough water in your vessel.
- Once the bread is submerged, put a plate on top of it to keep it under the water, and cover the whole thing as securely as possible with a cloth.
- Let it sit overnight (I sometimes do this process in the morning, and then complete the next steps after work. 8-10 hours of soaking is sufficient).
- Line a colander with cheesecloth or get your fine mesh strainer.
- Working in batches, pour the liqud through the cheesecloth/strainer and then squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the bread. Be very gentle. You don’t want bread particles going through into your strained liquid, but you want to harvest as much liquid as possible.
- If you want to squeeze and be done, that’s fine. You can get another cup or so out of your loaf by putting cheesecolth into your salad spinner, placing your already mushed and strained bread in the cheesecloth and spinning it like crazy. I do about 3 rounds of this then I compost the wet bread.
- Measure remaining liquid. I generally get back about 75%-80% of what I put in. 7.5-8 cups of liquid will use the above quantities of added spices/starters. Adjust according to your yield.
- Add lemon juice and maple syrup to your liquid and stir until dissolved.
- Add starter and stir until dissolved.
- At this point, you can cover your vessel and let it sit until bubbly, and then put it in a jar or sealing bottle. Or, you can bottle/jar it immediately. IF you use a glass container, place a raisin inside so that when it floats to the top, you know it’s time for it to hit the fridge. If bottling in a glass container, open with extreme caution. Actually, if you’re sealing it into any kind of container, open with extreme caution.
I’ll be pouring this kvass and a rye kvass (among other things) tomorrow night at a talk I’m giving on fermented foods and beverages, as part of the South Philly Lecture Series, at Circle of Hope, 1125 South Broad Street, 7:30pm. This is a free event. Details and RSVP here.
And if you want to join the world of fermented (legally speaking) alcohol-free drinks, join me for an afternoon of fun soda-craft at Greensgrow on Saturday. We’ll be making soda four ways and sampling lots of tasty brews, some probiotic, some yeasty, some kombucha.
Hope to see you there!