Fruit Kvass

The historic Russian beverage kvass is traditionally made by fermenting rye bread,  and often fruit, into an invigorating and effervescent drink. It’s currently marketed in Russia as a patriotic—and more healthful—soft drink alternative.

My version is an ambrosial grain-free nectar that’s oh-so-easy to make. What does it taste like? A tangy blend of sweet and acid with a bright and clean taste. Just as the finest rose perfume extracts rose essence (not the petals), so raspberry kvass, for example, is raspberry essence fermented for a deeper flavor and edge. Compared to a raspberry drink made from crushed fruit or concentrate, kvass is unrivaled.

Raspberry Kvass

When you enjoy naturally fermented and unpasteurized foods like kvass or sauerkraut, you can bypass expensive probiotic supplements. Traditionally fermented foods are your best, and most diverse, source of invaluable enzymes and bacteria to support digestion. It’s with good reason that every single culture throughout the world includes a lacto acid fermented food central to their diet. Homemade ferments are delicious and far more pleasurable than is swallowing a pill to boost intestinal flora. And your own apple kvass or kraut is far less expensive than are probiotic supplements.

If you’re new to fermenting foods, this one is a cinch for beginners because you can taste it at any stage to discern its progress. Even with your first batch your tongue will easily discern the difference between a green and a mature ferment.

Are fermented foods safe? They’re actually safer than eating raw fruits and vegetables because the lactic acid bacteria inhibits—even prevents—proliferation of pathogenic organisms.

Rather like kombucha, kvass has a negligible alcoholic content (0.05 to 1.2%) and is a source of invaluable probiotics (lactobacilli) and enzymes with antibiotic and anticarcinogenic properties. To minimize the alcohol even further, reduce the fermentation time.

You need only fruit, unpasteurized honey, and pure water. (If using tap water and/ or pasteurized honey, you need to add a starter such as whey or yeast.) Use a single fruit or a combination of fruits and feel free to experiment with herb flavorings. I don’t bother to core or peel organic fruits like apples or pears. After peeling a pineapple, you can recycle the peel into pineapple kvass. Very soft and sweet fruits (like melon, banana, mango or papaya) more quickly ferment and so allow approximately two days; also they sour more quickly if over-fermented.

If you don’t have fully ripened fruit—particularly stone fruit: peaches, apricots, cherries, plums, or nectarines—on hand, use apples or pears or frozen or preservative-free dried fruit. While some fruits become sweeter after harvest, stone fruits do not, and most of the stone fruits available in supermarkets were harvested before ripening. Kvass made from immature fruit lacks both essence and flavor; it tastes utterly flat and not at all pleasing.  (I know from trying both marginally ripe cherries and a peach: the results were drinkable but neither the aroma nor the flavor was worth pursuing.)

Enough ripe fruit to fill a quart jar by one quarter to one third
Pure water to almost fill the jar
1 tablespoon unpasteurized honey
Several thin ginger slices or other seasonings (optional)

For raspberries or other delicate berries, put them in whole. Slice denser fruits like strawberries and apples. Halve grapes, cherries, and dried apricots, figs or prunes. Either split or mash firm-skinned fruits like blueberries and citrus.

Place the fruit, honey and seasonings (optional) in a quart jar. Add enough water to fill all but the top inch of the jar; this critical “head room” safely allows pressure to build. There’s no need to stir in the honey; it will dissolve.

Just combined on the right: apple, dried apricot, ginger and a cinnamon stick; you can see the honey on the bottom. On the right: raspberries and a ginger slice.
Just mixed kvass. Left: apple, dried apricot, ginger and a cinnamon stick; you can see the honey on the bottom. On the right: raspberries and a ginger slice.

Tightly cover the jar, set it on your countertop and give it a shake 2 or 3 times a day to prevent undesirable bacteria from forming on the surface. Once it starts bubbling, press on the center of the lid to gage CO2 pressure buildup. When the lid bulges up rather than giving to light pressure, open the lid to release CO2 and then retighten the lid.

In approximately 24 hours, you’ll see bubbles in the mixture. It’s ready after 2 to 3 days or when the mixture is vigorously bubbling and the fruit looks “cooked” rather than raw and has a pleasing flavor. Taste your brew as often as you wish.

Warm weather and high sugar content cause faster fermentation. If the mixture is actively bubbling in just one day, it contained too much sugar (next time use less fruit and/or honey) and will sour and start to become alcoholic rather than develop the healthful and tangy lacto-bacteria.

Active fermentation bubbles on the surface of Apple-Apricot Kvass
Active fermentation bubbles on the surface of Apple-Apricot Kvass

When it’s ready, strain out and  discard the fruit solids ( you could eat them but their essence is gone).  Serve kvass as is or keep refrigerated for up to a week.

Option: To increase carbonation, decant the kvass into a wine bottle and cork it or decant it into a recycled plastic soft drink bottle and cap tightly. Leave at room temperature until you can see a rim of bubbles at the top of the wine bottle or until the plastic bottle bulges from CO2 pressure build-up.  Refrigerate until use.  (Or pour it into bail-top beer bottle available from home-brewing supply stores and online. If using a bail-top bottle, it’s imperative to get full directions regarding safety as over carbonated bottles can explode.)

My grandkids favor any fresh fruit kvass over one with dried fruit or just herbs; whereas my daughter and I equally enjoyed one made with dried apricots and mulled cider spices as well as one made of edible chrysanthemum, lemon balm and ginger. As the chrysanthemum kvass lacked fruit sugar, I doubled the honey.

Do give kvass a try and let us know what your favorite flavors are.

May you be refreshingly nourished.

 

 

 

 

 

68 Responses to Fruit Kvass

  1. Hi Rebecca, I’m on my third fruit batch (tried beet kvass and it was terribly salty so switched back to fruit). I’m letting it go 5 or so dayson the counter, til I get a lot of pressure release and bubbles when I open the lid. My question is – is it suppose to have a strong yeasty smell/flavor? It’s not really sweet but has a fizz and tangy bite so something’s up – is this what I should be expecting? Thanks again.

    • For the beet kvass, try cutting back on the salt. This is all to taste and your taste is the deciding factor :) That your fruit kvass has a strong yeasty smell/flavor suggests it’s a little overfermented. Next time, keep tasting from day 3 onwards and go by flavor; not time.

  2. Loving the fruit kvass. It bubbled in the jar nicely and tastes great.

    My question is that other sources are telling me there is no probiotic value to this drink. Can you explain more about why you feel there is probiotics in your recipe? I am aware that straight honey fruit ferments such as cranberries in honey do not have probiotics, but have the immune properties of honey and the vitamins from the fruit. So how does your recipe contain probiotics. I would like to understand the science here. Thanks!

    • Yes, it’s so easy to make and so satisfying to drink.
      Kvass and other cultured foods ferment because they contain living bacteria and yeast (probiotics) that replicate themselves and transform the original ingredients into a new dish. As kvass ferments in a short period of time, its probiotic culture may be smaller than that found in a longer ferment, like sauerkraut.

      If someone is telling you that there is no probiotic value to kvass, either they’re misinformed or they’re speaking about a kvass that has been pasteurized to kill its living ferments.

      • Well it seemed to work for the kvass but I tried to use it to make a probiotic jelly and it didn’t set – an enzyme in the kiwi denatures the proteins in gelatin unless you cook it at high temperatures!! So the probiotic component didn’t work after that…
        However, I think this is a great idea for things like berries or mango or stuff like that for future reference :)

  3. Hi Rebecca! I am extremely new to fermentation and was hoping you can guide me here. Instead of turning fruit into a fermented drink, is it desirable to just ferment the fruit and eat as is? Do you just add water and raw honey? My first try was a disaster…I just used water and sea salt and don’t even know if there is any beneficial bacteria. I also filled the entire jar to the top with the each fruit. One jar was all raspberries, another with grapes and the third blueberries. The raspberies ended up fizzing and bubbling over…didn’t happen with the grapes or blueberries. Should I just ditch them all and start over?

    • Perhaps you’ll want to try the recipe exactly as it is; it works that way. If your experiment tastes good, enjoy it; if it tastes “off,” then toss it.

      • Thank you Rebecca! I just started your recipe today. Is the honey for feeding the beneficial bacteria or strictly for flavor? Is the sugar broken down by the bacteria? I have a couple of clients who are diabetics and I wasn’t sure if this would be too much sugar for them. Also, when you say to discard the fruit solids because the essence is gone does that mean there is no benefit to eating them at that point? Sorry for all the questions, I am new to this and I am just trying to understand the difference between lacto-fermenting fruits and lacto-fermenting veggies.

        • The honey helps the fermentation and, yes, some is broken down. I’ve no idea of the percentage. You may enjoy the fruit solids if you wish….your call.

  4. I’m curious why honey, or any sugar, is a required additive–How does it differ from Beet Kvass, which is only salt, water, beets and a starter?

    • Fruit ferments more quickly than beets and so the enzymes in honey jump start the fermentation. Otherwise fruit in water at room temperature would quickly rot. Beets have less natural sugar and so salt is used to discourage the wrong bacteria and the fermentation period takes longer.

  5. Hi. I tried this and wondering how much should we drink at a time and per day to get the full benefit?
    Thank you:)

    • Drink it for your pleasure and in the quantity that seems right. Some days you’ll want more than other days. It’s important to enjoy some fermented foods each day (or take an acidopholus supplement).

  6. I want to try your recipe it sounds amazing. How big is the jar for using 1 Tbsp of honey? it’s the sugar content in the final product high? I’m hypoglycemic too much sweetness can be bad for me. Thanks

  7. If you don’t drink the fruit kvaas within a week, it should still be good. If refrigerated, the kvaas should pretty much last indefinitely (months at least), due to the fermentation process. Fermentation is a preservation process, after all.

    • YOu’re right that some ferments last months (or even years). But NOT fruit kvaas. I find it tastiest within a few days of making it and the it’s quality declines; after a week needs to be tossed.

    • Mead, with an alcoholic content between 8 to 20%, is fermented honey and water. The alcoholic content in kvass is negligible, perhaps even less than kombucha at 0.5 given it’s shorter fermentation period.

  8. I started peach (which was very ripe), blackberry and ginger with raw honey and distilled water. Also same time one with ripe banana. Both made three days ago and not a bubble in sight in either one. My house is at 72 right now (Florida in the winter). Should I give up this fermenting or wait longer? Both smell ok, look ok, taste like fruit flavored water. No sign of fermentation at all besides the fruit starting to fall apart. Is it the room temperature? And will time show fermentation at some point? I have pears that are really ripe and want to try them but am wasting fruit if I can’t get results. Most other websites use a starter (whey or ginger bug or bread baking yeast?) but I don’t know about that. I was so excited so hope to get it to work. Help.

    • Reply–I’ve never tried making kvass with distilled water. Does anyone else have any experience with this? I don’t recommend distilled water.

      Another possibility is that perhaps you didn’t have enough fruit to water. I’ve never made it with a starter and I don’t recommend using baking yeast.

      • I put more fresh ginger and honey into it along with a touch of molasses and mashed up the fruit more – and within an hour it started to ferment and has continued to bubble pretty well. I also agree that distilled water is not the best and have started a new jar using spring water. It never occurred to me that distilled water has all the minerals taken out and could affect the ferment action. I’ve read enough now to see that starter yeasts create a different set of microorganisms that are not wanted in lacto fermentation. I’m excited that the taste of what is now fermenting is very good, tangy and sweet. Thanks for your reply and your website.

  9. So, you realize this isn’t kvass, right? It’s a nice naturally fermented fruit soda, sure. But kvass, by definition, is bread based. It’s like talking about “uncured bacon.” You can dehydrate meat without salt, but bacon is by definition cured.

  10. I tried this with apples, cinnamon and ginger and some local raw honey. In only 24 hours I saw bubbles and now 36 hours in it smells of alcohol. Is this normal? Is it safe to drink? My plan was to try it tonight (48 hours of fermentation). I do live in a hot climate so don’t know if that could affect it.

  11. I was getting ready to make a beet kvass, and am learning that by itself it doesn’t taste that appealing, I have some apples I was thinking about adding, any other ideas on what might make it more drinkable, I need the benefits of the beets and I know fermenting adds extra benefits, Thanks in advance, I love the idea of using raw honey instead of whey or a starter culture as many suggest,

  12. Hello! I just tried a peach/mint fruit kvass, let it sit out on the counter for 2 days. Everything looked ok, didn’t smell bad, however when I strained the fruit out the liquid was thick and syrupy! I am afraid to taste it because I don’t know if that is some type of weird bacterial thing causing that viscosity that could make me sick. What are your thoughts?

  13. Hello! I was so excited to try the raspberry kvass and then totally mis-read the instructions! I thought is said shake every 2-3 days instead of 2-3/day! It is a full 48 hours from the time I put in the cabinet. Everything seems ok. No film on top suggesting growth of anything bad… But those little guys ARE microscopic! Didn’t use a starter… Used unpasteurized honey and spring water. And it had a LOT of pressure on the lid.

    Do you think it’ll be ok to drink? I shook it and out it back for a little more time and thought I might try it later today.

    Thanks!

  14. Hello! I just made this and my daughter and I loved it. I like it better than water kefir because it doesn’t taste as sweet. I used raw honey, and it worked, but I thought that honey, especially raw honey, has antimicrobial properties and shouldn’t be used to ferment. Do you know anything about this?
    Thanks!
    Tarra

    • Yes, honey has antimicrobial properties AND it is an excellent medium for fermentation. Consider mead and my Honey-Cured Kohlrabi recipe. It’s “anti” the bad microbes and “pro” the healthful ones.

  15. The raspberry kvass worked perfectly. I think apple will work if I don’t let it go too long next time, but the blueberry lemon…Should the blueberries look spent, too? With the first two versions I could see the color drain from the fruit. The blueberries look unchanged. I’m not sure if I should keep going another day or not.

    Thanks.

    • Isn’t it simply great!
      Your unfailing guideline is to ferment it “to taste”. And, as an experiment, you could divide a batch and let one jar ferment longer.

  16. I’ve made 4 different ones, one with coffe, another black tea, another Mate tea/Chimarrao (South American famous beverage) and finally a red fruited one. I use Organic/Demerara sugar instead of honey. And for a starter, I usually put a homemade bread yeast wich culture I’ve started a while ago. Hard to say wich one was better! The first three became like very sofisticated beer, low alcohol, slightly sweet, and the red fruit one like a frizzante or Lambrusco! I strongly recommend!!!!!

  17. Fresh blackberries, picked by myself and my Mum, and a few slices of fresh ginger ^^ delicious! Am trying plums today. And maybe a herb…hmm, which to choose…

  18. Thanks for the recipe!

    I tried a raspberry kvass and an apple and raspberry kvass using frozen raspberries and fresh apples. I used kefir whey.

    After 2 days its fizzy but tastes horrible. Nothing sweet at all.

    Help!

    Also, I live in Hong Kong and its hot. Should I reduce it to 1 day.

  19. Hi Rebecca!

    Blueberry Lemon and Raspberry Ginger Kvass are the big hits in our household!

    Out of curiosity, why would you not recommend RO water for fruit kvass? I use RO for Kombucha and have been using it for my kvass as well. Thanks for your information!

    Gwyn

    • Good question; and you’ll find a detailed answer in my book, T

        he New Whole Foods Encyclopedia

      . Briefly I favor whole versus refined ingredients and the naturally occurring minerals in water (except for rain water and RO water) give water good flavor. Some argue that RO water chelates minerals at the expense of your own mineral reserves. I recommend filtered or spring water.

      .

    • I don’t know and I wouldn’t bother to try it because high fructose sweeteners, including agave, are simply not healthful (despite the various marketing claims made for them).

      And I’ve never heard of agave–“raw” or otherwise–being used as a fermentation agent.

  20. I love this! My friend and I made a batch with an abundance of past-the-peak plums and I had just found this recipe that afternoon while riding on BART. Since then my kitchen has accumulated several jars with dried mango and ginger; apricot; blackberries and apricot kvass.
    Thank you.
    I was introduced to you when a dear friend moved away from my native Salt Lake City and had a slew of books she wasn’t taking an she thought I might enjoy your Whole Foods Encyclopedia and I have since worn the cover off then old 90’s edition. I just picked up the latest edition.
    Do you teach classes still? I looked for a link to email you but couldn’t find it.
    Thank you for all you have done to bridge the post-industrial gap between our pantries and our palates and our vitality therein.

    • Isn’t it a great recipe! Glad you’re enjoying it. And I’m delighted that the Encyclopedia is serving you.
      Regrets, I’m no longer teaching classes but I do work with people individually re. diet. There is a Contact form way at the bottom of each page.

  21. Thanks for the simple and accessible recipe!

    I’ve just tried making it with nice ripe peaches. A by-product of the process seems to be a thick syrup in the kvass, sort of like what one would find in canned peaches. I tried to strain it out when I separated the peaches out at the end of the fermentation, but was unable to.

    Have you had this experience? Is that normal? Any suggestions for keeping the liquid a little less thick in the future?

  22. Your recipe works very well. Thank you. It’s very simple and delicious. I used raspberry to make the fruit kvass. It tastes really good. Now I can enjoy this healthy bubbly drink anytime .. Thanks again!! :)

  23. hello, Rebecca. You don’t specify how much whey or yeast to use. I am trying a batch with 1 T of whey. I estimated if I were to use yeast, maybe 1 t for a quart jar. Sound right? Warmly, Jan

  24. Do you have on-line classes for Certification?

    I would be interested. Something about Certification that
    makes a person more accepted in some instances.

    Thank you for a beautiful recipe. I do not like soft drinks and have hesitated drinking Kombucha because of the alcholic content.

    Thank you, again.
    Katherine

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