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Beet Kvass

Photo by John Letourneau, Denniston Hill

Photo by John Letourneau, Denniston Hill

Many more people are beginning to make their own lacto-fermented pickles.  Regular pickles bathe in white vinegar that is almost always a by-product of the petroleum industry, and steep in conventional salt that is missing most of the electrolytes — and nutrients critical to human health. 

Conventional pickles are almost-invariably made with conventional vegetables — some of them GMO — which have been soaking up brain-damaging organophosphate pesticides since seed-hood.  And finally, industrial canning makes the energy signature of the food (which supermarkets use to tell if the fish they’ve bought is actually the fish they were sold) completely disappear, along with most of the vitamin content.

In contrast, lacto-ferments often don’t work right if you fail to use organic produce, filtered water, and sea salt.  And rather than damaging health the way conventional pickles do, they restore the flora in the gut (or as Emma Allen-Vercoe calls them, the ‘good gut bugs’), and stabilize the pH (acidity) in the stomach.  

When lacto-fermented, the vitamins in the fresh produce are retained, unchanged, the carbohydrates and fibre are rendered much more absorbable, and the probiotics engendered are orders of magnitude more numerous than what you would find in a probiotic pill.  And finally, the probiotic bacteria which make the pickles for you give you the gift of extra B vitamins.

While I had eaten and liked sauerkraut before 1995 (despite the loud squeaky noises when I chew it), it’s not part of North American culture to know about, never mind speak about the links between food and health.  However, when I lived in Korea for eight months, it was the norm.  And there, I met and fell in love with kimchi.  

Kimchee in Korea is like cheese in Europe; every village has its own local specialty, and its peoples will speak to you about the particular health conditions their own blend is best at healing.  And in the Korean markets, if they discover you like one or two kinds of kimchee, every time you go back to get more they send you with little samples of the others they keep in stock.  I adored those markets!

A friend on my FaceBook page just asked about fermenting beets, and the response is likely to be as useful to you as it is to her. She asked: ” What is the difference between beet Kvass and lactofermented beets? It seems wasteful to drink the liquid and dispose of the beets.”  The difference is, one ferments a smaller quantity of the sliced beets to make a profoundly nourishing (and delicious) drink called beet kvass, and the recipes tell you to discard the beets.  The other ferments a larger quantity of sliced beets to make a beet pickle, and the recipes often tell you the liquid is waste.

I feel the same way as my friend about waste, especially of foods which I prepare from the best ingredients, from scratch. And both the liquid and the pickle are good for health.  So I make a kvass with the beets, strain off the liquid to drink, then use the beet cubes tossed with garlic, basil, olive oil, sea salt, and lemon juice to make a crunchy pre-fermented beet salad. While you can make a second kvass off the beets, there’s not much good left in them afterwards, and I’d rather enjoy the crunch and flavour of the pickles.

If you’re not already saving your pickle juice from lacto-ferments that you’ve emptied, please label a jar and start saving it now! If your belly doesn’t have enough acid, it raises the acidity to make digestion easier, and if your belly has too much acid (heartburn and GERD) it lowers the acid into the normal range. My husband and I also add it to fresh vegetable juices that we want to carry with us for the day, because they keep their nutrients so much better and the probiotics help with preventing other kinds of fermentation.

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