A Kvass is a naturally fermented drink, using the naturally occurring yeasts and bacteria present on the fruit/ flowers you are using.
Traditionally beetroot was made into Kvass, this is a lactic acid fermentation, and is made with salt.
A fruit kvass is made with sugar, so the yeasts dominate, creating an effervescent and rather delicious drink!
I have made many different types of kvass, the process is the same whatever fruits/flowers you are using. The amount of sugar added depends on how sweet your fruit is, and how sweet you want your finished drink to taste.
Rhubarb is extremely sour and teamed with elderflowers, make a beautiful flavour, but with little natural sugar. I add between 100g to 125g sugar per litre of water for this combination.
A strawberry/rhubarb kvass I add around 65g, but its personal taste.
Bear in mind the sugar is a food source for the natural yeasts, and most of it will be metabolised into lovely fizzy bubbles, leaving the finished drink way less sweet.
You can also add a couple of tablespoons of raw organic honey, which add to the flavour and the health benefits of the finished drink.
I tend to use white sugar, but you can also use cane sugar, brown sugar or maple syrup. Darker sugars will result in a cloudy appearance in your finished drink, but again its personal taste. They also impart a different flavour, whereas white sugar is more neutral.
One of the best tips for making bubbly kvass is to stir it vigorously at least 2 or 3 times a day, with a long handled spoon, almost creating a vortex , this prevents mould spores getting a hold and evenly distributes the fruit, which tends to float to the top of the jar.
Also cover the jar with a cloth to keep fruit flies and dust out. Leave it somewhere warm and you should start to see bubbles forming, indicating that fermentation is underway. This can take a few days, depending on the temperature so just be patient.
So here is what you need for Rhubarb/Elderflower Kvass
1. Fill your glass jar 1/4 to 1/3 full with your fruit and flowers.
2. Add sugar, I added 125g then added filtered water to within an inch of the top of the jar.
Or you can dissolve the sugar in the water, then pour that over the fruit/flowers. It depends what size of jar you are using and how much water you are adding so the ratio is around 125g sugar PER litre.
3. Give it a good stir, cover with a cloth and put it somewhere warm.
4. Give it a really good stir, at least 2 or 3 times per day.
5. When you start to see active bubbling, which can take a few days, then strain the kvass, compost the rhubarb, and transfer the kvass into strong clip top or plastic bottles.
6. Leave at room temperature for another few days to develop some fizz, carefully opening the bottles over the sink to check for fizz.
7. Once you are happy with it, transfer the bottles to the fridge and drink within a week or so for the best flavour.
The yeast will continue to ferment the sugar, so if you leave it too long, your drink will taste less sweet.
This Kvass makes a great mixer with gin!!
So I am still harnessing the awesome power of the mighty wild garlic, and have now moved on to the beautiful wee star shaped and delicious flowers!
I generally ferment the unopened flower buds and also the wee seeds, after the flowers have finished, but the actually flowers are a bit delicate and don't think would stand up to fermenting!
So other ways to preserve nature's bounty are drying, freezing or making a tincture in alcohol or an infused vinegar!
My most knowledgeable friend Viola @violasampson_microbiome_cranio inspired me with her recent post on wild garlic flowers to try an infused vinegar.
Now vinegar has many benefits, especially raw, organic apple cider vinegar, with the mother!
It can help to moderate high blood pressure, improve skin tone, prevent or treat osteoporosis, lower cholesterol and improve metabolic function.
In fact Hippocrates, the father of medicine, is said to have used only two remedies, vinegar and honey!
Herbs/wild plants/flowers and vinegar are an excellent combination, the vinegar extracts the minerals & vitamins, making them available to the body.
Minerals are important for bone health, nerves, heart & blood vessels, immune system and our hormones, so adding vinegar to food, frees up the minerals!
So to make my infused vinegar, I simply filled a glass jar with my flowers, which I left to dry overnight. I removed the stalks & just used the flowers. I squashed them down tightly to make sure my jar was full of wild garlicky goodness.
I poured my room temp vinegar into the jar to the top, added a glass fermentation weight to keep the flowers submerged, then covered it with a couple of layers of greaseproof paper secured with a rubber band.
Metal lids tend to rust, which is why I used greaseproof paper instead.
Leave to infuse for around 2 weeks at room temp, out of direct sunlight, then strain it, bottle it and use it!
You can also use white wine vinegar or cider vinegar this but don't use anything too harsh, which would overpower the delicate flavour of the flowers.
Regular use of infused vinegars boosts the nutrient content of your diet with very little effort, and they cost next to nothing to make!
Here are some ways to use them;
I also made a delicious magnolia infused vinegar which tastes floral with a wee gingery kick and will be perfect diluted with sparkling water for a wee pick me up!
I will be making herb infused vinegars over the summer months to preserve my lovely herbs at their best!
Natures bounty knows no bounds!!
Another fabulous wild plant to bring to your attention!
Here is the well known Sticky Willy, Goose Grass or Cleavers!
I remember this plant from my childhood, it certainly suits its name, it sticks to everything!!
We used to have lots of fun sticking it to unsuspecting people!
So a few years ago I discovered that this is a medicinal plant with some rather awesome qualities!
I had lots of it in the garden and with my new attitude of using any wild plants, rather than seeing them as weeds, I googled it!
Who knew that this is a fabulous cleanser of the lymphatic system, it soothes irritated membranes of the urinary tract, it's a spring tonic, it can bring down fevers, good for swollen glands & tonsillitis and it treats burns!
I was most interested in the immune boosting effects! Consider it like a pipe cleaner clearing out the lymph vessels of any blockages/debris.
It also stimulates the flow & productivity of the lymph, which is an important part of the immune system.
Quite an impressive list of benefits for what most of us consider a weed!!
And all you need to do is fill a jug with freshly picked cleavers, fill it with water and leave it to infuse overnight, then drink it throughout the day. It tastes of cucumber & is really pleasant to drink!
You can fill it again, using the same cleavers, then just compost it and pick fresh.
You can also juice it and freeze it in ice cube trays to add to your green juices.
It is best picked before it flowers so now is the time to use it!
Initially I made the mistake of calling it Sticky Willy Water, so wasn't surprised when no one wanted to try it!!
I renamed it Cleavers Cleanse, which has a nice ring to it!
Here is a close up photo, but never ingest anything you are not 100% sure of. If in doubt, leave it out!
So wild garlic season is in full flow and I have been making the most of it, pestos, pakora, soups, sourdough, kraut and this rather delicious leek and wild garlic kimchi!
Kimchi can be made with many veggies, traditionally it is napa cabbage and daikon radish, with lots of other flavouring ingredients including garlic, ginger and chilli. Traditional recipes include fish sauce or shrimp, some add rice flour and versions can range from hot to smoke coming out of your ears extremely hot!
Now I am a bit of a chilli wimp so never make my kimchi really hot and I also prefer to make mine vegan so no pungent fish sauce or baby fish for me.
Wild garlic, like all greens is extremely nutritious, packed with vitamins, minerals and polyphenols and it tastes really garlicky so its perfect for a kimchi!
I decided to add some leeks too, which are a fabulous prebiotic, and available in Scotland all year round.
So this kimchi is a fast ferment, ready in around 5 to 7 days, with a lovely flavour and pleasing texture.
You can make this as hot as you like by upping the amount of chilli powder you use.
I use Korean gochugaru chilli powder, which I buy online.
You can substitute chilli flakes and a tsp of paprika, but I'd use no more than 1 tablespoon, but I am a chilli wimp, so try it and adjust to your own taste preference.
So here is my simple recipe;
2 medium leeks, washed and finely sliced
A colander full of wild garlic, washed and sliced, around 200g
1 organic eating apple, grated
1 tablespoon of finely chopped or grated ginger
1 tsp himalyan fine salt or any natural salt
2 to 4 tablespoons gochugaru chilli powder
Add the sliced leeks and sliced wild garlic leaves and stalks to a large bowl, add the salt and massage and squeeze the leaves until you have some brine.
Add the grated apple, ginger and chilli powder and mix well with your hands. If you don't have much brine then cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave for an hour or so. The salt will continue to draw out water from the cell walls. Try some of the mix and adjust the amount of chilli to your taste.
Pack tightly into a 500ml glass clip top jar, pressing down tightly to remove any air pockets. There should be enough brine to cover the kimchi.
Add a weight to hold all the veggies under the brine.
A small plastic ziplock bag scrunched on top works well or the bottom end of a butternut squash trimmed to fit the top of the jar, or a glass fermenting weight if you have one.
The idea is just to keep the kimchi submerged in the brine while it is actively fermenting, to create a safe and anaerobic environment for the beneficial bacteria to work their magic!
Then just close the lid, and put a bowl underneath the jar, and leave at room temperature for around 7 days.
Taste then if you are happy with the flavour, then transfer to the fridge, where it will continue to improve.
Your kimchi should have a wee sour tang, with a ginger zing and heat from the chilli, a touch of sweetness from the apple, and an underlying leek, garlicky flavour.
Magic happens when beneficial bacteria and yeasts get to work, creating amazing umami flavour, and that unique fermenty tang!
Kimchi will keep for months in the fridge, allowing you to enjoy it, well after wild garlic season has finished!
🍃 Health educator🍃