I’m on a kick to simplify, and Kvass in its method seems to be the simplest fermented drink possible. Kvass just happens, really. You put some bread in water, and maybe some lemon juice and raisins, you get a fermentation out of which you strain the solids, and really that’s it. Or you add chopped beetroot and a little bit of salt to water, and wait some days, and a miracle of purple-pink-liquid-tangy velvet is ready to invigorate you. You can read complicated measurements and copyrighted recipes, but I’ve come to see kvass as a kind of infusion in water of fruit or vegetables flavours in which sugars, inherent or added, speed the actions of bacteria and natural yeasts.
Recently I’ve started to throw carrot and celery peelings and parsley stems in with the beetroot when making kvass. I see this as a no-waste alternative to making vegetable stock, because I’m not capable of throwing away good and useful food, however scrappy. It’s good! I recalled an experiment of several years back when I made Parsnip Kvass, wondering what drinks might have been made before common garden beetroots make their way in the 18th century to northern parts of Europe, as I learned reading Gil Marks. The Parsnip Kvass was earthy and perfumed, two contradictory but deliciously compatible qualities.
Then someone talking about lettuce gluts in a Facebook fermenting group commented that Sandor Katz, in The Art of Fermentation. discusses Lettuce Kvass as a beverage of old-world Ukrainian Jews. This kvass as remembered may be a little sugared, or flavoured with dill, yet I recalled the taste of my fermented Parsnip infusion, and suddenly a whole family of tastes captured my imagination.
So that’s how the idea emerged to see if I could make a “Cocktail Juice” or tomatoey-vegetable drink, fermented, that would scratch the V8® itch I occasionally get– with kvass as the guide, and Lemon Juice, Tabasco, and Worcestershire Sauce (not vegan, mind you) the condiments. This drink really hits the spot in summer weather, over ice, with a leafy celery stick and the lingering hot sauce on the tongue.
So here’s a Cocktail Juice approaching a DIY V8®, with that extra lacto-fermented zing– written up on About.com by Yours Truly. I really wanted to approximate the taste and mouth-feel that I recalled from a good V8® Bloody/ Virgin Mary, and that’s why I used the tomato paste (‘puree” for us peeps in the UK), but fresh garden tomatoes would obviously be wonderful too, as in this fermented tomato juice recipe.
There is huge room for experimentation and using what you have– the original eight vegetables of V8® comprise tomatoes, carrots, celery, beets, parsley, lettuce, watercress and spinach. Of course there’s possibility in endless wild weeds like nettles and dandelion, and herbs like rosemary, fennel, dill and coriander, and gardener’s treasures like lovage and mallow, Florence fennel, chard, beet leaf. and all the wonderful growable greens– Good King Henry, anyone?. And no rules apply really– any vegetable can dominate, or all can be equal and equally subtle.
So to recap, and very basic indeed:
Infuse the vegetables in slightly salty water, stir in some tomato puree/ paste and let it all sit for several days, then strain. Voila! Maybe we could call it Cocktail Kvass.