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  • Patrick Chadd

Kvas - Ukraine's Ancient Coca-Cola

Updated: Jun 30, 2022

A Delicious, Fermented, Probiotic Slavic Beverage from 996CE or before.

 


The Recipe: Rye Bread Kvas

(This recipe makes about 9 liters/2.5 gallons)


Ingredients


1 loaf of Pepperidge Farm® Jewish Pumpernickel 'Dark Pump' Bread, toasted dark

2.5 gallons water, boiling

1/4 cup raisins

3-4 cups of sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons of yeast


Clean plastic bottles with lids. (I use six 64 ounce PET bottles)

DO NOT use glass bottles - they could explode from the pressure.


Directions


Toast the entire loaf of bread until very dark - but NOT burnt.


Bring the pot of water to a boil then remove from heat.


Toss in a handful of raisins and then add the toasted bread.


Submerge the bread into the hot water and then cover the pot and leave

undisturbed overnight, at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.


Remove all of the soaked bread to a large fine mesh sieve and squeeze out as much of the liquid in it as possible. Pour the liquid into the pot with the rest of the kvas.


Add 3-4 cups of sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons of yeast and mix well with a whisk.


Stir the mixture every 1-2 hours for 6 to 8 hours.


Strain the liquid through a fine meshed sieve lined with a double thickness of cheesecloth. Rinse the raisins and reserve.


Into each bottle, add 1 teaspoon of sugar and 3-5 raisins.


Fill each bottle 3/4 of the way full with the kvas, cap lightly and chill overnight.


The next day, remove the caps to release any gas and then recap tightly.


Your kvas is ready to drink and will continue to develop in flavor as the week goes by, I like it best after the 3rd or 4th day of fermentation.


Make sure you de-gas every bottle every day to release the pressure.

 

The History: Kvas


What is Kvas?


Kvas is one of the most ancient of Ukrainian drinks, attributed to about 996CE but it was likely drunk long before that date. It has been known since ancient times and was very popular among Ukrainians in Kyiv Rus (Kievan Rus).


The first written mention about kvas was the year 996 C.E. in an ancient book the “Primary Chronicle” (“The Tale of Bygone Years”). Kvas was a beverage for kings and peasants alike and much safer and better tasting than drinking water.


Traditions of making kvas were widespread also in such countries as Latvia (kvass) and Lithuania (gira) and for generations, kvas has been and is popular throughout Slavic countries.


Many types of kvas are still brewed at home, and if one were to summarize all the types of kvas mentioned in the literature of the late 19th - early 20th century, there would be more than a hundred different recipes of kvas made from honey, fruit, beets and even turnips; as well as the rye bread version that I have here.


Russian "Coca-Cola"


During the years of the former Soviet Union, kvas was nicknamed “The Communist Coca-Cola”. In those days Russians could freely buy Pepsi (but not Coca-Cola), and despite that, the nickname stuck and was most probably is due to the fact that the color of kvas resembles that of Coca-Cola.


The introduction of soft drinks in the Russian market saw the consumption of kvas drop in the 90s. But this beverage was long from being forgotten.


The 2000s saw new kvas drinkers and sales of bottled kvas tripled within a few years, and in fact, companies like Coca-Cola started manufacturing their own brand of kvass as soft drink sales dropped by 15% or more. Today the kvas market is worth hundreds of billions of rubles every year and its per capita consumption reaches 3 liters a year.


Kvas is brewed at home all across Slavic countries, but you can also buy it bottled at supermarkets. It is classified as a non-alcoholic drink by all standards, as the alcohol content from fermentation is typically less than 1.2%. Generally, the alcohol content is under 1%.


Rye Bread Kvas - refreshing, delicious, fizzy and probiotic


In Ukraine and in Russia, common is the sight of huge yellow barrels of kvas, from which street-corner peddlers sell small plastic cups of kvas on the street for a few kopeks as shown below.


Rye Bread Kvas - refreshing, delicious, fizzy and probiotic


Rye Bread Kvas is a fermented beverage, which is made from rye bread. The color of the bread used contributes to the final color of the drink. I like to use the darkest pumpernickel rye bread that I can get and I regularly use Pepperidge Farm® Jewish Pumpernickel 'Dark Pump' Bread with great results.


Along with the water and bread, you only need some sugar, a few raisins, a bit of yeast and two days.

The kvas I get after a few days is lightly carbonated and to me, tastes akin to a light, slightly sweet hard cider; especially as it ages through the week. By day 4 or 5, it's truly fantastic.


I start making it either Friday or Saturday night so I can have it bottled and in the fridge by Sunday night. This recipe makes about 9 liters/2.5 gallons which takes me through the week.



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