Kvass is the national beverage of Russia usually made from fermented rye bread. It has a very small alcohol content due to the fermentation, usually around 1%. Kvass is first mentioned in the Old Rus Chronicles in the year 989 and has been the most common “non-alcoholic” drink in Eastern Europe ever since, consumed by all social classes.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Western soft drink manufacturers Coca-Cola and Pepsi began to encroach on the kvas market. But there has been a recent ‘kvass revival”, spearheaded by the Russian company Nikola (which is pronounced “not-cola” in Russian) billing it as the patriotic alternative to cola. Coca-Cola has even launched it’s own version of kvass, and Pepsi is handling distribution for a Russian kvass maker.
In researching this recipe, I found a lot of mixed feelings among American consumers of kvass. Some say it is poised to be the next big drink in America and is catching on as a popular street vendor ware in New York and other East Coast cities. Other people say it is weird and not at all suited to the American Palate.
The following recipe for Apple Kvas is much simpler than the traditional version, as it requires no cooking, and has a light, refreshing, slightly yeasty taste that is very appealing on a late summer day. I think it is a great introduction to this Russian classic.
From Natasha’s Kitchen
- 8 cups apple juice
- ½ cup white sugar
- ½ tbsp active dry yeast
- ½ tsp dark molasses (or 1 tsp instant coffee)
- 6 cups filtered water
- Fill a 16 cup glass jar with 8 cups apple juice.
- Add sugar, yeast and molasses. Stir until sugar dissolves than add water.
- Cover with multiple layers of cheesecloth or a cotton cloth and put a rubber band over the rim of the jar. Let stand on the counter for 18 hours, then refrigerate. Once it’s completely chilled, you can remove the cheese cloth and screw the lid on. If you put the lid on while it’s warm, too much pressure will build up inside the jar.
- Serve Kvas once it’s completely chilled.