Growing up, my grandmother used to make an annual pilgrimage to Russia. Every summer, he would get on a plane to fly out and be out there for what felt like forever to my childhood self. In reality, I’m sure it was only a month at most. But I would always wait for him to come home with his suitcase of goodies for me and my sister. I’d sit on his lap and listen to his stories from afar as he handed out presents.
Most of the time, our gifts from him where things like matryoshka dolls, more commonly known as nesting dolls. Or, he’d get hand painted eggs on pedestals. Or, on occasion, straw dolls that were hand made with a little face painted on it. But my favorite gifts were the stories of foreign food. He’d talk about cow tongue steaks and cabbage soups. And he’d sometimes bring us to the local Russian convenience store to buy us imports of some of the foods he talked about.
Long story short, one food he particularly enjoyed was actually a drink. It’s called kvas. It’s definitely an acquired taste. Some people love it and some people can’t even stand the smell of being near it. But I think it has some great earthy tones to it and it’s definitely a conversation starter with guests. So here’s a recipe for how to make kvas yourself, so you can share this Russian delight with friends and family alike in no time!
- 2 ½ gallons of water
- 1 lb of either black, dark, or rye bread
- 1 cup of raisins
- 4 cups of sugar
- 1 ½ tbsp of active dry yeast
- 3 empty 2 liter soda bottles
Please note that this process actually takes a couple days. So prepare it in advance of the occasion you want to enjoy it. And, for best results, start the process in the evening of the first day.
- Take a large pot and fill it with the 2 ½ gallons of water. Bring the water to a boil.
- While the water is working its way up to a boil, take your bread and cut it into 9 even slices. Then, turn your toaster to the highest setting and toast the bread twice. It should look quite charred once it’s finished. PRO TIP: move your toaster to either the garage or somewhere outside as charring the bread will create a lot of smoke. Not only will it not be fun to breathe in, but it could set off a smoke detector.
- Once the water is boiling, take the pot off the heat. Add in the raisins and the bread. Now, set the pot aside somewhere safe and away from ants or other pests. And let it sit overnight, or for at least eight hours.
- After the water has sat for eight hours: remove the charred bread from the pot and throw them away. You won’t need them anymore.
- Mix together the sugar and yeast in a medium sized bowl. Then add them to the water and raisin mixture.
- Cover the pot with plastic wrap and leave out on the counter for another six hours or so. Unwrap the pot and stir it every couple hours during these six hours.
- Remove the floating raisins and throw them away. I recommend using a spoon that has holes in it to get them without losing any kvas.
- Take out a strainer, or even a cheese cloth which is what I use, and cover the tops of the empty soda bottles. Slowly pour the kvas into the bottles and then put the cap back on but only loosely. Once the kvas has fully cooled, you can tighten the lids all the way.
Your kvas is now ready to enjoy! It should be a muddy brown color, but don’t let that scare you away. The drink is actually quite popular in Russia. Please note that the bottles you store the kvas in should be plastic bottles designed to hold carbonated drinks. Kvas does build pressure and if you use glass or a water bottle, it could be a bit more dangerous when you try to open it. (I put soda in a water bottle once and learned my lesson quick.)
If you found this article fascinating and informational, please share the knowledge on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social sites. Your friends and family will have a blast making this cultural drink for themselves and getting a taste of Russia in their homes. Comment below if you try this recipe and be sure to tell us what you thought. Until next time foodies!